Shrinking Income for America's Middle Class — Pew Research


According to a study released late today by Pew Research Center, 85% of the American middle class say that it is harder to maintain their standard of living now than it was 10 years ago. For purposes of the study, Pew defined middle class household income as the tier of adults whose income in 2010 fell in the range of 39,000 to $118,000 annually for a family of three. By this definition, 51% of U.S. adults qualify as middle class. In 1971, some 61% of U.S. adults qualified as middle class.

Income distribution has also changed. In 1970, middle class Americans took home 62% of the country's income; that proportion had fallen to 45% in 2006 and remained at 45% in 2010. Upper income adults now receive a larger slice of the annual income pie: 46% in 2010 compared with 29% in 1970.

Some sound bites from the report:

  • 62% of the middle class who say it is more difficult to maintain living standards today place "a lot" of the blame on Congress, and 54% blame banks and financial institutions while 47% blame large corporations, 44% blame the Bush administration, 39% blame foreign competition, and 34% blame the Obama administration. Only 8% thinks the middle class itself is to blame.

  • Nearly 62% of the middle class said they had to cut spending in the past year and 42% say that their household's financial situation is in worse shape now than before the recession.

  • Only 43% believe their children's standard of living will be better than their own, compared with 47% who believe it will be worse.

  • Median net worth for the middle class fell by 28% over the past decade, wiping out two decades of gains.

Perhaps most interesting are the survey's results on the Presidential election: 52% of the middle class say Obama's policies will help them, while only 42% of the middle class say Romney's policies will help them. People who identify themselves as middle class are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans, by a margin of 50% to 39%.

The full research report is available here.

Paul Ausick

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