Special Report

States Where the Middle Class Is Dying

3. Maine
> Middle income growth 2010-2014:
-2.2%
> Fifth quintile income growth 2010-2014: 6.0% (11th highest)
> Fifth quintile share of income: 49.3% (20th lowest)
> Middle class household income: $49,250 (16th lowest)

Unlike most states where the middle class is falling behind, income in Maine is relatively well distributed. However, the income gap in Maine is widening faster than in the nation as a whole. Average incomes among the wealthiest 20% of households in the state grew by 6.0% between 2010 and 2014, one of the faster growth rates and much faster than the comparable national figure of 3.7%. Incomes earned by middle class households, on the other hand, declined 2.2% over that time. While more income has been shifting faster to the state’s wealthiest residents, both Maine’s unemployment and poverty rates have been lower than the respective national rates.

2. Georgia
> Middle income growth 2010-2014:
-2.7%
> Fifth quintile income growth 2010-2014: 2.7% (22nd lowest)
> Fifth quintile share of income: 51.3% (9th highest)
> Middle class household income: $49,285 (18th lowest)

Household incomes of the top 20% of earners in Georgia grew by 2.7% in the five years through 2014, slower than the 3.7% income growth among that cohort nationally. While the income growth in the top quintile of households was modest over that period, incomes of middle class households declined dramatically. Income from Georgian households in the third quintile fell by 2.7% over that period, more than 2.0 percentage points faster than the 0.7% decline in middle class incomes nationwide.

Union membership, which can help strengthen a state’s middle class, is low in the state with just 4.3% of workers belonging to a union, considerably less than the 11.1% of the American workforce with a union membership.

1. Rhode Island
> Middle income growth 2010-2014:
-3.1%
> Fifth quintile income growth 2010-2014: 4.5% (18th highest)
> Fifth quintile share of income: 51.2% (10th highest)
> Middle class household income: $55,414 (19th highest)

Middle class households in Rhode Island are among the worst off compared to the highest earning households in the state. From 2010 through 2014, middle class household incomes shrank 3.1% to $55,414 a year. Over the same period, incomes of the top 20% of households grew by 4.5%, one of the largest income growth disparities between those cohorts in the country. Consequently, the state’s Gini coefficient increased nearly four times as fast as the nation’s comparable figure from 2012 through 2014. Additionally, the state’s labor market is far from healthy. Nearly 8% of the state’s workforce is unemployed, the third highest unemployment rate in the country. And while the state’s unemployment rate has fallen 3.5 percentage points since its peak in 2010, the decline is due largely to a 2.4% contraction in the state’s labor force.

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