The great shrinking of the middle class that has captured the attention of the nation is not only playing out in troubled regions like the Rust Belt, Appalachia and the Deep South, but in just about every metropolitan area in America, according to a major new analysis by the Pew Research Center.
Pew reported in December that a clear majority of American adults no longer live in the middle class, a demographic reality shaped by decades of widening inequality, declining industry and the erosion of financial stability and family-wage jobs. But while much of the attention has focused on communities hardest hit by economic declines, the new Pew data, based on metro-level income data since 2000, show that middle-class stagnation is a far broader phenomenon.
The share of adults living in middle-income households has also dwindled in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta and Denver. It’s fallen in smaller Midwestern metros where the middle class has long made up an overwhelming majority of the population. It’s withering in coastal tech hubs, in military towns, in college communities, in Sun Belt cities.
The decline of the American middle class is “a pervasive local phenomenon,” according to Pew, which analyzed census and American Community Survey data in 229 metros across the country, encompassing about three-quarters of the U.S. population. In 203 of those metros, the share of adults in middle-income households fell from 2000 to 2014.