America’s fabled middle class – the backbone of the country – is no longer the majority, as of 2015, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. In the early 1970s, the middle class made up 61 percent of the population. A steady decline since then has led to the current level of just below 50 percent.
Don Lee of the Los Angeles Times reported on the rather ominous findings:
Many analysts and policymakers regard the shift as worrisome for economic and social stability. Middle-income households have been the bedrock of consumer spending, and many liberals in particular view the declining middle as part of a troubling trend of skewed income gains among the nation’s richest families.
The decline has been caused by a rise in the number of both upper- and lower-income households, a trend which has also been accompanied by a shift in perceptions among Americans.
“Most Americans have traditionally identified themselves as middle class, even those at the top and bottom,” Lee wrote, but in 2015 only 51 percent identify themselves as part of the middle or upper-middle class, with 48 percent saying they are part of the lower class.
Only seven years ago, as the Great Recession was beginning, polls reported that 63 percent of Americans were calling themselves middle class.
Although the researchers consider the growth of the upper class as “economic progress,” the same can hardly be said about the growth at the lower end.