No wonder the middle class is feeling squeezed. Its income is only returning to where it was in 2000.
The typical family of three had an income of just under $78,450 in 2016, according to a Pew Research Center report, which used the most recent data available. In 2000, it was just under $78,100.
Whatever advances the middle class made in the early 2000s were snuffed out by the Great Recession, said Rakesh Kochhar, a senior researcher at Pew. Its median income had dropped to $74,000 by 2010, and it took several years to return because of the historically slow economic recovery just after the downturn.
Only upper income families have seen some uptick. Their income rose to nearly $187,900 in 2016, compared to $183,700 in 2000.
The poor have yet to climb back, however. These households had a median income of just over $25,600 in 2016, not yet at the nearly $27,000 they made in 2000.
Overall, just over half of American adults were in the middle class in 2016. That’s up slightly from 2011, but down from 61% in 1971. Nearly 30% were lower income in 2016, and 19% were upper income.
The Midwest is home to many robust middle class metropolitan areas. Some 65% of adults in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, are middle class – the highest share in the nation, Pew found. On the flip side, Laredo, Texas, had the lowest share at 39%.
The future, at least, may be brighter for the middle class. Incomes rose more strongly between 2014 and 2016 as the economic recovery picked up, though it tilted towards the better off, Kochhar said. Median income is expected to continue trending upwards, especially as more people get jobs.
The Census Bureau will report median household income for 2017 for the nation overall on Wednesday. It rose to just over $59,000 in 2016, up 3.2% from a year earlier.