image of coins and toy houses representing the wealth disparity in America

Are You in the Middle Class?

With the election season gearing up again, we thought it would be a good time to talk about money. I know it’s taboo to talk about how much money you make. However, you know you’ll hear the terms “rich, working class, and middle class” over and over again in political ads and debates, and its important to understand what they mean.

Today, roughly 46.7 million people are “working class” (or “poor”). That is they live at or below the poverty line. For a family of 4, living below the poverty line means the household income is $24,008 or less. 

What about being middle class? How much do you need to make to consider yourself “middle class”. Here, the definition is a little less clear, but generally, being middle class means your household makes between 2/3rds and double the median household income in America. 

As of 2016, that means a three-person household would be middle class if the household earned between $45,000 to $135,000. If you’re single, an annual income of between $26,000 to $78,000 qualifies you as middle-income. 

To me, such a wide range seems to be unfair. I mean the lifestyle of a single person on a $78,000 income is going to be very different than a person living on $26,000. Would the differences in living conditions be so much that maybe we shouldn’t classify both as “middle class”? 

It seems that a misclassification is already occurring. In a 2018 study, nearly 70% of respondents said they consider themselves “middle class”, while in reality, only about 50% of them were actually in the “middle class”. One of the primary reasons for the discrepancy was the different ways people categorized “middle class.” For example, nearly 50% of respondents said that an individual had to make between $50,000 and $99,999 to be considered middle-class. 20% said that middle class referred to those making between $100,000 to $499,999. 

According to a 2016 Pew Research study, for an individual to be considered “upper class” or “rich”, a single person would have to make at least $78,281; a couple $110,706, a three person family, $135,586, and a family of four, $156,561. 

Again, there are no hard and fast rules for what it means to be “middle class” or “upper class”. Does it mean you can drive a new car? Does it mean you can have two cars? Does it mean you have cable or satellite TV? Does it mean you can send your kids to private school? 

These questions are of course mostly rhetorical. Mostly. 

What I do know is that there are people on the fringes of the middle class who will vote against their best interests. It happened in 2016, and it will certainly happen again in 2020. 

To help you get an idea of where you may fall on the  | working class | middle class | upper class | spectrum, here’s a couple lists about the income disparities in America. 


Per Capita Income

Per capita income is a measurement often used in calculating demographics in America. It represents the average income per person in a given area. Data taken from the US Dept. of Commerce.

State Per Capita Income 
District of Columbia $                    81,882
Connecticut $                    74,561
Massachusetts $                    70,073
New York $                    68,667
New Jersey $                    67,609
Maryland $                    62,914
California $                    62,586
New Hampshire $                    61,405
Washington $                    60,781
Wyoming $                    60,095
Alaska $                    59,687
Virginia $                    56,952
Illinois $                    56,933
Colorado $                    56,846
Minnesota $                    56,374
Pennsylvania $                    55,349
Hawaii $                    54,565
Rhode Island $                    54,523
North Dakota $                    54,306
United States $                    53,712
Vermont $                    53,598
Nebraska $                    52,110
Delaware $                    51,449
Wisconsin $                    50,756
Kansas $                    50,155
South Dakota $                    50,141
Oregon $                    49,908
Florida $                    49,417
Texas $                    49,161
Iowa $                    48,823
Ohio $                    48,242
Maine $                    48,241
Nevada $                    48,225
Michigan $                    47,582
Tennessee $                    47,179
Montana $                    47,120
Indiana $                    46,646
Missouri $                    46,635
Oklahoma $                    46,128
North Carolina $                    45,834
Georgia $                    45,745
Louisiana $                    45,542
Utah $                    45,340
Arizona $                    43,650
Idaho $                    43,155
South Carolina $                    42,736
Arkansas $                    42,566
Alabama $                    42,334
Kentucky $                    41,779
New Mexico $                    41,198
West Virginia $                    40,578
Mississippi $                    37,994

Median Household Income (as of 2017, per the US Census Bureau)

State Income 
United States $     61,372
Alabama $     51,113
Alaska $     72,231
Arizona $     61,125
Arkansas $     48,829
California $     69,759
Colorado $     74,172
Connecticut $     72,780
Delaware $     62,318
D.C. $     83,382
Florida $     53,681
Georgia $     57,016
Hawaii $     73,575
Idaho $     60,208
Illinois $     64,609
Indiana $     58,873
Iowa $     63,481
Kansas $     57,872
Kentucky $     51,348
Louisiana $     43,903
Maine $     51,664
Maryland $     81,084
Massachusetts $     73,227
Michigan $     57,700
Minnesota $     71,920
Mississippi $     43,441
Missouri $     56,885
Montana $     59,087
Nebraska $     59,619
Nevada $     56,550
New Hampshire $     74,801
New Jersey $     72,997
New Mexico $     47,855
New York $     62,447
North Carolina $     50,343
North Dakota $     59,886
Ohio $     59,768
Oklahoma $     55,006
Oregon $     64,610
Pennsylvania $     63,173
Rhode Island $     66,390
South Carolina $     54,971
South Dakota $     56,894
Tennessee $     55,240
Texas $     59,295
Utah $     71,319
Vermont $     63,805
Virginia $     71,293
Washington $     75,418
West Virginia $     45,392
Wisconsin $     63,451
Wyoming $     57,837

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