One-Third of Adults Raised Middle Class Lose Economic Status

Posted in Economy , Financial News • January 11, 2012

A new study has found that nearly one-third of adults who were raised with a middle-class income in the United States are not able to maintain this economic status when they reach adulthood. Further, the tough economy they face now will make it even more difficult for them or their children to find a place as middle-income Americans in the coming years.

American Adults Suffering from Downward Mobility

The new study conducted by Pew’s Economic Mobility Project found that many adults are having a difficult time maintaining the same economic status as their parents and are unfortunately facing downward mobility.

To come to this determination, Pew looked at children born in the early to mid-1960s who were raised under a middle-class income household. The organization then assessed their economic status roughly 40 years later to see if they were able to maintain this status in adult.

To define middle-class income, Pew determined that the parent generation held an income of roughly $33,000 to $64,000 in 1979, while their children must have earned between $54,000 and $111,000 in the mid-2000s. In other words, the middle-class rests between the 30th and 70th income percentile.

The study found that nearly 33 percent of individuals raised in middle-class families couldn’t hold on to their status when they reached adulthood. Oddly enough, the divide between rich and poor widened before the economy hit its crisis in the late 2000s. Since then, the chances of the adults regaining their status has only worsened.

Gender, Race and Strained Job Market Impacts Middle-Class Status

The study found that a number of factors have impacted adults’ ability to earn a middle-class income like their parents. Among them are marital status, educational attainment, race and even gender.

For instance, those who are divorced, widowed or separated are more likely to fall out of the middle class, but women face a greater likelihood than men. Also, Americans who don’t attend college are likely to face downward mobility.

White men have the greatest likelihood of holding on to their status, while black men are most likely to fall from the middle class. However, anyone who is out of work right now due to long-term unemployment is likely to face a different future than their parents.

Younger adults, the study found, will have even more trouble maintaining a middle-class income status because the job market is so troubled. While the unemployment rate rests at 8.5 percent, the rate for 20 to 24-year olds was 14.4 percent in December.

So it seems that, for now, most Americans who have lost their income will struggle to get it back. Until the job market makes a recovery, adults may continue to see their middle-class income disappear.

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