Middle-class America: The backbone of the nation struggling amid economic growth

A recent Pew Research Center report ranked two Utah cities in the top 10 metro areas that are most densely populated by the middle class, Ogden-Clearfield and Provo-Orem.

A recent Pew Research Center report ranked two Utah cities in the top 10 metro areas that are most densely populated by the middle class, Ogden-Clearfield and Provo-Orem. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — President Joe Biden honored American workers this past Labor Day, specifically the middle-class workers. "The middle class built America, and unions built the middle class," his post on X said. "This Labor Day, we honor the American worker."

Biden gave credit where credit is due; more than half of the American population identifies as middle class. A recent Pew Research Center report pointed out that although it is the most populated social class ranking, the middle class went from 61% of Americans in 1971 to 51% by 2023.

The good news is "the increase in the share who are upper income was greater than the increase in the share who are lower income," the report found. The bad news is, "The growth in income for the middle class since 1970 has not kept pace with the growth in income for the upper-income tier. And the share of total U.S. household income held by the middle class has plunged."

Older generations, Democrats and white Americans are most likely to identify as part of middle America, according to a Gallup poll published last month. Where people identify themselves on the social class scale usually goes hand in hand with the amount of education they've had.

"U.S. adults with higher annual household incomes and those with college and postgraduate degrees are most likely to say they belong to the upper or upper-middle class," per Gallup. "Americans with lower incomes and those with only a high school education are most likely to identify as working or lower class."

Data released last month by the National True Cost of Living Coalition reported that financial struggles plague millions of Americans, and no cure is in sight.

"Sixty-five percent of middle-class Americans are struggling financially and don't expect that to change for the remainder of their lives."

If the largest population group in American society suffers, what does that say about the circumstances of the working and lower classes below?

"The economy is booming, and yet many Americans are still gasping for air financially. They simply don't have the breathing room to plan beyond their present needs," said Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and executive director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies and co-chair of the National True Cost of Living Coalition, according to the welfare federation.

"As a nation, it is critical that we understand the true cost of living in the United States today. That means looking beyond the most basic of economic needs to account for what 21st-century Americans need to not only get by but get ahead and also plan for tomorrow," she added.

Where you live can also indicate the financial class you belong to. Utah had two cities that ranked in the Pew Research report's top 10 metro areas as most densely populated by the middle class: Ogden-Clearfield and Provo-Orem. Nearly 6 in 10 individuals living in the top 10 cities were considered middle class.

Top 10 U.S. cities with the largest middle-class population in 2022:

  1. Dover, Delaware;
  2. Olympia-Tumwater, Washington;
  3. Glens Falls, New York;
  4. Bismarck, North Dakota;
  5. Ogden-Clearfield
  6. Lancaster, Pennsylvania;
  7. Provo-Orem
  8. Wausau, Wisconsin;
  9. Oshkosh-Neenah, Wisconsin;
  10. Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Michigan;

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