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.