WASHINGTON – Growing numbers of middle-class Americans say they are not better off than they were five years ago, reflecting economic pressures amid growing debt, a study released Wednesday shows. Their short-term assessments of personal progress, according to the study, is the worst it has been in almost half a century.
The survey by the Pew Research Center, a Washington-based research organization, paints a mixed picture for the 53 percent of adults in the country who define themselves as “middle class,” with household incomes ranging from below $40,000 to more than $100,000.
It found that a majority of Americans said they have not progressed in the past five years. One in four, or 25 percent, said their economic situation had not improved, while 31 percent said they had fallen backward. Those numbers together are the highest since the survey question was first asked in 1964. Among the middle class, 54 percent said they had made no progress (26 percent) or fallen back (28 percent).
Middle-class prosperity also lagged compared with richer Americans. From 1983 to 2004, the median net worth of upper-income families — defined as households with annual incomes above 150 percent of the median — grew by 123 percent, while the median net worth of middle-income families rose by just 29 percent.