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As the cost of living continues to rise, the American middle class is slowly shrinking, leading to an increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor.
In the U.S., the term “middle class” is commonly used to refer to individuals whose household income falls within a specific range. Pew Research defines middle class or middle-income Americans as those with an annual household income of two-thirds to double the national median (albeit adjusted for household size).
Advantages of a Middle Class Income
Middle class families typically have access to quality education, healthcare and other financial resources that allow them to live comfortably. Generally speaking, middle class Americans are not wealthy but can afford necessities and a few luxuries. They are able to save for retirement, buy a home, send their children to college and take vacations.
According to a recent Gallup Poll, approximately half of adults in the U.S. consider themselves middle class. However, as the cost of living continues to rise, the American middle class is slowly shrinking, leading to an increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor.
Middle Class Defined by Region
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median income in 2021 was $70,784. So American families earning between $47,189 and $141,568 are technically in the middle class, according to the Pew Research Center’s definition.
However, other factors must be considered. For example, your family size and the cost of living in your area will largely determine whether your income provides a middle class lifestyle.
CNBC used U.S. Census Bureau data to determine what a middle class income really is for the 20 most populous U.S. metros. Their analysis used data from the Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey to determine the following middle class income ranges:
• In the New York/Newark/Jersey City, New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania metro area, families making between $56,000 and $169,000 are considered middle class.
• The range in Los Angeles, Long Beach and Anaheim, California, falls between $55,000 and $165,000.
• For the Chicago, Naperville and Elgin, Illinois area, $52,000 to $156,000 is middle-income.
• In the Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington, Texas metroplex, $51,000 to $152,000 is the range.
• Nearby, in the Houston, The Woodlands and Sugar Land, Texas area, middle class income dips to between $47,000 and $142,000.
• In the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Virginia-Maryland-West Virginia metro area, families making between $74,000 and $221,000 are middle-income.
• For the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Delaware-Maryland metro region, it ranges from $53,000 to $160,000.
• In the Florida metros of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, families making between $43,000 and $128,000 are considered middle class.
• In Atlanta, Sandy Springs and Alpharetta, Georgia, families making between $52,000 and $155,000 are middle-income.
• For the Boston, Cambridge and Newton, Massachusetts and New Hampshire metro region, the range is $67,000 to $202,000.
• In the Phoenix metro, including Mesa and Chandler, Arizona, $50,000 to $151,000 is the middle-income range.
• In California’s Bay Area of San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, families making between $77,000 and $232,000 are considered middle class.
• For California’s Inland Empire region of Riverside, San Bernardino and Ontario, the range falls between $51,000 and $154,000.
• In Detroit, Warren and Dearborn, Michigan, $45,000 to $134,000 is middle income.
• In the Seattle metro area, including Tacoma and Bellevue, Washington, families making between $68,000 and $203,000 are considered middle class.
• For the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota-Wisconsin region, families making between $58,000 to $175,000 are middle income.
• The range in San Diego, Chula Vista and Carlsbad, California, is $61,000 to $182,000.
• For Florida’s Tampa Bay area, including St. Petersburg and Clearwater, middle income falls between $42,000 and $126,000.
• The range in the Denver, Aurora and Lakewood, Colorado metro region is between $60,000 and $181,000.
• And for the Baltimore, Columbia and Towson, Maryland metro areas, $58,000 to $173,000 is middle income.
If you’re still wondering where your household income falls, CNN Money provides an interactive calculator that lets you find out based on your annual income and the county where you live.
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