One Map That Shows How The Middle Class Is Getting Squeezed

People just aren't earning as much as they used to.

In America, everyone likes to think of themselves as middle-class. But the portion of the population that can actually make that claim based on their income is getting smaller. 

Pew Research released a report this week looking at data from the 2014 American Community Survey. It found a ton of troubling information about America's withering middle class. Of particular concern: Incomes are shrinking everywhere from New England to the Southwest. 

In 2000, 55 percent of American adults belonged to a household with a middle-class income (defined as any amount between two-thirds and twice the national median income -- so about $41,641 to $124,924 for a three-person household). By 2014, that share had shrunk to 51 percent, according to Pew. And in the vast majority of American cities, people are becoming worse off.

This map illustrates just how badly the middle class is hurting in the U.S. It shows the share of adults living in middle-class households in 229 different metropolitan areas. Gray spots show where the share of middle-class people grew smaller between 2000 and 2014. Yellow spots show where the share of middle-class people got larger. As you can see, there's barely any yellow on the map.

It's true that in some places, the share of middle-class people went down because people are earning more money, not less. "A shrinking of the middle class may signal a movement into either the lower-income tier or the upper-income tier," the report notes. Moreover, "the shifting economic fortunes of localities were not an either/or proposition: Some 108 metropolitan areas experienced growth in both the lower- and upper-income tiers."

But the overall picture is cause for worry, not celebration. Per Pew:

The widespread erosion of the middle class took place against the backdrop of a decrease in household incomes in most U.S. metropolitan areas. Nationwide, the median income of U.S. households in 2014 stood at 8% less than in 1999, a reminder that the economy has yet to fully recover from the effects of the Great Recession of 2007-09. The decline was pervasive, with median incomes falling in 190 of 229 metropolitan areas examined.

How do you stack up in this? Are you middle-class? Take Pew's income survey to find out.



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