The Corner

The Middle Class Isn’t Disappearing

The middle class is shrinking, according to a much-publicized Pew Research Center study. In 1971, 61 percent of Americans were in middle-class households but now only 50 percent are. Note, however, that Pew is defining middle class as making between two-thirds of the median income and twice the median income. It’s a relative measure, in other words, and the middle class can “shrink” in it even if every member of the middle class sees a pay raise every year. Three years ago Scott Winship challenged a similar analysis by Pew for NR; much of the critique seems to apply to this week’s report too.

I don’t doubt that America’s middle class has some problems and stresses, but I don’t think this way of looking at it helps us much in thinking about them. 

Update: Made some dumb mistakes with the numbers, fixed them.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

Trump: Yes

Editor’s Note: The following is one of three essays, each from a different perspective, in the latest edition of National Review on the question of whether to vote for President Trump. The views below reflect those of the individual author, not of the NR editorial board as a whole. The other two essays can be ... Read More

Trump: Yes

Editor’s Note: The following is one of three essays, each from a different perspective, in the latest edition of National Review on the question of whether to vote for President Trump. The views below reflect those of the individual author, not of the NR editorial board as a whole. The other two essays can be ... Read More
Elections

How Trump Might Be Winning

I’m far too dumb to be able to shed any light on polls, but I do know something about celebrity and I think I can guarantee this: If President Trump wins re-election, Robert Cahaly is going to become very famous very quickly. Who is Robert Cahaly? The chief pollster for the Trafalgar Group, the only major ... Read More
Elections

How Trump Might Be Winning

I’m far too dumb to be able to shed any light on polls, but I do know something about celebrity and I think I can guarantee this: If President Trump wins re-election, Robert Cahaly is going to become very famous very quickly. Who is Robert Cahaly? The chief pollster for the Trafalgar Group, the only major ... Read More

Trump: No

Editor’s Note: The following is one of three essays, each from a different perspective, in the latest edition of National Review on the question of whether to vote for President Trump. The views below reflect those of the individual author, not of the NR editorial board as a whole. The other two essays can be ... Read More

Trump: No

Editor’s Note: The following is one of three essays, each from a different perspective, in the latest edition of National Review on the question of whether to vote for President Trump. The views below reflect those of the individual author, not of the NR editorial board as a whole. The other two essays can be ... Read More