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September 13, 2006

Has the middle class vanished?

There’s a feeling today that our society has developed into two segments -– the rich and the poor -- with not much of a middle class in between. N.C. State University economist Mike Walden examines whether this perception is true.

“Well, there’s always a problem here,” says Dr. Walden, with “how you define middle class. But if you take all of the income ranges and divide it into three slices – low, medium and high -- what we see over the last roughly 40 years is the percentage of households in the middle-income ranges has, indeed, fallen.

“Now also the percentage of households in the lower-income ranges, they’ve also fallen, too,” he adds. “And obviously what’s left over is the percentage of households in the upper-income ranges. That’s actually jumped quite a bit. For example, the percentage of households earning a real income over $100,000 rose from 3 percent -- only 3 percent -- in the 1960s: they now comprise 15 percent of all households.

“So what has happened is the income distribution has shifted upward, but what has meant is that there is less what some call ‘middle-class glue’ in the middle, holding the two ends.”

Posted by deeshore at September 13, 2006 08:44 AM