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More American households make up the middle class than 40 years ago, yet they comprise a smaller share of overall wealth. Kochhar explained that there are fewer chances for people to be placed in the middle class, but mentioned that more Americans are moving up the economic ladder than moving down. In this 1948 photo, an American family watches a tabletop radio television.

Furthermore, this most recent dispatch on the decline of the middle class should be very interesting to social conservatives, as the Tribune noted that the rise of single parent families in the 70s led to more poor Americans. Pew s online summary of the study quickly points out, however, that in at least one sense, the shift represents economic progress: While the share of USA adults living in both upper- and lower-income households rose alongside the declining share in the middle from 1971 to 2015, the share in the upper-income tier grew more . According to the research firm, a household with three members is considered middle-class if it earns between $42,000 and $126,000 per year.

Which way the middle class tips-more contraction, or new growth-will depend in large part on the economic policies of the next administration. But politicians on both sides of the aisle have been pushing for massive increases in high-tech guest-worker visas in addition to more low-skilled immigrants that will threaten Americans across all income levels, especially those looking to stay in the middle class and enter into it. But Espinoza, who works as a student programming coordinator at the University of California-Los Angeles Labor Center, sees her family as barely straddling the middle class.

The reason: high living costs, including $850 a month for child care and hefty student loan payments. While the median income of middle-class households in 2014 was around 4 percent less than in 2000, median wealth or assets minus debts plunged about 28 percent. The decline of the middle class has been accompanied by growing inequality, as a growing share of the nation s income has been captured by those at the top.

The middle class s near 50-per-cent share of the USA adult population is down from a 61-per-cent share in 1971, highlighting a demographic shift that is sure to be a topic of discussion in the run-up to next year s presidential election. The Pew report looks at middle-income households, which it defines as those earning between two-thirds and double the median household income. Senior citizens were most likely to have shifted into the upper class since 1971.

Nine percent were seen as being in the lower middle tier, unchanged from 1971. The lower- and upper-middle have remained about the same. Are you in the middle class?

But research on income mobility across generations has found the U.S.as a whole lags other Western countries. At the same time, the increase of women in the workforce since the early 1970s has tended to boost household incomes, as has higher college education enrollment. For Hispanics, Pew notes the increase in lower-earning immigrants in the US population.

The Pew findings, however, are not comforting, he said.

On Naked Capitalism, Yves Smith is characteristically direct in cutting through Pew s effort to be inoffensive on a flashpoint issue in American politics.

We always expect things to be getting better .