Middle class Americans now comprise less than half, or 49.9%, of the nation's population. That’s down from 61% in 1971, according to a new Pew Research Center report. (See graph, below.) Pew defines the middle class as households earning between two-thirds to two times the nation's median income. In 2014, that ranged from $41,900 to $125,600 for a three-person household.
A large and growing middle class had been the driving force behind America’s economy, the means by which the poor moved upward, and the rudder underlying the nation’s political stability. As the middle class has shrunk, the U.S. economy has slowed, upward mobility has been stifled, and our politics have grown more polarized and angry. The major economic challenge of the future isn’t achieving faster economic growth, reducing the federal budget deficit, or enlarging the GDP. It’s rebuilding the American middle class.
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