The income of the U.S. middle class is still among the world leaders — but the lead is narrowing.

According to, David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy, reporting for the New York Times:

“The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction. While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades. After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.”

“Although economic growth in the United States continues to be as strong as in many other countries, or stronger, a small percentage of American households is fully benefiting from it. Median income in Canada pulled into a tie with median United States income in 2010 and has most likely surpassed it since then. Median incomes in Western European countries still trail those in the United States, but the gap in several — including Britain, the Netherlands, and Sweden — is much smaller than it was a decade ago.”

Click the chart to read more.
Global Middle Class

Source: New York Times/Luxembourg Income Study analysis


7 Replies to “The U.S. Middle Class: Losing Some of Its Luster Globally”

  1. There is a lot at play here. The costs of food, water, gasoline and education have skyrocketted while wages have stagnated. Plus, I think the pay gap between CEO’s and average workers growing exponentially has done psycological damage to the middle class. I don’t know how to reverse this.

  2. Looking at the charts, it does not look like this trend will be very consistent (hopefully). Although the middle class is experiencing downward growth now, it has been experiencing mostly upward growth for the majority of the chart. From the looks of it, a few other European countries have a similar dip in growth on the chart, or have at least stagnated somewhat. Only time will tell how the middle class changes in the future, though one can only hope for growth instead of this recent loss of wealth.

  3. I think it is a little difficult to assume that the middle class is shrinking and not progressing like the rest of the world. There are many other factors as to why this may be true. In reality, the cost of living in the US is extremely high. That’s not to say that the cost of living in Europe and Canada isn’t high as well, but we generate a large amount debt. I think the middle class in the US is also so large, that is difficult to advance and progress such a large group of people.

  4. As a resident of New York state, I can completely understand where this article is coming from. When residents have to pay a significant portion of their salaries to real estate, sales, and state income taxes, a $100,000 salary can quickly seem like less than half of that. When everything seems to be getting more and more expensive, it makes sense that the people capitalizing on fees are getting richer, while the middle class shrinks.

  5. In my Finance class, we discussed this set of data. While humorously, my professor blamed our loss in the rankings due to the lack of attention toward U.S. education. However, it is easy to see how true that sentiment is. Even the article cites that the slow rise in education in the United States is one of the three main reasons for this loss. The other two, which are more legally centered reasons, are reasons that a push in education could increase.

  6. I live in New York so I see how this is true. Many people have to pay a lot towards taxes which is basically almost their whole salary, so the middle class is truly shrinking. I watched a video that showed how many people are either in the poor class or the wealthy class. But the difference is that the wealthy class is just getting wealthier while the others are just poring into the poor class.

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