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Just Explain It: Is America’s Middle Class Recovering?

Zelkadis Elvi
Just Explain It: Is America’s Middle Class Recovering?

America’s middle class is shrinking.

Thirty-two percent of Americans actually consider themselves lower class… that’s up from twenty-five percent in 2008. With less job security, less disposable income and less opportunity, the definition of middle class isn’t what it used to be.

Here are some facts:

Only half of American households are middle-income…down from sixty-one percent in the 1970s.

Median middle-class income decreased five percent in the last decade.

And, rising college costs have put more pressure on middle class families. Students will graduate this year with an average of $35,000 in total loan debt.

Meanwhile, the income inequality gap is growing. The wealthiest one percent of the U-S population is now 288 times richer than the average middle class American family.

All that said, it does look like the economy may be starting to look up a bit, and many are optimistic their circumstances will improve.

Which brings us to today’s Just Explain It. Is the middle class set for recovery?

First, how much money do you have to make to be considered middle class? Well, It depends upon whom you ask.

Recently the income range has been described as between $32,000 and $64,000 a year, between $50,000 and $122,000, and between $20,000 and $102,000.

To make the definition more complicated, it also depends upon where you live. For example, middle class in New York City isn’t the same as middle class in Phoenix. Your money just buys you more in Arizona.

So what are the signs that show a middle class recovery may be around the corner?

For one… Stocks. Both the Dow and S&P 500 are at all-time highs. That’s good news for small investors and people who have 401(k) or IRA accounts.

Two… Housing. Average home prices in various cities around the nation have been increasing. Last year they rose by almost seven percent. The increase will make it affordable for some homeowners underwater on their mortgages to finally sell.

And recently the unemployment rate dropped in 43 out of 50 states in April from a year before. 165,000 new jobs were added, and the unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent – down from 8.1 percent a year earlier. Newly employed workers will have money to do things they’ve postponed like, buy a home or a car -- or even get married.

When asked about their financial situation, middle class Americans have mixed feelings. Their opinions are negative over the short term. But compared to ten years ago, 44 percent say they are more financially secure than they had been, while 42 percent say less.

What do you think? Did you learn something? Do you have a topic you’d like explained? Give us your feedback in the comments below or on Twitter using #JustExplainIt.