5 Charts on the State of the Middle Class

In five charts, David Madland and Nick Bunker show that the middle class faces a number of economic challenges.

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The middle class faces a number of economic challenges. Incomes are stagnant or falling, while the costs of life’s necessities continue to rise, and the risks of falling behind grow.

Still, some dispute that the middle class is struggling.

The American Enterprise Institute argues there has been “considerable improvement in material well-being for both the middle class and the poor … over the past three decades.” Similarly, Brookings Institution’s Scott Winship maintains that “conventional accounts of how the broad middle is doing systematically overstate economic insecurity.”

The following five charts present evidence on the state of the middle class. Middle-class incomes have declined over the past decade, and for the past several decades the share of the economic pie that the middle class receives has decreased and fewer people have earned middle-class incomes. Moreover, the costs of middle-class basics have risen, and debt levels have increased.

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David Madland

Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project

Nick Bunker

Research Associate