News & Politics

The Middle Class Just Became a Minority

Mature couple outside house (Image Source via AP Images)

Even notice how the middle class holds a kid of sacrosanct status in our political discourse, almost as if making enough to get by but not enough to be truly independent hits some kind of social bullseye? A new demographic development has those who subscribe to that definition of economic success wringing their hands. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

The nation’s middle class, long a pillar of the American economy, has shrunk to the point where it no longer constitutes the majority of the adult population, according to a new major study. Rapid growth of upper-income households, coupled with an increase in less educated, low earners, has driven the decline of the middle-income population to a hair below 50 percent of the total this year, the Pew Research Center reported Wednesday.

Consider that language. “Rapid growth of upper-income households… has driven the decline of the middle income population.” That’s a rather negative spin, is it not? Couldn’t we just as accurately say that more people have succeeded in their quest for upward mobility? Isn’t that something worth celebrating?

It’s almost as if the some people would prefer that the upper-income category shrink. Presumably, news of the middle-class growing while upper-income households decline would be reported as “progress.” But that would mean more people making less overall, and enjoying a lower quality of life. It would be bad news by any objective standard, but celebrated as “growth of the middle class.”