Pew Research is my favorite mainstream firm, and it has just come out with results about the status of the upper, middle, and lower class in America. As you would guess, the upper class has gained ground since 1971 while the middle and lower have lost… But not as much as the top 1% and 0.1%, who have nearly doubled their share of the income.
The upper class at 19% currently has 2.4 times the median income of the middle class in 2016 vs. 2.2 times in 1970. The percent of the upper income has steadily risen since 1971 from 14% to 20% in 2011, as the chart shows. That class dropped back to 19% in 2016.
The middle class has fallen from 61% in 1971 to 52%, and the lower class has risen from 25% to 29%.
Median Income is More Telling
The upper class is at $187,872, a bit higher than I would have thought for median. Average incomes skewed by the exponentially richer 1% would be even higher. The middle class is $78,442. The middle class is pretty much unchanged since 2000, but has done a bit better since 2010, growing 6%. The upper income still grew higher at 9%.
The lower class has actually fallen a bit behind from $26,923 in 2000 to $25,624 in 2016. The upper class is now 7.3 times their income vs. 6.3 times in 1970, so more of a divergence than the middle class.
The highest upper-class concentrations are in the New York area and California, while the middle class is higher in the Midwest and larger parts of the Northeast.
Where do you stand? The minimum income to qualify for the upper class in a one-person household is $78,281; for two people, $110,706; three, $135,586; four, $150,561; and five persons, $175,041.
The minimum for the middle class by household size ranges from $26,093 to $58,347.
But of course, the greatest divergence comes between the top 1%, who have benefited the most from the financial asset bubble, and the middle class. From the Pikkety study in 2014 using average income, the top 1% was $1,391,000, 33 times the middle-class average. The top 0.1% is 30 million, a whopping 719 times.
Hence, the top 1% has run away with almost all of the gains, far more than the top 19% upper class!