We tend to believe we know what “middle class” means. After all, it seems easy enough to define if we only consider income. But being a part of the middle class is more complicated than it may seem at first; factors like location and debt also play a role. For example, a person who makes $40,000 per year may be middle-class in a small, rural town. But that same income in a large coastal city would be well below the median income.
Thus, a better way to think about the middle class is to consider how much people need to get by given all of these intersecting factors. Pew Research defines being middle-class as making 75% and 200% of the median income. By looking at the median household income figures from the most recently available U.S. census data, we’ve found just how much you’d need to earn to live comfortably in these major U.S. cities.
San Francisco, California
Median household income:$121,826
In San Francisco, the median household income is $121,826. Thus, the middle-class income ranges from $81,209 to $243,652. These numbers are higher than the middle-class income for most cities; in fact, the median income for San Francisco is the highest in the nation among the top 25 most populated cities.
Median household income: $110,781
The median household income in Seattle is $110,781. Here, the middle-class income range is $73,847 to $221,562. Seattle also has the second-highest median income.
Median household income: $90,088
The nation’s capital has the third-highest median household income among major U.S. cities. The range of middle-class incomes is $60,053 to $180,176, which is significantly higher than the national average range ($46,478 to $139,434).
Median household income: $81,630
Denver has seen expansive growth in recent years and it maintains a high level of income. The middle-class income range in Denver is $54,415 to $163,260.
Median household income: $79,542
Austin is another city that has been exploding in population growth. Its median income is only slightly less than that of Denver, with a middle-class income range of $53,023 to $159,084.
Median household income: $79,283
Boston has the sixth-highest median income in the nation, though its median is noticeably less than that of D.C. The median income puts its middle-class range at between $52,850 and $158,566.
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Jordan Rosenfeld contributed to the reporting for this article.
Methodology: To determine what you need to make to be considered middle-class in six American cities, GOBankingRates used Pew Research’s definition of middle class which is as follows: “middle-income” adults in 2021 are those with an annual household income that was two-thirds to double the national median income”. With these parameters set, GOBankingRates found each city’s (1) median household income as sourced from the 2021 American Community Survey conducted by the US Census Bureau. With this figure GOBankingRates also found each city’s (2) low end of middle-class income and (3) high-end of middle-class income. All data was collected and up to date as of September 26, 2022.