Report: Middle Class Now Barely Half of U.S.

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 23 2012 9:58 AM

Report: Middle Class Now Barely Half of U.S.

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A 'For Sale' sign hangs near a home on June 12, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

The Pew Research Center brings us a snapshot of America's middle class. In short, the percentage of middle-tier households—defined as having incomes between two-thirds and double the nation's median—has shrunk considerably over the past several decades, falling from 61 percent in 1971 to 51 percent in 2011.

For those that still fit that definition, things have gotten steadily worse in recent years, with not only falling incomes but also plummeting home and asset values. The Wall Street Journal explains: "The median middle class income fell 5 [percent] over the decade, but total wealth—assets minus debt—fell 28 [percent]."

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Here's how Pew's executive VP summed it up:

"The notion that we are a society with a large middle class, with lots of economic and social mobility and a belief that each generation does better than the next — these are among the core tenets of what it means to be an American," said Paul Taylor, the Pew Research Center's executive vice president. "But that's not necessarily the case anymore." (via LAT)

You can dive into the Pew report here, or read a good summary over at the Los Angeles Times.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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