After the recession that has left 12.8 million still unemployed, are you still a member of the middle class?
The Lost Decade of the Middle Class is the title of a just-issued report from the Pew Research Center and it is a sobering read. Over the past forty years, the American middle class shrank from 61 percent of adults in 1971 to 51 percent in 2011.
1,287 adults who identified themselves as middle class were surveyed and here’s the results as noted in a press release:
Fully 85% of self-described middle-class adults say it is more difficult now than it was a decade ago for middle-class people to maintain their standard of living. Of those who feel this way, 62% say “a lot” of the blame lies with Congress, while 54% say the same about banks and financial institutions, 47% about large corporations, 44% about the Bush administration, 39% about foreign competition and 34% about the Obama administration. Just 8% blame the middle class itself a lot.
That is, Congress, banks, corporations, the Bush administration and competition from the likes of Asia and elsewhere are perceived as the cause of the middle class’s reduced circumstances.
The report’s data make such too clear: median household income fell from $72,956 in 2000 to $69,487 in 2010. During the recession, median net worth has dropped alarmingly, from $152,950 in 2000 to $93,150 in 2010.
Moreover, upper income class households now hold a greater proportion of income. In 1970, the middle class held 62 percent of income in the U.S. and the upper income class, 29 percent. As NPR points out, “those numbers have now flipped,” with the middle class now holding only 45 percent and the upper income class 46 percent.
Many of those surveyed said that maintaining their standard of living has become a struggle, with 85 percent saying it is now harder to do so than a decade ago. Also, while 51 percent said in 2007 that their children would have a higher standard of living than them, only 43 percent think that will be the case now. 26 percent now think their children’s standard of living will be worse; four years ago, 19 percent did.
With the economy the central issue of this year’s presidential election, Bloomberg nonetheless notes that the middle class are “reluctant” to blame President Obama. 52 percent said his policies would aid the middle class while 42 percent said that Romney’s would.
With an estimated net worth of $250 million, Romney is seen as being out of touch with the needs of the middle class. 62 percent of the survey’s respondents say that Republicans favor the rich. 37 percent said Democrats were more likely to support their interests while only 26 percent said such of the Republicans.
“We think of ourselves and pride ourselves as being a middle-class society. But there’s a sense that the middle class is getting smaller. It’s hollowing out.”
Are you better off than you were a decade ago? Four years ago?
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