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How America’s Middle Class Has Shrunk Since 2000

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How America’s Middle Class Has Shrunk Since 2000

This interactive visualization shows how America’s middle class has changed since the turn of the millennium. The middle class, as defined by Pew Charitable Trust, means earners making 67% to 200% of a state’s median income.

In all 50 states, the middle class has shrunk since 2000. In the above visualization, hover over any state to see the details and data.

Even more concerning is two other data sets: median income and the percentage of income that goes toward housing are both trending in an alarming fashion. Median income has dropped in most states, adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, the percentage of income spent on housing has been increasing in most places substantially.

States in the Rust Belt have been particularly affected, with Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan have seen all numbers trend in the wrong direction. In Wisconsin, 54.6% of the earners were considered “middle class” in 2000. In 2013 it was only 48.9% and median income has dropped more than 10%. As a result, housing costs are now much more of a burden for people (from 24% to 31% of income).

Other states that are struggling include Nevada, New Mexico, Georgia, North Carolina, Vermont and Maine. The states that have been least affected include Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, and Hawaii.

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Millennials

Visualizing the Wealth of Americans Under 40 (1989-2023)

The wealth of American Millennials hit historic highs after the COVID-19 pandemic.

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This line chart shows the growth of wealth for Americans under 40 over the last 40 decades.

Visualizing the Wealth of Americans Under 40 (1989-2023)

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Millennials have been often referred to as a “broke generation.” Whether in conversations or on the news, it is common to hear how those born in the 1980s or 1990s are struggling in today’s economy, particularly when it comes to entering the housing market or saving for retirement.

However, data shows that the wealth of Americans under 40 years old has hit historic highs after the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that millennials have accumulated more wealth by their 40s than previous generations.

To illustrate this, the graphic above shows the average wealth per household, adjusted for inflation, for Americans under 40 years old from Q4 1989 to Q4 2023 (in December 2023 dollars). The data is sourced from the Federal Reserve and accessed via the Center for American Progress.

Post-Pandemic Recovery

Data indicates that younger Americans have reaped the most benefits from the strong economic recovery after the pandemic, enjoying low unemployment rates and rapid wage growth.

The average wealth of U.S. households under 40 was $259,000 in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2023, compared to $164,000 in Q4 1989 and $182,000 in Q4 2000.

QuarterAverage Wealth for Those Under 40 (USD)
Q4 1990152K
Q4 1995146K
Q4 2000182K
Q4 2005184K
Q4 2010100K
Q4 2015148K
Q4 2020231K
Q4 2023259K

Looking specifically at millennial households, inflation-adjusted wealth has more than doubled during the same period.

The increase in younger Americans’ wealth is not concentrated in a single area. Average housing wealth—house values minus mortgage debt—rose by $22,000 from 2019 to 2023. Younger Americans also saw gains in liquid assets, such as bank deposits and money market mutual funds, business ownership, and financial assets, mainly stocks and mutual funds.

Additionally, non-housing debt, such as credit card and student loan debt, fell for this age group after the pandemic.

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