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America's Shrinking Middle Class Is at a 'Tipping Point'

It’s now smaller than the upper and lower economic tiers combined, a Pew study finds.
A foreclosed house in a middle-income Detroit suburb.
A foreclosed house in a middle-income Detroit suburb.AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

America’s middle class has been steadily shrinking since 1971, and now this segment of the U.S. population is around the same size as the layers above and below it combined, a new analysis by Pew Research Center finds. It’s “a demographic shift that could signal a tipping point,” Pew says.

In 2015, middle-income Americans (adults in a three-person household with annual income between $42,000 and $126,000) made up about half of the U.S. population, down steadily from 61 percent since 1971. In absolute numbers, this middle-income band now contains around 120 million people, which is almost the same as the total number of Americans in the other economic tiers combined (121 million).