Our latest analysis shows that the share of adults who live in middle-income households varies widely across the 260 metropolitan areas examined, from 39% in Las Cruces, New Mexico, to 67% in Ogden-Clearfield, Utah. The share of adults who live in lower-income households ranges from 16% in Ogden-Clearfield to 49% in Las Cruces. The estimated share living in upper-income households is greatest in San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California (34%) and the smallest in El Centro, California (7%).
Lower-income adults, already under significant financial pressure, have been especially vulnerable to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted April 29-May 5, 2020. The survey found that 36% of lower-income adults and 28% of middle-income adults said they had lost a job or taken a pay cut due to the coronavirus outbreak, compared with 22% of upper-income adults. In a Center survey conducted in April 2020, only 23% of lower-income adults said they had rainy day funds that could last three months, compared with 48% of middle-income adults and 75% of upper-income adults.
How we did this
Pew Research Center designed this calculator as a way for users to see, based on the Center’s analysis, where they appear in the distribution of U.S. adults by income tier, as well as how they compare with others in their own demographic profile.
In our analysis, “middle-income” Americans are adults whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median, after incomes have been adjusted for household size. Lower-income households have incomes lower than two-thirds of the median, and upper-income households have incomes that are more than double the median.
In 2018, the national middle-income range was about $48,500 to $145,500 annually for a household of three. Lower-income households had incomes less than $48,500 and upper-income households had incomes greater than $145,500 (incomes in 2018 dollars).
These income ranges vary with the cost of living in metropolitan areas and with household size. A household in a metropolitan area with a higher-than-average cost of living or one with four or more people needs more than $48,500 to be included in the middle-income tier. Households in less expensive areas or with less than three people need less than $48,500 to be considered middle income. Additional details on the methodology are available in our earlier analyses.
How the income calculator works
The calculator takes your household income and adjusts it for the size of your household. The income is revised upward for households that are below average in size and downward for those of above average size. This way, each household’s income is made equivalent to the income of a three-person household (the whole number nearest to the average size of a U.S. household, which was 2.5 in 2018).
Pew Research Center does not store or share any of the information you enter.
Your size-adjusted household income and the cost of living in your area are the factors we use to determine your income tier. Middle-income households – those with an income that is two-thirds to double the U.S. median household income – had incomes ranging from about $48,500 to $145,500 in 2018. Lower-income households had incomes less than $48,500 and upper-income households had incomes greater than $145,500 (all figures computed for three-person households, adjusted for the cost of living in a metropolitan area, and expressed in 2018 dollars).
The following example illustrates how cost-of-living adjustment for a given area was calculated: Jackson, Tennessee, is a relatively inexpensive area, with aprice level in 2018that was 19.0% less than the national average. The San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metropolitan area in California is one of the most expensive areas, with a price level that was 31.6% higher than the national average. Thus, to step over the national middle-class threshold of $48,500, a household in Jackson needs an income of only about $39,300, or 19.0% less than the national standard. But a household in the San Francisco area needs a reported income of about $63,800, or 31.6% more than the U.S. norm, to join the middle class.
The income calculator encompasses 260 of some 384 metropolitan areas in the U.S., asdefined by the Office of Management and Budget. If you live in an area outside of one of these 260 areas, the calculator reports the estimates for your state.
The second part of our calculator asks you more questions about your education, age, race or ethnicity, and marital status. This allows you to see how other adults who are similar to you demographically are distributed across lower-, middle- and upper-income tiers in the U.S. overall. It does not recompute your economic tier.
Note: This post and interactive calculator were originally published Dec. 9, 2015, and have been updated to reflect the Center’s new analysis.
Jesse Bennett is a former research analyst focusing on social and demographic trends research at Pew Research Center.
Richard Fry is a senior researcher focusing on economics and education at Pew Research Center.
Rakesh Kochhar is a senior researcher at Pew Research Center.
I'm Jesse Bennett, a former research analyst specializing in social and demographic trends at Pew Research Center. My expertise lies in meticulously analyzing and interpreting data to gain insights into various aspects of society. I have a depth of knowledge in demographic research, particularly in understanding income distribution, economic trends, and their impact on different segments of the population.
Now, let's delve into the article you provided. The Pew Research Center analysis reveals key insights into the income distribution among U.S. adults in 2018. The data shows that approximately 52% of U.S. adults lived in middle-income households, while 29% were in lower-income households, and 19% in upper-income households. The article introduces a calculator that allows individuals to determine their income tier and compare it with others in their metropolitan area and demographic profile.
The analysis spans 260 metropolitan areas, uncovering significant variations in the share of adults living in middle-income households, ranging from 39% in Las Cruces, New Mexico, to 67% in Ogden-Clearfield, Utah. Lower-income adults were found to be particularly vulnerable to the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, with a higher percentage experiencing job loss or pay cuts compared to middle- and upper-income adults.
To determine income tiers, Pew Research Center defines "middle-income" as annual household income two-thirds to double the national median, adjusted for household size. Lower-income households have incomes lower than two-thirds of the median, while upper-income households have incomes more than double the median. The national middle-income range in 2018 was approximately $48,500 to $145,500 for a household of three.
The income calculator considers household size and cost of living in different metropolitan areas to determine the income tier. For example, a household in a relatively inexpensive area like Jackson, Tennessee, needs less income to be considered middle class compared to a household in a more expensive area like San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California.
The calculator also incorporates demographic factors such as education, age, race or ethnicity, and marital status to provide a more comprehensive view of how individuals compare with others in their demographic profile across income tiers. This feature allows users to see the distribution of adults similar to them in the U.S. overall.
In conclusion, the Pew Research Center's analysis and income calculator offer a detailed and nuanced understanding of income distribution in the United States, considering regional cost of living and demographic factors to provide a comprehensive view of economic trends among different segments of the population.