Middle-class families, which used to be the backbone of the United States economy are becoming poorer. Despite the constant bombardment of news of a “healthy economy,” 62% of middle-class families struggle to afford a basic middle-class lifestyle.
Even though the unemployment rate that has reached a 50-year low of 3.7 percent, most jobs across the U.S. don’t support a middle-class or better lifestyle, leaving many Americans struggling, according to a new study. When factoring in both wages and the cost of living in the metro area where the job is located, 62% struggle to provide a middle-class lifestyle according to the study by Third Way, a think tank that leans center-left on the political spectrum.
“There’s an opportunity crisis in the country,” says Jim Kessler, vice president of policy for Third Way and editor of the report. “It explains some of the economic uneasiness and, frankly, the political uneasiness” even amid the most robust U.S. economy and labor market since before the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009. But is the economy robust? Or are we being fed a line by the mainstream media? The middle class is not thriving, and increased regulations and higher taxes make it difficult for people to branch out on their own and create their own business.
“I’m frustrated with the fact that I’m not going to be able to save anything because my rent is so high,” says Esther Akutekha, who says she’s 30ish and pays $1440 per month to rent an apartment. Akutekha is a public relations specialist and her job pays more than $50,000 a year, but she’s still struggling. “I don’t even know if I can afford” to have children,” she added according to USA Today.
A slight majority of Americans, 52 percent, do live in middle-class households, according to recent annual reports by Pew Research Center. And another 20 percent or so live in upper-income households. But that’s because they’re juggling multiple jobs, for example, or relying on investments, an inheritance or other household members who may have higher-paying jobs. –USA Today
The findings of this new report highlight how scarce opportunity has become in the modern economy. Less than half of available jobs will offer a middle-class or better lifestyle. According to Third Way, to put this another way, only 38% of jobs pay more than the equivalent of $44,066 per year in the median cost of living region in the country.
The report also made comparisons based on housing costs in certain cities. For example:
A machinist in Cedar Rapids makes on average $45,470, well short of the $57,220 the same job pays in San Francisco. But the lower paid Cedar Rapids machinist is leading a middle-class life while their San Francisco counterpart falls well short. Same job; different life. –Third Way
But the dwindling middle class is nothing new. The results from Third Way‘s model indicate that the opportunity to earn a good living is scarce throughout the United States and it will no doubt only continue to worsen.