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With so much economic uncertainty, the desire for normalcy and stability has never been greater. The American “middle class” is an often vague categorization of the way most Americans live—including milestones such as homeownership, sending two kids to college and retiring at 65.
According to a 2018 Northwestern Mutual report, 68 percent of Americans consider themselves “middle class.” But in reality, only 52 percent are designated as such (as of 2016). This discrepancy may be fueled by the desire to fit neatly into the middle, which can often be perceived as the norm. So what class do you really fall under?
Middle class calculator
The calculator below gives an estimate of middle class designation based on state and total household income. It will also compare your results to your state’s average income and the current national average. To learn more about the evolution of the middle class, skip to our infographic.
Please enter your income and state.
You in the middle class in .
Here’s how you stack up compared to your state and the national average:
The evolution of the middle class and economic mobility
The middle class is slowly disappearing. As wealth disparity and wage gaps continue to widen, the concept of the “99 percent” versus the “one percent” becomes more of a reality.
For context, in 1971, 61 percent of Americans fell under the middle class. By 2016, this percentage had shrunk to just 52 percent—a significant drop of 9 percentage points.
Along with a shrinking middle class, downward economic mobility remains a concern. As technology and automation replace jobs, many workers will continue to lose their employment and slide into a lower income class. According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, about 17 percent of middle-income jobs are at a high risk of automation.
Determining income class
There is no set standard for what is considered upper, middle or lower class. One simple method, coined by economist Stephen Rose, categorizes income class based on five buckets:
- Poor or near-poor: $0 to $29,000
- Lower middle class: $30,000 to $49,999
- Middle class: $50,000 to $99,999
- Upper middle class: $100,000 to $349,999
- Rich: $350,000
Another method used by Pew Research Center to determine the middle class is to calculate whether income falls within two-thirds to double that of the national average—which is currently $63,179. By this method, a household with a total income ranging from $42,199 to $126,358 could be considered “middle class.”
While these methods are a great starting point, there are typically other factors that play into class, such as debt load, personal health, family situation, education and more.
The relativity of class and alternative viewpoints
The analysis of class is always relative. Psychological factors—like how we perceive our own situation—play a vital role in our happiness. “The mind is the most powerful functioning organ in our system, and thinking you are poor will definitely cause your whole system to act like it,” explains Ricardo Flores, a financial advisor at The Product Analyst. “Class is definitely relative. You can move from this position in life if you feel like you should or you can.”
Social and cultural capital are alternative ways to view class. This way of thinking approaches class as relating to how you view yourself and how you interact with others. It also allows room for your cultural background to influence your class—including art, literature, music and other important aspects of culture that make us who we are.
Just as income, education, location, social connections and mindset impact our well-being, so does debt. Credit card debt is massively expensive over time due to interest paid. But perhaps even more importantly, it has been linked to mental health issues like depression. No matter which class you fall into, proper credit management is vital—to both your physical and financial health.
The infographic below dives deeper into the making of the middle class:
Lexington Law used Pew Research Center’s standard of calculating income class that defines the middle class as having a household income that is two-thirds to double that of the national average. The most recent data available on average household income from the U.S. Census Bureau was used for the state and national averages. Lexington Law does not share any of the information provided in this calculator.
Reviewed by Cynthia Thaxton, Lexington Law Firm Attorney. Written by Lexington Law.
Cynthia Thaxton has been with Lexington Law Firm since 2014. She attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Arabic. Cynthia then attended law school at George Mason University School of Law, where she served as Senior Articles Editor of the George Mason Law Review and graduated cum laude. Cynthia is licensed to practice law in Utah and North Carolina.
Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.