Fewer and fewer people are feeling middle class these days.
The share of Americans who describe themselves as middle class has taken a tumble, while the percentage who identify as lower class has soared over the past six years, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center/USA Today. The share of Americans who consider themselves upper class has also shrunk.
This downward shift is likely due to falling wages and the weak job market, said Rakesh Kochhar, associate director for research at the Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project. The survey notes that median household income fell from $55,627 in 2007 to $51,017 in 2012, the most recent Census data available. And employment in middle-skill jobs increased only 46% between 1980 and 2009, compared to 110% for low-skill jobs, according to a New York Federal Reserve Bank analysis.
"Despite the economic recovery, the economic mood continues to head south," Kochhar said.
The share of young folks age 18 to 29 who feel part of the lower class has nearly doubled in the past six years. This age group has been particularly hard hit by the Great Recession and still struggles with unemployment rates higher than the national average. The rate for those age 18 to 29 was 9.5% in December, compared to 6.5% among all adults. (These figures are non-seasonally adjusted.)
College graduates have also seen a downward slide in their perceived social standing. While the share who feel they are in the middle class has stayed roughly the same, the percentage in the upper class shrunk, while the share in the lower class grew. This suggests that the rich felt they slid back into the middle class, and some in the middle felt they slipped down to the lower class.
Although the Fed has been juicing the economy since late 2008, it doesn't feel that way to many people on Main Street. That's because a key part of the process has broken down.
Tight credit and a large number of underwater homeowners means that many middle-class Americans simply haven't been able to benefit from the Fed's low interest rates.
Now that the housing recovery is underway, that could change, said Federal Reserve MOREAnnalyn Kurtz - Apr 18, 2013 3:17 PM ET
Think you know how wealth is distributed in America? Think again.
A YouTube video that's gone viral recently shows that our perceptions of who has money and how much they have is quite skewed. The poor and middle class have a lot less than most people think, while the rich have a lot more. And the Top 1% are off the charts.
The video, which has been viewed more than 3.8 million MORETami Luhby - Mar 8, 2013 8:06 AM ET
More and more Americans are living in neighborhoods surrounded by people who earn about as much as them ... whether they are rich or poor.
Segregation by income is growing, according to a Pew Research Center analysis released Wednesday.
Some 28% of low-income households lived in low-income neighborhoods in 2010, up from 23% three decades earlier. And the number of upper-income households living in upper-income neighborhoods doubled to 18% over that period.
Pew MORETami Luhby - Aug 1, 2012 12:01 PM ET
After being accused of being "out of touch" by his leading Republican rival last week, President Obama trotted out his "middle class experiences" for journalists.
The president said he went through much of college and law school on scholarship, as did his wife, Michelle. Still, they had to take out student loans that they were paying off nine years later. (The couple had $125,000 in debt when they graduated Harvard Law MORETami Luhby - Apr 9, 2012 6:00 AM ET
After two years of declines, Americans' income finally rose in 2010. The Internal Revenue Service provided a first peek at taxpayers' returns and it showed that adjusted gross income totaled $8 trillion, up 5.2% from 2009.
But a closer look at the data reveals that only the wealthiest Americans will be popping the Cristal.
Taxpayers earning more than $250,000 saw their total adjusted gross incomes rise by 13.8%, while those bringing home MORETami Luhby - Mar 5, 2012 12:09 PM ET
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