Are you a member of the “middle class?” When you think of that term, who comes to mind is likely based on who you are. In the United States, what does the term actually mean?
I’ll answer those questions and more based on analysis from the Pew Research Center.
The Pew report, which is based on government income statistics for more than 260 metropolitan areas in 2018 (its most recent data available), indicates that the middle class makes up the largest economic group of Americans (52%).
Before we get to it, let’s take a look at Pew’s definition of the middle class.
What Is “Middle Class”?
Pew defines the middle class as U.S. adults whose annual gross household income is between two-thirds and double the national median. (Upper-income households take in more than double the median and lower-income households take in less than two-thirds of the median.)
Here are the report’s annual wage ranges, according to 2018 figures, for U.S. households comprised of three people:
- Upper income: More than $145,500
- Middle income: $48,500 – $145,500
- Lower income: Less than $48,500
What Qualifies as Middle Class in Your Area?
You may be wondering where you stand economically. The Pew Center has an online calculator that tells you whether you’re middle class based on some economic and demographic indicators.
To use the tool:
- Enter your state.
- Enter your household income and the number of people who live with you.
- Click on “Calculate.”
The calculator will show you whether you’re in the middle-income tier and will give you statistics on the income tiers of adults in your metro area.
If you want to take a deeper dive, you can also enter more information to compare yourself to others in your demographic nationwide.
Try This Tool As Well
Money expert Clark Howard likes the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator, which measures the income a family needs in order to attain what it calls “a modest yet adequate standard of living.”
Clark says the tool is particularly helpful if you’re considering moving to a new city and you want to gauge what the costs would be.
“You can see what a difference it might make in your life and in your lifestyle if you were to uproot,” Clark says.
According to the EPI website, the tool “estimates community-specific costs for 10 family types (one or two adults with zero to four children) in all counties and metro areas in the United States.”
To use the tool:
- Enter your state, county or metro area.
- Select the number of adults or children in your household.
- Select Monthly or Annual.
From there it will calculate totals for such costs as housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, taxes and other necessities.
The calculator also allows you to add other family types if you want to compare yourself with others.