Most Americans are aware that the U.S. middle class is under siege, even if they aren’t familiar with the statistics that prove it.
Economists have many theories about why middle class incomes have stagnated for years, from the increasing global nature of the economy to the decline of unionization to the rise of technology and automation that is killing what were once good paying manufacturing jobs for folks with less than a college education.
But on a local level, economic forces are much different. On Wednesday, the Pew Research Center published a study of the middle class across 229 U.S. metropolitan areas, finding that from 2000 to 2014, the share of middle class households fell in 203 of those cities.
Pew defines middle class as two-thirds to double the national median, after incomes have been adjusted for household size and cost of living in a specific metro area. So where the middle class is disappearing the fastest? Check out the top ten cities below:
As you can see, the cities where the middle class is struggling are quite diverse, both geographically and economically. Some of these cities, like Springfield, Ill. are government centers that have been affected by the sharp pullback in state government spending following the Great Recession, while others like Goldsboro, NC. have been buffeted by the loss of manufacturing and tobacco related jobs.
On the other hand, a place like Midland, Tex. has seen its middle class disappear mostly because of economic success. As Pew puts it, Midland is “an energy-based economy that benefited from the rise in oil prices from 2000 to 2014.” The city has seen its middle class shrink because so many residents have earned higher incomes brought by expensive oil, though that may have already begun to change as oil prices have fallen sharply over the past two years.
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