The American middle class — once a major point of pride in the United States — has changed considerably over the course of recent decades. The typical occupations held by middle-class Americans have changed over the years, and a greater amount of all income generated has moved into the hands of individuals and households in the top shares of earners.
While the United States remains one of the most prosperous countries in the world, rising income inequality has intensified discussions discussions of how resources are distributed in general and to the middle class in particular.
One way to examine the American middle class is to look at where middle-income earners are residing, and how the geographic concentration of the nation’s economic majority has changed.
To identify the states where the middle class is disappearing, 24/7 Wall St. compared the share of households in each state within the middle range of nationwide incomes in 1999 and in 2017 using the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year ACS microdata and 2000 decennial Census microdata. Across the country in 1999, the middle three quintiles included annual incomes from $17,196 to $79,375. In 2017, middle incomes ranged from $24,626 to $121,116.
Our ranking is based on the percentage point change in these shares of middle-class households between 2017 and 1999, the earliest year for which state-level household income data is available.
Incomes are lower in some states than in others and this is true throughout the period reviewed. However, the states with the largest increases in the share of households earning middle-incomes do not fall necessarily into lower- or higher-income states.