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Editorial Commentary: Ken Ciboski

What is becoming of the middle class?

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What is becoming of the middle class in America, and why should we care?

The Pew Research Center’s latest study of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors confirms that the American middle class is no longer the economic majority, a position it held for more than four decades. 

Upper and lower income households together now outnumber those in the middle. Middle income households are defined as adults with an annual household income that is two-thirds to double the national median, which, in 2014, ranged from 42,000 dollars to about 126,000 annually for a household of three. Using this definition, the percentage of middle class adults has declined from 61 percent in 1971 to about 50 percent in 2015. The growth of wealthy and poorer households and the steady decline of middle income households in America have implications for how we are governed.

I agree with Aristotle, who said in his classic work Politics: “Thus it is manifest that the best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class, and that those states are likely to be well-administered in which the middle class is large, and stronger if possible than both other classes..."

We should also heed the judgment of Justice Louis D. Brandeis, who, as an adviser to President Woodrow Wilson, said, “We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”