Improved Middle-Income Estimates by Pew Research, But More Improvements Needed

There are few issues, if any, more important than income and poverty. The most successful political jurisdictions, where national or sub national, are characterized by rising incomes and falling rates of poverty. A large and growing middle-class is key to that. But measuring the size and trend of the middle-class is easier said than done. There is considerable concern about the threat to the middle-class, which is most evident in the high cost California markets (See: California Feudalism: The Squeeze on the Middle-Class).

For years, Pew Research has been a leader in providing estimates of the size and trends relating to the middle class. More recently, Pew has incorporated cost of living adjustments into its analysis. Consistent with the familiar narrative, the middle-class is shrinking, having dropped from 54 percent of the population in 2001 to 52 percent in 2016. But this is not all bad. One-half of the households have moved up to higher income status, while one-half have moved down, to low income status (Figure 1). Overall, 71% of households had middle and higher incomes in 2016, according to Pew.

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