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Based on Pew Research Center data for the 2017 fiscal year within the Center's parameters, an income range of $41,000 and $132,000 is considered to be middle class. Most 2019 reports have been based on the Pew Research Center report using 2017 data. Additionally, other reports using Pew data conclude that a middle-class four-person household would be in the range of $46,960 to $140,900 in income.
Based on 2017 estimates, the median income is around $61,000 (half of U.S. households made more and half made less than $61,000 in income). However, according to the Tax Policy Center (which measures income in quintiles, or 20% segments), households falling into the 40th to 60th percentile of income distribution make an estimated $50,000 to $90,000 (relatively in the same ballpark as Census data estimates).
Based on 2016 Pew estimates, a household of one should have around a minimum of $26,000 for the middle class; a household of two should have an income of around $36,900; a household of three should have an income of around $45,100; a household of four should have an income of around $52,100, and a household of five should have an average of around $58,300 in income to be considered middle-class.
2-person family middle-class income range: $58,508 to $174,6523-person family middle-class income range: $68,170 to $203,4924-person family middle-class income range: $83,808 to $250,174
Middle class calculator
Finally, if you want to check out whether you qualify as middle class in your hometown, Pew’s income calculator will let you drill down by metropolitan area.
A person’s social network and personal and business contacts plays a major role in their socioeconomic class. Someone coming from a well-connected family or environment is likely to see more doors open for them. Whether or not the person’s income fits in the middle-class category, their social network can affect their socioeconomic class. Are they less likely to feel like they belong to the middle class than someone who fits the income threshold but whose social network does not qualify as middle class? Should a person’s network and social activities be considered when determining their class level? If so, this could expand the way we think about the line between middle and upper classes.
2-person family middle-class income range: $42,765 to $127,6583-person family middle-class income range: $50,684 to $151,2964-person family middle-class income range: $61,094 to $182,370
American Income Bracket Statistics
We’ve all heard the term “Middle Class,” but what exactly does that mean? Plus, there are several other income brackets in the U.S. as well. According to our research:
52% of Americans are considered “Middle Class.”
While 29% are considered “Lower Class,” and the smallest percent, 19% are considered “Upper Class.”
In the U.S., the Middle Class constitutes any income between $42,000 and $126,000.
Overall, the highest percentage of Americans (16.5%) have an income between $50,000-$74,999. With the second and third highest percentages being those who make between $75,000-$99,999 (12.2%) and $100,000-$149,000 (15.3%).
The top 10% earn 30.2% of the total income in the U.S.
Whereas the bottom 90% earn 69.8% of total income, meaning that there’s a huge divide between the average income and the income of the wealthiest individuals.
Median household income: $102,486
The median household income in Seattle is $102,486. Thus, the middle-class income range is $76,864.50 to $204,972. For families, the median is $130,685 and for married couples, it is $151,887. While Seattle has the second-highest median income, it has the fourth-highest middle-class income growth.
We conducted a separate analysis on what it takes to be “rich” in different cities, which we defined as being in the top 20% and the top 5% of earners in your city. In Seattle, the average for those two rankings is $331,167 and $583,249, respectively. In other words, someone at the top end of the middle-class income range still makes over 50% less than the average for the top 20% of earners.
How Is Middle-Class Income Measured?
Pew starts with the U.S. Census Bureau data on median income per household. Then, it creates different middle-class standards for each "metropolitan statistical area." These are Census Bureau areas that correspond to cities. Pew reports 260 of the 384 metropolitan areas.
Pew does this to address discrepancies in the cost of living throughout the nation. For example, housing costs and taxes in San Francisco are very high. As a result, a middle-class income in San Francisco is much higher than the national median.
CNN provides a middle-class income calculator that will tell you how your household income ranks in your county. It’s based on the Pew Research Center’s analysis. Pew also developed its own calculator.
The problem is that your $61,372 probably does not buy you the same kind of life as your cousin’s $61,372 in another part of the country. The lives of families making the median income look very different, given the vastly different cost-of-living levels across the U.S.
This lived experience can make it difficult to determine your income class status. In a report for the Urban Institute titled “The Growing Size and Incomes of the Upper Middle Class,” nonresident fellow Stephen Rose writes that:Because people tend to live in communities with similar incomes, they view themselves as being near the middle because their neighbors’ circumstances are similar to their own even if their incomes are significantly below or above the U.S. median.
People in the aggregate tend to live, work, and socialize with people of similar income levels. For this reason, we often do not have accurate reference points that would help us gauge our actual class status.
Is the Middle Class Shrinking?
According to a 2018 report from the Pew Research Center, slightly more than half of the U.S. population (52%) is in the middle class. While that represents a small increase over a 2015 Pew report, which found only 50% of the population were in the middle class, the percentage has actually been shrinking since the 1970s. In 2001, 54% lived in middle-income households, down from 59% in 1981, which was a drop from 61% in 1971. And the share of the income pie going to middle income households also dropped: from 62% in 1970 to 43% in 2014.
Average American Income by Demographics
While the non-Hispanic/Latino White population is by far the highest in the U.S., at 60%, this group doesn’t earn the highest income. In fact, there are several demographic factors that go into income, such as age, sector, etc. When it comes to the demographics of the average American income, our research shows that:
Asian Americans earn the highest median income of $87,243.
That’s over $20,000 more than White Americans, who are the second-highest earners in the country. This disparity is likely the result of two main factors. First, Asian Americans are one of the highest growing demographics in the U.S., and second, Asian Americans are also the most educated demographic.
Black Americans have the lowest median income of $41,511.
Which is nearly $25,000 less than the average White American and less than half that of the average Asian American.
Those between the ages of 45-54 earn the highest incomes, at a median of $84,464.
Close behind in second place are those aged 35-44, who have a median income of $80,743. This makes sense, as employees are typically at the height of their careers at this age.
Those between the ages of 15-24 earn the lowest incomes, at a median of only $43,531.
The oldest demographic (65+) has the second-lowest median income of $43,696. These two demographics have the lowest median income because they are either at the beginning or very end of their career.
Men who work for the federal government have the highest median income of any sector, at $68,464.
However, women in the same sector only make $59,581 on average, which is still the highest overall, but lower than their male counterparts.
Women who work for the private sector have the lowest median income, at $30,040.
That’s over $11,000 less than their male counterparts and at least $7,000 less than women in any other sector.
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Median household income: $75,646
Denver has seen expansive growth in recent years and it maintains a high level of income. The middle-class income range in Denver is $56,734.50 to $151,292. The median for families is $87,649 compared to $108,981 for married couples.
In Denver, the discrepancy between the average income for the top 20% and the highest middle-class earners is slightly lower than in other cities. The average for the top 20% is $260,157, or about 72% more than the highest end of the middle class. As we have seen, in most other large cities, the top 20% makes about twice as much. The top 5% in Denver makes $475,273, or about six times the median household income for the city.
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