Business, Economics and Jobs

Middle class in the US is eroding, Pew study finds


President Barack Obama greets the crowd during a grassroots campaign stop at Bayliss Park, August 13, 2012, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The shrinking American middle class thinks Congress and Obama are to blame for the decline in their quality of life.


Julie Denesha

The American middle class is deteriorating and losing confidence, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center

85 percent of self-described middle-class adults find it more difficult now than it was a decade ago to maintain their standard of living, according to the report.

The median household income in the United States dropped from $72,956 in 2000 to $69,487 in 2010, NPR reported, and net worth sunk from $152,950 to $93,150 in that same time period. 

And the actual size of the middle class is shrinking: In 2011, the middle-income tier included 51 percent of all adults; 1971, using the same income boundaries, it included 61 percent, according to Pew. 

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"The notion that we are a society with a large middle class, with lots of economic and social mobility and a belief that each generation does better than the next — these are among the core tenets of what it means to be an American," Paul Taylor, the Pew Research Center's executive vice president, told the Los Angeles Times. "But that's not necessarily the case anymore."

Many Americans are pointing the finger at Congress: 62 percent say “a lot” of the blame lies with Congress, according to Pew. 54 percent say the same about banks and financial institutions; 47 percent about large corporations; 44 percent about the Bush administration; 39 percent about foreign competition, and 34 percent about the Obama administration.

In contrast, just 8 percent blame the middle class itself.  

"These are the disaffected middle class who work hard and play by the rules of society, but increasingly see their situation declining by forces beyond their control," Smeeding told the Associated Press. "No matter who is president, the climb back up for the middle class and the recovery will be slow and often painful."

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