[Ed. – Well, yeah. If you’ve been middle class for more than 10 years, you already knew that.]
In early 2015, there were 120.8 million adults in middle-income households versus 70.3 million in lower-income and 51 million in upper-income households, according to a new analysis of government data by the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C.
However, the share of income held by middle-income families has plunged to 43% of households in 2015 versus 62% in 1971; lower-income households have remained stable (at around 9% in 2015) while the share of income held by upper-income households has surged to 49% in 2015 from 29% in 1971. (The demographic and income data were derived from the government’s nationwide and nationally representative “Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplements” (or ASEC), which serves the basis for the U.S. Census Bureau reports on income and poverty.)
“The hollowing of the American middle class has proceeded steadily for more than four decades since 1971,” researchers Richard Fry and Rakesh Kochhar wrote. “Each decade has ended with a smaller share of adults living in middle-income households than at the beginning of the decade, and no single decade stands out as having triggered or hastened the decline in the middle.” That said, the last 15 years have been particularly brutal for the middle class: In 2014, the median income of these households was 4% less than it was in 2000. What’s more, their median wealth — that is, their assets minus their debts— fell by 28% from 2001 to 2013, due in part to the housing market crisis and the Great Recession of 2008.