Report: Middle Class is Falling in Majority of Cities Across U.S.

May 12, 2016

The middle class is contracting in nearly every major city across the United States, according to a new study from Pew Research.

The share of Americans living in middle-income households has fallen in 90 percent of the 229 metropolitan areas studied by Pew between 2000 and 2014, CNN reported Thursday. Those areas make up roughly three-quarters of the entire U.S. population.

The trend crosses regional boundaries, emerging in Atlanta, New York, San Francisco, and Denver along with smaller Midwestern metros, college towns, and coastal cities.

The Washington Post reported:

Pew reported in December that a clear majority of American adults no longer live in the middle class, a demographic reality shaped by decades of widening inequality, declining industry and the erosion of financial stability and family-wage jobs. But while much of the attention has focused on communities hardest hit by economic declines, the new Pew data, based on metro-level income data since 2000, show that middle-class stagnation is a far broader phenomenon.

In its comprehensive report, Pew attributed the shrinking middle class to rising income inequality across the U.S. while household incomes continue to decrease throughout most metropolitan areas.

As the middle class contracts, the lower and upper classes are growing. The share of Americans in upper-income households has grown in 172 of the 229 metro areas studied while the share of adults in lower-income households has risen in 160 metro areas from 2000 to 2014, Pew reported.

In some areas, a chiseled middle class has led to economic gains, the Washington Post noted, with "booming energy hubs" like Midland, Texas feeling a positive impact.

The 2016 presidential election has largely focused on the nation's shrinking middle class with voters on both sides of the political spectrum feeling left behind by the U.S. political system—sentiments that are reflected in the rise of Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.).

While most national attention has focused on stagnant economies in rural localities, the Pew report unveiled the trend is overwhelmingly pervasive.