Special Report

The City With the Richest Middle Class in Every State

The American middle class has been hollowed out for decades. Factors such as the decline of major industries like manufacturing, alongside stagnating wages and the rising cost of living, have reduced the ranks of the American middle class since the 1970s and exacerbated income inequality. 

Not only impacting millions of American families, the decline of the middle class, as the economic backbone of the United States, is also a cause for concern among policy makers. A strong middle class is a pillar of stability and a key driver of economic growth. Middle class households provide a steady market for goods and services, their labor is an engine of entrepreneurship and innovation, and their tax dollars help sustain investment in quality public services. 

Despite the challenges of the middle class nationwide, there are still many cities in the United States where middle class incomes remain relatively high. Due to both economic and demographic circumstances, the middle class in these places have bucked many of the longer-term trends that are all too evident in other parts of the country. 

Using metro area data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey, 24/7 Wall St. identified the city with the strongest middle class in each state. For the purposes of this story, the middle class is defined as the middle 20% of households – that is, 40% of households have higher income and 40% lower income. For each state, the metro area with the highest income floor for the middle quintile of households ranks as having the wealthiest middle class. All data is for 2021.

It is important to note that Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont have only one metro area each. As a result, the city listed for these states ranks as having the wealthiest middle class by default only. And though each metro area on this list ranks as having the wealthiest class in the state, there are several cases in which the middle class across the state as a whole earn higher incomes. 

Unlike in decades past, where someone could get a well-paying job with just a high school diploma, today, the vast majority of high-paying positions require a college education. Perhaps not surprisingly, in all but 10 metro areas on this list, the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher exceeds the comparable share across the state as a whole. (Here is a look at the highest paying college majors.)

Nationwide, the middle earning 20% of households account for about 14.3% of annual earnings. A testament to the relative strength of the middle class in these places, the middle quintile of households control at least 14.4% of total income in all but seven metro areas on this list, and in 30 metro areas, the middle class accounts for 15% of all earnings. (Here is a look at the richest cities in America.)

Click here to see the city with the wealthiest middle class in each state.

Click here to see our detailed methodology.

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