A new Pew report analyzing data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors finds that America's middle class has shrunk to the smallest share of the US population for the first time in four decades; while the share of national wealth owned by the middle class has dwindled and the share of wealth controlled by the rich has grown. The number of poor Americans has also grown, as middle class families slip into poverty.
The hollowing of the American middle class has proceeded steadily for more than four decades. Since 1971, 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.
Based on the definition used in this report, the share of American adults living in middle-income households has fallen from 61% in 1971 to 50% in 2015. The share living in the upper-income tier rose from 14% to 21% over the same period. Meanwhile, the share in the lower-income tier increased from 25% to 29%. Notably, the 7 percentage point increase in the share at the top is nearly double the 4 percentage point increase at the bottom.
The American Middle Class Is Losing Ground
[Pew Research Center]