Over the past 25 years, many things have changed for the average American. Women have gained traction in the workplace, people are more likely to be educated, and diversity is emphasized in nearly every aspect of society.
One thing that looks pretty similar to 25 years ago, however, is the middle class family’s median income: it’s still just under $52,000.
Since the end of the Reagan administration, the average middle class family essentially hasn’t seen a pay raise that actually benefits the family financially. Even in more recent times, the average middle class family still hasn’t seen much of a recovery following the 2008 recession.
What does this mean for the people who make up the average middle class family?
Well, arguably the most influential result is that it makes the “American Dream” pretty impossible to attain. Instead of new generations gliding onto a path of success that outshines their predecessors, now many of us find ourselves and our families in worse situations than our parents were decades before. We’ve entered a time where the ability to climb your way to the top, regardless of where you started, becomes more difficult, rather than easier, with each paycheck.
This means that digging your way out of poverty and tough circumstances is even more challenging than it was before.
The middle class as a demographic itself is changing, too.
In the 1970s, nearly 60 percent of Americans were considered middle class. Now, it’s only about 40 percent. In fact, during the 2000s and 2008 recession, statistics began to look so bleak for the middle class that researchers called the 2000s “the lost decade of the middle class.”
Most Americans consider themselves to be part of the middle class, so it’s concerning that most Americans haven’t had a pay raise that actually impacts their lives in over 20 years.
That’s why it’s critical for our leaders to press for higher and more sustainable wages: so that the majority of people in this country can aspire to live the American Dream.
The shrinking middle class is a reflection of inequality impacting an incredible amount of the population.
It’s time to bring back the middle class that proves we can do better.