The Shrinking American Middle-Class

A recent Pew Research Center/USA TODAY survey found that fewer Americans now identify as middle-class.  Compared to 58 percent in 2008 during the first few months of the Great Recession, only 44 percent said they are in the middle-class in January 2014.

The percentage of those who identify as upper-class has fallen slightly (from 21 percent in 2008, to 15 percent in 2014), but the percentage of those who identify as lower-class has increased sharply (from 25 to 40 percent).  As a result, the lower and middle classes are now roughly the same size.  Most of these changes appear to have taken place in the last couple of years.

"We found that virtually every key demographic group saw its social standing slip as the proportion of Americans who identified themselves as lower or lower middle class increased over this time period. But the decline was not experienced equally by all groups."  Among those who were disproportionately affected:

  • those with some college but no college degree are twice as likely to place themselves in the lower-class as they were in 2008 (47 percent versus 23 percent);
  • young adults (ages 18-29) are also twice as likely to identify as lower-class as they were in 2008 (49 versus 25 percent)
  • "The median income in 2012 was at the same level it was in 1995, a setback of 17 years."  But "losses have been greater for households in the middle of the income distribution than for households at the top. For households in the third quintile of the income distribution, average income fell by 8% from 2007 to 2012. Meanwhile, for households in the highest quintile, average income fell by only 2%. The net result is growing inequality in the income distribution."

Read more: resources:
Data Analysis of Socio-Economic Status (
Frederique Laubepin

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