These Brookings Institute statistics capture important quantitative trends that frame the lives of the middle class. However, by just looking at these facts, we miss the larger story about the experience of everyday life, in all its rich and sometimes messy and contradictory, detail—how middle-class Americans forge a meaningful life, how they cope with fears and disappointments, and how they hustle and sacrifice to live up to their own definitions of a good spouse, worker, parent, and friend. Moreover, existing statistics on the American middle class also tell us little about the differences within it—the ways in which race and gender pattern people’s opportunities and constraints, shape their sense of self and community, and provide moral order to their lives.
This report from the Pew Research Center suggests that after more than four decades of serving as the nation’s economic majority, the American middle class is now matched in number by those in the economic tiers above and below it. While economic progress explains some of this shift, the report indicates more rapid gains for those at the top of the income distribution, and an overall decline in the median income of middle-income Americans.
This initiative from the Brookings Institution focuses on improving the quality of life of America’s middle class and increasing the number of people who are entering into it. The website features research articles, policy discussion, and many other resources addressing the challenges facing the middle class and barriers to upward mobility.