Death of Middle Class: More Than Half of Americans Make Less Than $30,000 a Year

The middle class is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Andy Dean Photography

A new report from the Social Security Administration gives further insight into what most Americans already know: the middle class is rapidly disappearing and a number of people are barely making ends meet. The study shows that in 2014, slightly more than 51 percent of Americans made less than $30,000, and nearly 63 percent made less than $40,000. At a time when the cost of living continues to rise across the country even as salaries have stagnated for years, it’s sobering—though not unexpected—news about the economic challenges facing a number of American families.

The numbers are particularly disturbing with a little more context. In 2013, the Economic Policy Institute determined income levels necessary for U.S. families – of two parents and two children – to have an “adequate but modest living standard.” At the lowest end was Marshall County, Mississippi, at $48,166; on the high end, New York City, at $94,676. These numbers far outpace what many Americans actually made last year.

As Michael Snyder at WashingtonsBlog points out, the “federal poverty level for a family of five is $28,410, and yet almost 40 percent of all American workers do not even bring in $20,000 a year.”

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Snyder also notes that the figures only reflect employed people, which means millions of Americans are omitted:

“[T]he numbers above are only for those that are actually working. As I discussed just recently, there are 7.9 million working age Americans that are “officially unemployed” right now and another 94.7 million working age Americans that are considered to be “not in the labor force.” When you add those two numbers together, you get a grand total of 102.6 million working-age Americans that do not have a job right now.”

The National Average Wage Index, in its entirety, can be viewed here

Kali Holloway is a senior writing fellow and the senior director of Make It Right, a project of the Independent Media Institute.