The middle class has long been the backbone of the U.S. economy and an engine of economic growth. Yet, a strict definition of what exactly it means to be “middle class” is somewhat elusive.
In relative terms, the American middle class is a group that lies between the working class and the upper class on the socioeconomic spectrum. Broadly speaking, middle class households typically have some disposable income for some luxuries like vacations and eating at restaurants and are able to put away money for savings and retirement. However, for larger expenses, like buying a house, a car, or a college education, middle class households generally rely on loans. (Here is a look at 20 cities where the middle class can no longer afford housing.)
While these benchmarks can be useful in determining middle class status, they are not necessarily hard and fast rules – and such broad guidelines become less useful across large populations. In contrast, income – while perhaps a less comprehensive measure – is a more quantifiable and definitive indicator of middle class status.
Using household income data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey, 24/7 Wall St. identified the income it takes to be considered middle class in every state by looking at the middle quintile – or middle 20% – of earners. For each state, we list the range of household incomes for the middle income bracket by adjusting the national middle quintile to each state’s cost of living.
More broadly defined, many members of the middle class may have incomes that fall slightly outside of the ranges presented on this list. Still, most households with earnings within these ranges comprise the core of the middle class in each state.
Depending on the state, the lower limit of what is considered middle class, or middle income, ranges from about $48,000 up to $61,000 annually, while the upper limit ranges from about $76,000 to $97,500. (Here is a look at the 18 states where Americans make the least money.)
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