The middle class is shrinking almost everywhere

The decline of the American middle class is “a pervasive local phenomenon,” according to Pew, which analyzed census and American Community Survey data in 229 metros across the country, encompassing about three-quarters of the U.S. population. In 203 of those metros, the share of adults in middle-income households fell from 2000 to 2014.

On the average is over front, there is also this:

In total, 172 of these 229 metros saw a growing share of households in the upper-income tier. About as many — 160 — saw a growing share at the bottom. And 108 experienced both: The middle class shrank as the ranks of both the poor and the rich grew.

Here is more from Wonkblog on the new Pew study.  The decline in the middle class is typically strongest in areas where manufacturing used to be strong.

This used to be a debate, but the funny thing is the nomination of Trump has sealed it for the more pessimistic side.  That is unfair, actually, though I think the pessimistic side is correct nonetheless.

Comments

I.e., household data shows changes in household size. How surprising.

I.e., more single parent households, more poor households.

No worries. At the rate SJWs are going, soon we will all be single-person households anyway, as good old fashioned marriage will be relegated to the trash bin of history.

PS: One would think with the availability if census data tracking individuals over time, one could do better than looking at "households" as a unit of analysis, or as a means of drawing any patterns. But that would require work, so why bother.

"Incomes are adjusted for household size and the cost of living in each area" (lower part of the Figure image)

Household size: earners per household?

Includes children, elderly, unemployed, etc. For more important policy-directing research, there are ways to correct for different needs of different age categories to perform higher quality estimations.

Household size /= number of working adults

Adjusting income to categorize households into, still leaves you with number of households to compare over. As more "households" are comprised of single adults (a large % of which are not working), the problem still remains that shifts in households reflect shifts in household size.

Pretty uninformative "study".

Think of it this way: in 2000, Laquisha lived with her two working parents, and qualified as a middle income household. Then Laquisha moved out and got a job at Walmart, making enough to qualify her as a lower middle income household, by herself. Then Laquisha got pregnant...by 3 baby daddies...and by 2015 is in a household of 4, qualifying as a starvation poor level household.

Meanwhile, Laquisha's parents moved to upper middle class once she moved out. But then they retired, and their income was cut by half. Now they're lower income.

All the while, nothing structural changed in the economy. The only thing that changed was that Laquisha's fertility outpaced her productivity by 4x.

Adjusting for income only tells us how to place Laquisha and her parent's into categories over their different life stages from 2000 to 2015. But it's household size changes that are driving the shift .

So, simple solution to stop the growth of lower-income households is to tell Laquisha to...close her legs. But, that would require moralizing, judgement, standards, patronizing etc. All horrible, horrible things.

Other things going on since 2000, are a large increase in Hispanic immigrants in the Southwest, the cities highlighted as increasing the most in lower income households, which is to be expected since they are first-generation immigrants. And higher rates of retirements, which necessarily move people into lower income households. So, not much insight here.

I hate to the think of the consequences for poor Laquisha, but over time the fertility rate for blacks has plummeted, regardless of whatever year you want to use as the base rate (same is true for teen pregnancies- while, as noted in the other thread the early 90s may be a misleading place to start, the trend still holds regardless of when you start). In fact, the birth rate for American blacks is basically right at the replacement level and is less than that for non-Hispanic blacks.

Don't worry, AIG is a 22 year old TA for intro accounting at State U and he is smart so he just KNOWS black people are gangstas, whores, and welfare queens. And please do not get him started on mesicans because he has some thoughts on them too. We'll figure out the facts later.

Birth rates /= single parent households.

See the difference?

"And please do not get him started on mesicans because he has some thoughts on them too"

I love Mesicans, in case you haven't read my previous posts.

It's just ghetto dwellers that get me riled up. And trailer trash too, mind you. I'm an equal opportunity racist.

Is this what you people sit around thinking about all day? That damn Laquisha dragging us real citizens down! Trump's America baby, everyone's masks off.

Much better to not think about laquisha. We saved the black people from bull Conner, then they mysteriously disappeared (or became pop stars or something). Happy ever after.

Pretty sure AIG hates Trump.

Laquisha doesn't drag me down. Laquisha drags herself down, skewing the distribution of households...leading to Lefty nonsense and to Trump.

Fertility rates are going down for all demographics in the US. And teen pregnancy rates have fallen a lot.

And yet, single parent households...?

I love how you try to respond to one particular thing, by pointing out that other things unrelated to it aren't moving in the same direction. As if, that answers my critique.

In other ignore contrary evidence. Whatever.

And a "simple" solution to people making uninformed, ignorant comments that have neither numbers nor anecdotes from real people is for them to not waste electrons and keep their opinions to themselves. I somehow don't think that's going to happen anytime soon.

So the Left want their cake, and want to eat it too.

One the one hand, they complain about "growing income inequality!", "squeezing the middle class!", "poverty!!!!!"...while at the same time calling for a breakdown of moral standards in society, a breakdown of the family, "don't try to get a career to make money!", says our Mr. President, se*ual debauchery is celebrated as the highest form of achievement, ghetto culture as the highest form of culture...

Well, what's the end result of all this? Laquisha with 4 baby daddies, living off welfare.

The only ones calling for a breakdown in moral standards are on the right, who propose to not only not let programs for the poor expand to accommodate the new poor people who are falling out of the middle class, but actually want to cut things like food stamps, which give the poorest some modicum of dignity. So who's moral standards are breaking down? (Note that your example about LaQuisha's morality was already annihilated by someone using actual facts above. :-)

I don't think food stamps or welfare give people dignity. But they might provide enough support to cause people to settle at a low personal equilibrium, where they aren't starving, aren't happy with their position, but where the immediate need to make a change isn't there. So they settle and follow the path of least resistance.

When the War on Poverty began, some people of good will expressed concern over the danger that such programs would create a culture of dependency.

Fifty years later: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/04/21/us/50-years-into-the-war-on-poverty-hardship-hits-back.html?referer=

No obvious answers spring to mind, but I never hear anything from you or your ilk but more of the same, punctuated with contempt for anyone who isn't on board.

@Brian Donohue: "No obvious answers spring to mind..."

Actually, the answers are obvious. They're just so expensive no one wants to pay for them. Also, they may well be unconstitutional.

Contemporary welfare programs are really intended for the transitory poor e.g. people who've been laid off from a job, lack a private safety net to fall back on, and need a bridge to get by until they can back to work. As right-wingers are so fond of pointing out, though, this has had the side effect of creating a caste of free-riders who subsist in perpetuity by abusing said programs.

What that caste of abusers require is benevolent authoritarianism coupled with extensive investment and institution building. In short, they need to be told what to do and be made to do it. Such a system would necessarily involve separating out those who can be rehabilitated from the truly disabled (mentally and/or physically) and those who are essentially feral humans beyond help. The latter will then need permanent institutionalization which, for the ferals, means de facto lifetime incarceration. The TL;DR on these people is that they have too much freedom. They lack the foresight, impulse control, and, in many cases, the intellect to properly manage themselves.

Now, of course, no such system is likely to ever be built in this country. It'd be expensive as hell. It would also offend, at a deep and fundamental level, both conservatives' and liberals' beliefs in individual self-determination. So, the status quo will perpetuate.

Conservatives want to end welfare and abandon the caste of free-riders to their fate. The problem is, once cut off the state tit, those free-riders will neither magically become self-reliant, upstanding citizens nor will they conveniently cease to exist. Instead, they'll turn to crime. Liberals, on the other hand, want to expand the welfare state out of the naive belief that all these people need to become self-reliant, upstanding citizens is sufficient resources. The issues with that notion are well-documented. Neither conservatives nor liberals are prepared to commit the time, energy, and resources to do what it would really take to solve the problem. So, as the American electorate shakes out to about a 50/50 split between conservatives and liberals, solve for equilibrium.

"But they might provide enough support to cause people to settle at a low personal equilibrium, where they aren’t starving, aren’t happy with their position, but where the immediate need to make a change isn’t there. So they settle and follow the path of least resistance."
You need to destroy them to save them, like a Vietnamese village.

Interesting story. What about all the lectures about the perfection of quant analysis?

Huh? You're not smart enough to get the connection to quant here dear Nathan.

Go read your magazines that you think are academic research.

I explicitly asked you to specify your preferred outlet if you didn't favour HBR. Instead you narrow in on "HBR isn't an academic journal" and go to town. Pretty pathetic, really. And you summarily ignored all the more important points which constituted the meat of the argument.

You have a strong idealization of the "family". Yes, families are good. I'm thankful my parents stay together........but there's also a downside if "family" is too important in culture. Be thankful of not being born in any society/country where the "family" and it's values are the most important thing. You lose by being part of the wrong family at the wrong time: nepotism, honor killings, killing family members to avoid "dishonor", a de facto caste system, discrimination, etc. Maybe the U.S. is fine, make the effort to compare with other societies instead of ideal societies from the books.

Ps. debauchery is one of my favorite English words. It's one of those words that sounds sexier in English compared to original French.

Are you the fellow that delivers pizzas to the Cass Sunstein residence? It's always been the goal of any form of government to eliminate family allegiances in favor of loyalty to the state. Except for the families that control the state, or try to, the Clintons, Kennedys, Gores, Adams, Bushes, Cuomos and on and on. The US government has done everything in its power to negate the family at the most basic level, however. They haven't completed the project yet but they're working on it.

Wow...family is responsible for all these horrible things of caste systems, honor killings, discrimination, nepotism etc etc.

I though it was just...rotten human nature...that caused all those things.

How wrong I have been!

Is "Laquisha" a real person? No. Are any of the comments you've attributed to the President actual quotes from Mr. Obama? No. Do you have even the laziest study of any kind to back up what you're saying about millions of Americans? No. Are you wasting time and electrons blathering on about stuff you clearly have no clue about? The question almost answers itself.

1) Yes, Laquisha is a real person

2) Yes. Mr. Obama did say those things at university commencement addresses

3) Evidence that single parent households are increasing, and that retirement rates are increasing? The sky is blue and grass is green, too.

If Pew is using the same equivalence scale to adjust for household size as it has in its previous reports (Adjusted income = Household income / (Household size)^0.5), then number of workers per household is still going to be one of the most important factors. Pew found that the greatest income increases since 1971 were married people without dependents, followed by married people with dependents.

I'm not sure what to do with this information from a policy standpoint, other than point out its significance.

I'm pretty sure you know what to do with that insight from a policy perspective: encourage marriage and work.

Alas, that's racist, homophobic, patriarchal, white supremacist talk...and trans-phobic to boot!

Haha, you're seriously calling the methodology into question? Pew is one of the most rock solid, non partisan research organizations out there. Look at their history. The don't screw up or mislead. But maybe you can write them a letter in between your intro to sociology TA office hours?
:-)

Jan, you're far too dumb to understand what I'm saying. But I'll indulge you: no I'm not calling their methodology into question. I'm saying that this is what one gets if one looks at households as the unit of analysis, due to household size changes.

If the housing market was left to fully collapse we would see a much more robust middle class. Existing home owners would have taken a hit, but we would see a lot more first time home owners replacing the people that left the middle during the housing bust and manufacturing decline.

That's partly true, or partly true according to Cowen's colleagues at the Mercatus Center. I say partly because they would have preferred to let prices of all assets (including financial assets) collapse in the financial crisis. That Peter Boettke and Bernie Sanders are more alike than different is more than a normal brain can handle. Of course, what we got in the financial crisis was monetary stimulus, lots and lots of monetary stimulus, the intent and effect of which was to stop the collapse in asset prices (especially financial assets) and restore the prices to the pre-crisis level. My short-hand way to describe the difference between monetary stimulus and fiscal stimulus is that the former is redistributive upward (because wealthy people own most of the assets) while the latter is redistributive downward (because not wealthy people own most of the labor). Brookings protestations notwithstanding ("houses"), monetary stimulus preserved inequality at the expense of the middle class (drats, choices have consequences).

So, what's the solution?

We only have this one World (no borders) and it's our job (vote for Bernie) to make it better.

The government can solve everything. We only need to give it more control, more money and more bureaucrats.

Forcing (war on coal and Keystone pipeline) higher electricity costs; increasing (Obamacare) everybody's health insurance expenses; forcing (Transgender = civil right) Mississippi and North Carolina to allow men-in-drag to pee in the Women's Room; taxing (class hate) the rich; confiscating (people control) 200 million guns; injecting (too big to fail) $4 trillion (how much was toxic MBS?) in bank reserves via Fed QE's; spending (what did we get?) $9 trillion more than tax revenues; instituting zero interest rates; banning cash; etc. Yeah, that should work.

Fact is that little of what happened in the last seven plus years was about making the World better. Mostly, it was about taking more control over the economy and the more control over people. Eggs must be broken when cooking an omelet. The death of the middle is a small price.

Wow, you turned this into your own little butthurt session huh? I guess we shouldn't thank those heroes who have been running Congress or state house governors, or local politiciand for all these developments? And certainly not the good guys on Wall Street who didn't mean to tank the world's economy, they were just trying to make some money for all of us. Oops. But don't worry, the white aggrieved and supremely moral party of America has a plan. His name is Trump and Heorogar has the sign in his yard. It's the only way to keep the fags out our daughters' bathrooms after all.

Yeah stupid white people.

Much heat and little light above.

Even the question "what's the solution?" was not really a question, just an intro for more partisan ranting.

You all taking the "robots" post to heart?

Does this study take into account immigration? It seems that you could have people moving from the middle class to the upper middle class, and then a large expansion at the bottom due to immigrants, and then end up with a similar result.

Pew remarked in previous reports on the shrinking middle class than "foreign-born" are more likely to be in the lower class (38% are), than U.S. born (27% are).

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2015/12/2015-12-09_middle-class_FINAL-report.pdf

I suppose my problem with studies like this are that they don't really tell you anything useful unless your follow the same households through time. Otherwise you are really just capturing the effects of people moving in and out of metro areas. Even the Washington Post piece admits that for somewhere like DC, you might have a rising upper class and and a declining middle class because only rich people can afford to live in DC.

I rather think the problem w/ places like DC is that by using metropolitan statistical areas, one can miss significant changes within the metro, such as the richer moving into the city and the poor moving out. Now the poorer have increased transportation costs/problems and may be consigned to an inner suburb (like a Ferguson) that lacks the resources to provide adequate education and policing.

The Pew analysis has two major problems:

1) It compares 2000 decennial Census data on household incomes (in 1999) with 2014 ACS data on household incomes. These are not directly comparable. In tests the Census Bureau found that people answering the Census report ~4.6 percent more income than people answering the ACS questionnaire in the same year. A lot of this seems to do with survey timing/reference frame. The Census gets asked around tax time and asks people about their income over the previous calendar year. The ACS gets asked year round and asks about income over the past 12 calendar months. You would think this shouldn't make a difference, but it does. Comparing Census/ACS data artificially depresses incomes in 2014 relative to 1999. The Census Bureau produced a detailed report on these issues: https://www.census.gov/library/working-papers/2003/acs/2003_Nelson_01.html and recommends using caution when comparing ACS/decennial Census data on household incomes.

2) It adjusts for inflation using the CPI-U instead of the more accurate Chained CPI or the Bureau of Economic Analysis' PCE index. Both of the latter inflation measures adjust for changing consumption patterns and are more accurate than the CPI-U, which uses a fixed consumption basket. The Federal Reserve and the CBO use the PCE as their preferred measure of inflation for this reason. Between 1999 and 2014 the CPI-U grew 42 percent, while the PCE grew 35 percent. Using the less accurate inflation measure thus artificially reduces real income growth.

Using the CPI-U is even stranger because Pew used the BEA's Regional Price Parity index to adjust for local differences in costs of living. The RPP is a BEA product that complements the PCE. BEA uses RPP data together w/PCE to estimate their Implicit Regional Price Deflator that accounts for differences in inflation & living costs across regions & time. If Pew thought the RPP data appropriate to use, its hard to understand why they didn't also use the PCE.

Had Pew used household income data that was directly comparable over time (e.g. the March CPS/ASEC) and adjusted for inflation using the PCE index they would have found median household incomes basically flat from the peak of the tech bubble in 1999 through 2014. That isn't great - and speaks to the severity of the recession and anemic recovery afterward, since household incomes were rising through 2007 -- but it is a lot better than median household incomes dropping 8 percent over that period.

Note that I doubt this affects their calculations on "middle income share" since that is entirely a relative measure (between 67% and 200% of median income each year) and isn't affected by the level of real income growth.

I reckon TC doesn't buy into Caplan's pessimistic bias view, because he just loves telling people who live in the richest country in the history of the world how things are awful and getting worse.

Hey Gregg Easterbrook is reading my mind!

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/15/opinion/sunday/when-did-optimism-become-uncool.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

All you right wingers who come here to bitch and moan non-stop should leave off and go read the comments to Easterbrook's article, in which your mirror images bitch and moan non-stop. Y'all deserve each other.

Two sentences: "The decline in the middle class is typically strongest in areas where manufacturing used to be strong. This used to be a debate, but the funny thing is the nomination of Trump has sealed it for the more pessimistic side."

Some of us saw this coming. We were the ones quoting Foxconn wages in these pages. I think the push-back we got was conventional comparative advantage and assurance that nations become richer. We might have had some talk of retraining and etc. We might have talked about which careers were safest for the next generation. That is, at some level we knew.

The argument that globalization and automation were hurting the middle class should have been won much sooner, but perhaps it is just the nature of human societies that the pendulum swings late and too far.

Perhaps we are due for over-reaction. And Trump.

It occurs to me now that illegal immigration, while always having less impact on the middle class than globalization and automation, was always hotter emotionally. Trump was smart enough to seize that, make immigration the centerpiece, and the real issues the tag-along.

Who didn't see this coming? A friend of mine in college (class of 1987) once cracked: "Third world skills equals third world wages in the 21st century." And we were just a bunch of no-nothing punks. Hell, Pittsburgh, e.g., was already in steep decline well before then. The handwriting was on the wall.

One interesting thing from the Pew study was that, for some reason, a bunch of places in Wisconsin are near the top of the list in "% middle class".

Wisconsin, you may recall, was the one fly in the ointment in Trump's stretch run. Maybe we should figure out what Wisconsin is doing.

Haven't spent much time in WI, but when I did, I drank beer, ate cheese curds, and went fishing. They may have it all figured out after all.

Bowling. Don't forget bowling.

Ah, this one explicitly discusses US vs World well-being.

I would say albatross fairly described the political risks which are more apparent now.

It looks to me like Wisconsin (and the Big Ten region in general) have larger middle-classes, but are experiencing significant declines (albeit in some case starting from a higher point). So, there are only nine metros where the middle class constitutes over 60% of the population, four of which are in Wisconsin, but Sheboygan went from 69.6% middle class to 63.2% since 2000, and Eu Claire from 65.0% to 61.2%.

Viewing the "Middle **Class**" as determined by income grouping, without consideration of the segmentations of income sources or "economic status" may lead to some misperceptions.

Perhaps we should look more closely at the segmentations of what is perceived as a Middle Class, and consider that, in the aggregate, they are fragmenting rather than declining.

In considering the fragmentation of those segments involved in and affected by industrial or marketing changes, we might observe shifts in the "Coasian" factors (for the existence of Firms) that implement fragmentations of the activities that make up firms. Firms exist for reasons. When the reasons change, the firms change (even disintegrate) and the relationships within them and around them respond accordingly.

The makeup of the "Middle Class" reflects various functions, economic, social and political of it members. When those functions change (whether for political, social or economic reasons) the "order" of the segments of that "Class" and their cohesions (if any) will change and the segment will likely be reordered - or consigned to functions that are otherwise "classified" in an economic or social structure. Some will atrophy.

Perhaps "reordering" should replace "decline."

This is America, and we don't really like public spending to make lower income lives more civilized. And so yes, a middle income is required.

As AIG said above, the number of workers per household is a central part of the story that needs to be taken into account.

It is not rare for me to hear that a two-earner household is now necessary to keep a family's finances in order. But it is also true that single parent families are more prevalent than they once were.

There are a variety of stories that this could tell that are not captured by looking at household size. If a married couple with two children once earned a real $60k with only the husband working, but today earns a real $60k with both the husband and wife working, the household-size adjusted income has stayed the same, but the situation is dramatically different. Further, this couple will need to spend more (on the wife getting to work, dressing for work, child care, etc) that will not be reflected by cost-of-living adjustments. So they are worse off and in a very different situation from the prior sole-earner $60k family, even though they will appear the same in the analysis. This would seem to be the type of situation imagined by those who believe the middle class is being hollowed out, by globalization, immigration, or whatever economic force you may point to. But an analysis using household income and adjusting by household size will not capture this as a fall from the middle class.

Alternatively, it could be that where there once was a one-earner family making $60k, there are now to households, one with a mother and two children making $30k from public support and child-support payments, and a father making $60k (would the $60k be adjusted for child-support payments? I am assuming not but don't know.) Adjusting for household size, the mother and children have fallen out of the middle class, and the father may have risen above it. This would lead to a hollowing-out of the middle class, but primarily due to social forces (whichever you may want to blame) rather than economic forces.

The point being simply that the number of earners in a household must be explicitly counted for in some way if we are going to figure out what is going on.

Pew adjusts for this narrative

Where does it do that?

First, let me just say that Pew is awesome. I've liked their stuff for a long time. I highly recommend everyone here to follow the links and check out all their data. Like all data you can nitpick, but they are by the far the best, so people upstream in the comments section get a grip.

Second, I'll repeat my post from earlier. You can interchange Middle Class and American Dream below.

Let me state the American Dream, as best I understand:

A family should be able to afford a single family home with a yard, a garage, and bedrooms for the couple and 2.5 children. That home should be within a 30-45 min or so commute to work at a career that makes full use of the adults talents. The neighborhood should be safe along the lines of 1960 crime rates and the public schools should be good enough to provide the children a chance to be whatever their talents are suited for. If someone has college level intellect they should be able to go to college without accumulating too much debt.

If you want to live right in the city you might need to downgrade to a townhouse or good apartment that could accommodate the family. The same requirements related to crime and schools should apply.

All of this should be affordable on a mortgage that represents a reasonable % of income for the husband only. The wife is free to work, but money shouldn’t be the reason she has to work. The basic necessities of life should be affordable on a single income while maintaining debt load as a reasonable % of income.

Health insurance covering mainstream necessary care should be affordable as a % of income. Ones budget if they avoid extravagance ought to be enough to have savings for a rainy day.

A successful society is one where the above is true. Or at least true for the majority, maybe a janitor struggles but the majority of your bell curve should have access to the above.

Are we providing that to more or less people the in the past? The answer to that is more important they whether we have iPhones or VR Porn. Even better medical care isn't worth much if you don't have the health insurance to access it (the case with my Dad's old union). My impression is that fewer people can achieve these basic goals that constitute a middle class life, and as such all the extra cheap consumer items don't mean much.

I like the parameters you use. My impression is the opposite of yours. Mine is that many more people achieve it.
For example one of my sons hated school and was bad at school and so after high school he took a job as a plumber's helper. He is paid about $11/hour. He lived with us for a about a year and saved up money and added some college money that his grandfather put away for him and bought himself a nice Condo for cash. If he lived with us another year he would not have needed the college money. He lives well, clearly middle-class. He is a great saver, he will soon be able to afford the a detached home around here (Gainesville FL see here: http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-search/Gainesville_FL/type-single-family-home/price-50000-90000).

If he was married his wife would not need to work.
Crime rates have been falling. The environment is clearer etc. etc. There are very very few bad schools in the USA (I would guess maybe 1% of schools are bad) though many schools with mostly bad students (I would say about 10%) but they look similar statistically.

$11/hour is like $355/week after taxes, lucky to be that high because Florida. So let's say $1500/month. Let's say equivalent rent down on a home down there is $800/month, you'll know better them me I just pulled up Zillow. I know he lived at home, but lets say that wasn't an option. I'm going to act as if he had a family below.

For health insurance the Obamacare bronze plan $2,065/year for a family of four without any subsidies (though your son would probably qualify). That's supposed to cover 60% of OOP costs, so lets say $3,444 / 12 = $286/month.

You need a car for the family. Let's say all-in cost to own is $4,000 a year (a used corolla). $4,000 / 12 = $333.

On food USDA rates its low end food budget for a family of 4 at $750/month and its Thrifty plan around $600. Let's be generous and say coupons get clipped aggressively.

$1,500 - $800 - $286 - $333 - $600 = -$519

I mean the kid is actually living on this money so he's managing somehow, and he doesn't have a family yet, but it seems unlikely that budget is going to work out with a family. I've been generous above, and I've included no luxuries, no savings, no education budget, no rainy day fund, no maintenance or random expenses, etc. When junior gets into Florida State it's $20k/year for tuition + room and board. Maybe he'll get financial aid, but point is its not included above.

You seem to be blessed with a pretty low cost of living area too. Those expenses would be way higher up were I grew up, and not because my parents purposely attempted to move into an expensive area (it was much less dense and the house was a fixer upper).

Your numbers are all way to high. My business partner and I were talking about car costs last week because he is thinking of buying a car, we figure that he and I have spend $1,500/year in depreciation oil and repairs (we were saying how amazed we are these modern cars they need so little repair, his 2004 Camry has a little over 200K miles, my Nisson Frontier about 180K he bought his used about 10 years ago (we both love this place: http://www.secars.com/)) mine a 2003 Nisson truck that I got about the same time both still look great.) gas is cheap and I only put about 6k miles per year.

I spent less that $100/week on groceries (not just food) when my 2 boys lived with me, less now. What do you eat!

You can get a decent place for about $600/month, (less if you are like my son and go to church because there is always someone who will rent a place very cheap to a sober very dependable person.)

He is not only living he started an IRA and was going to put $20/week in it, but I funded it for him for the 1st 2 years because I can easily afford it (maybe he will take care of me in my old age). He does often work over 40/week though whenever they have a re-pipe job.

But we all enjoy a much more natural environment.
The crime rates are down.
Fewer women feel that they must stay with an abusing husband.
Far more people are overweight than underweight.

The crime rates aren't down though. They are down compared to the height of the crack epidemic in the early 1990s. Compared to 1960 every crime level in every city of the country to dramatically worse. In some cities like my own even the decline since 1990 got wiped out in a single summer. And there are of course problems with the measurements themselves.

Or if you want a modern day example, I'd accept the crime level in 2016 Japan.

Personally, I find the level of crime I deal with, even in a gentrified part of the city, unacceptable. I know my peers feel the same. We've all been a victim of crime of some kind within the not so distant past, and tellingly most of it goes unreported because we know the cops won't do anything.

I would also add things like rioting to crime. Call it all destructive and disorderly behavior.

Honestly though the crime thing is not a good measure of Middle-class. the people bring that with them. In some states like ND, ID and UT, the crime rate is low for most ever neighborhood.

"Middle Class" is about quality of life. You're neighbors are a huge part of your quality of life. If we've imported so many of the criminal element that people need to live in an expensive neighborhood simply to avoid them, then we've effectually priced people out of the middle class. Both where I grew up and where I live now real estate is more expensive and its driven primarily by the ability to segregate by price. The physical structures are much the same in the poor and nice neighboorhoods.

If we’ve imported so many of the criminal element that people need to live in an expensive neighborhood

We are not importing the criminal element most of the criminal element have been born here and are not the descendants of recent immigrants.

In fact immigration helps to lower the crime rate.

See: http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/hispanic.htm

the data show that violent crime rates for Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites, though a bit higher for Hispanics, are in actual fact quite similar.
And immigrants from China, the Philippines and Vietnam have lower crime rates that white US citizens. The positive crime effects are especially positive on low income neighborhoods because most of the immigrants start off with little money.

In fact there are lots things of perceived problems in the US were allowing a 50 million Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants in, could solve. For example bad schools, bad schools in poor neighborhoods, high homicide rates, high homicide rates in poor neighborhoods, low income mobility, especially low income mobility out of the bottom quintile.

Interestingly enough because they come in poor but have similar crime rates to whites overall (not poor whites) Hispanic immigrants tend to improve life for low income whites in poor neighborhoods

This is particularly interesting because almost all of the long term gain in the income and wealth of the top 1% over the last thirty years or so has taken place predominantly in about ten U.S. countries. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/21/business/21scene.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&

Yet, this study shows that the forces acting on income distribution among those in the bottom 95% or so are more or less completely independent of the inequality trends at the very top, and unlike the trends of the very top are not monolithic. Some 108 areas are seeing the middle class melt as the upper middle class and working class/poor grow; 58 are seeing the upper middle class remain stagnant, the middle class shrinking as the middle class join the working class/poor; and 64 are seeing the middle class improve itself to upper middle class, while the working class/poor are struck. Meanwhile 24 saw a larger share of people who were middle class. The tie to manufacturing economies indicates that shift in industry mixes in metro areas is driving these changes.

Well, there is a reason why GDP/worker is $120,000 but GDPPC is only $50,000.

What is average?

I am going to disagree with Pew's methodology. They center middle class around the median income. Certainly there have been plenty of times and places where the median household is lower class. Really even in the USA today, a majority (& perhaps solid majority) of middle class households have above median income. A better way would be to make these calculations around mean household income which can better adjust for these variances that are dependent on time & place.

Gee, ya think? Somewhere I have a century-old (or older) article saying that 3% of the country is middle or upper class and that the criterion is having at least 3 servants.

Still true when you go by mean wealth and mean income. Only the top four percent are at or above mean wealth and mean income.

Mean is not Median.

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