There is a common myth today, often stated in the media, that the U.S. middle class is stagnant and even in decline. According to this myth today’s middle class families have a lower standard of living than middle class families headed by our parents or grandparents in the mid-twentieth century.
This often repeated story is simply wrong. The following chart, based on the latest census report, shows that the middle class is only shrinking in the sense that the upper middle class is growing so rapidly. Likewise, the percentage of low-income families is shrinking because so many low-income families are moving up to middle income.
Consider the additional charts derived from the same census data:
- While median family income (adjusted for inflation) is steadily increasing, average household size is steadily decreasing.
- This means that the median income per household member is increasing even faster.
- Real median family income for U.S. married couples with both spouses working full time is growing amazingly fast. (Hey guys, get married and encourage your wife to work too!)
- What income inequality? The share of total income earned by the top 5% and top 20% of U.S. households has hardly changed in the past 25 years.
Summary. The middle class is only disappearing in the sense that middle income households are gradually moving up into a higher income group. The share of U.S. households earning more than $100,000 (in 2018 dollars) has more than tripled since 1967. Likewise the share of households earning $35,000 or less (in 2018 dollars) has greatly diminished. If you want to steadily increase your income, what you need to do is get educated, get married, and both you and your spouse work. It’s shouldn’t be that difficult to figure out.