Are You in the Shrinking Middle Class? Take This 2-Step Test

The middle class is disappearing, with lower- and upper-income households together matching our traditional measure for financial success.Shutterstock

More Americans are getting poorer and some are getting richer while the middle class is being erased. That’s the blunt summary of a new Pew Research Center study that looks at household income distribution in the past four decades. The data came from the Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

Pew defines middle-income households as having “income that is two-thirds to double that of the U.S. median household income.” For a three-person household the figure ranges from $42,000 to $126,000 annually. There were about 120.8 million of those in the country this year, but there were also 121.3 million lower- and upper-income households combined, making the middle class even with its bookend tiers for the first time.

A closer look at the findings shows that the country’s wealth is concentrated more in households in the upper class (49 percent, up from 29 percent in 1970) than the middle class. Only 43 percent of all income settled in middle-class households (down from 62 percent in 1970)

It gets worse.

“And middle-income Americans have only fallen further behind financially in the new century,” the report states. Median income for middle-income households fell by 4 percent in 2014 compared to 2000. Their median wealth also dropped by 28 percent from 2001 to 2013.

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Far more alarming is the growth in the lowest-income tier, from 16 percent in 1971 to 20 percent today. That means one in five American adults is in the lowest income category.

The silver lining in all this seems to be that nearly one in 10 adults are now part of the highest-income tier (9 percent with average income of $174,625 per household), which represents a near doubling of the affluent population since 1971 (4 percent).

So where do you fit in?  Use the calculator below to estimate your place on the income spectrum.