30 Facts That Prove The American Middle-Class Is Being Destroyed

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog,

The 30 statistics that you are about to read prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the middle class in America is being systematically destroyed.  Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now that is changing at a staggering pace.  Yes, the stock market has soared to unprecedented heights this year and there are a few isolated areas of the country that are doing rather well for the moment.  But overall, the long-term trends that are eviscerating the middle class just continue to accelerate. 

Over the past decade or so, the percentage of Americans that are working has gone way down, the quality of our jobs has plummeted dramatically and the wealth of the typical American household has fallen precipitously.  Meanwhile, we have watched median household income decline for five years in a row, we have watched the rate of homeownership in this country decline for eight years in a row and dependence on the government is at an all-time high.  Being a part of the middle class in the United States at this point can be compared to playing a game of musical chairs.  We can all see chairs being removed from the game, and we are all desperate to continue to have a chair every time the music stops playing.  The next time the music stops, will it be your chair that gets removed?

And in this economy, you don't even have to lose your job to fall out of the middle class.  Our paychecks are remaining very stable while the cost of almost everything that we spend money on consistently (food, gas, health insurance, etc.) is going up rapidly.  Bloomberg calls this "the no-raises recovery"...

Call it the no-raises recovery: Five years of economic expansion have done almost nothing to boost paychecks for typical American workers while the rich have gotten richer.


Meager improvements since 2009 have barely kept up with a similarly tepid pace of inflation, raising the real value of compensation per hour by only 0.5 percent. That marks the weakest growth since World War II, with increases averaging 9.2 percent at a similar point in past expansions, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data compiled by Bloomberg.

There are so many families out there that are struggling right now.  So many husbands and wives find themselves constantly fighting with one another about money, and they don't even understand that what is happening to them is the result of long-term economic trends that are the result of decades of incredibly foolish decisions.  Without middle class jobs, we cannot have a middle class.  And those are precisely the jobs that have been destroyed during the Clinton, Bush and Obama years.  Without enough good jobs to go around, we have seen the middle class steadily shrink and the ranks of the poor grow rapidly.

The following are 30 stats to show to anyone that does not believe the middle class is being destroyed...

1. In 2007, the average household in the top 5 percent had 16.5 times as much wealth as the average household overall.  But now the average household in the top 5 percent has 24 times as much wealth as the average household overall.

2. According to a study recently discussed in the New York Times, the "typical American household" is now worth 36 percent less than it was worth a decade ago.

3. One out of every seven Americans rely on food banks at this point.

4. One out of every four military families needs help putting enough food on the table.

5. 79 percent of the people that use food banks purchase "inexpensive, unhealthy food just to have enough to feed their families".

6. One out of every three adults in the United States has an unpaid debt that is "in collections".

7. Only 48 percent of all Americans can immediately come up with $400 in emergency cash without borrowing it or selling something.

8. The price of food continues to rise much faster than the paychecks of most middle class families.  For example, the average price of ground beef has just hit a brand new all-time record high of $3.884 a pound.

9. According to one recent study, 40 percent of all households in the United States are experiencing financial stress right now.

10. The overall homeownership rate has fallen to the lowest level since 1995.

11. The homeownership rate for Americans under the age of 35 is at an all-time low.

12. According to one recent survey, 52 percent of all Americans cannot even afford the house that they are living in right now.

13. The average age of vehicles on America’s roads has hit an all-time high of 11.4 years.

14. Last year, one out of every four auto loans in the United States was made to someone with subprime credit.

15. Amazingly, one out of every six men in their prime working years (25 to 54) do not have a job at this point.

16. One recent study found that 47 percent of unemployed Americans have “completely given up” looking for a job.

17. 36 percent of Americans do not have a single penny saved for retirement.

18. According to one survey, 76 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

19. More than half of all working Americans make less than $30,000 a year in wages.

20. Only four of the twenty fastest growing occupations in America require a Bachelor’s degree or better.

21.  In America today, one out of every ten jobs is filled by a temp agency.

22. Due to a lack of decent jobs, half of all college graduates are still relying on their parents financially when they are two years out of school.

23. Median household income in the United States is about 7 percent lower than it was in the year 2000 after adjusting for inflation.

24. Approximately one out of every four part-time workers in America is living below the poverty line.

25. It is hard to believe, but more than one out of every five children in the United States is living in poverty in 2014.

26. According to one study, there are 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity.

27. Ten years ago, the number of women in the U.S. that had jobs outnumbered the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps by more than a 2 to 1 margin.  But now the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps actually exceeds the number of women that have jobs.

28. If the middle class was actually thriving, we wouldn’t have more than a million public school children that are homeless.

29. If you can believe it, Americans received more than 2 trillion dollars in benefits from the federal government last year alone.

30. In terms of median wealth per adult, the United States is now in just 19th place in the world.

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Oldwood's picture

Do we really need to revisit this again? Those who know, know, and everyone else doesn't give a shit

markmotive's picture

Face it. As long as the politicians and Wall Street have the power, you will always be poor.


So Close's picture

To the OP.... I wonder if the folks who figured this out before you did felt the same way you do the day before you read the data that convinced you.

James's picture

Re: #25, That figure has held since before '08 crash. A child eating a cheap can of pork & beans is not being nourished.


Re: #29. ZIRP. Let's say the retiree w/200k in the bank used to earn 5% interest per annum or 10k p/yr. Retiree now not only does'nt get the 10k that would be pumped into the economy retiree is into the 200k.


We've been had!

Did we get two trillion in benefits or did they steal four trillion from us and gave us back two trillion????

RaceToTheBottom's picture

Face it, you are the compost that the 1% uses on their flowers for their Central Park penthouse.

Relish in your role. BTW, I am in your place as well.

RaceToTheBottom's picture

This is a game of attrition and the serfs need to have it drummed into their mind until they get so pissed they blow.  That is the only way.

I think ZH should do this article every day.

ugmug's picture

Everyone is either prancing around through a mall acting like a queen (both male and female alike) or is sitting in front of a computer mastubating with a game controller.

The middle class is demented beyond all hope of recovery........or recognition!

ILoveDebt's picture

I like to alternate between the game controller and masturbating, but I can appreciate those who can still multi-task.

A Lunatic's picture

Apparently the Middle-Class doesn't give a shit........

Oldwood's picture

Why would they? If their income continues to fall they will soon qualify for all the free shit. Its called failing for the win.

CheapBastard's picture



<<  Last year, one out of every four auto loans in the United States was made to someone with subprime credit. >>

Q: Why are there always so many Escalades in front of Walmat and invariably parked in the handicap spaces?

stacking12321's picture

special needs.

don't be a heartless bastard.

RaceToTheBottom's picture

Handicapped parkers is a pet peeve of mine.  The profile of one is sort of like they strive to be in that parking place.  Like they are proud to have that excuse for having to improve themselves.  

Then you add a big assed expensive car and it is thumbing their nose at others.

It is viewed as a badge of honor to park the Mercedes convertible or the caddy escalade in that place and then lumber their over indulgent body into the shop for more HoHo's

stormsailor's picture

oh look, another list

ramacers's picture

ready the blade w/intrepitude.

Spungo's picture

I wonder what percentage of poverty is self-inflict. By that, I mean people not using birth control.

Oldwood's picture

Unfortunately we are almost always ultimately responsible for our problems, not that we would actually accept that. We can easily see that everyone else is a fuck up, just not ourselves. Our complete willingness to embrace delusion with regard to our own stupidity makes it very simple to manipulate us. "Lie to me" should be part of our national pledge.

pgroup's picture

Is this punishing herself with a baby? Maybe one of Jugears' kids is pregnant.

Ariadne's picture

Betrayed, not destroyed. Sold down the Yellow river.

Ballin D's picture

27 is incorrect according to the linked source.  There are more people (men and women) on foodstamps than there are employed women.

plane jain's picture

It was wrong the last time he posted it too.  Snyder repeats himself a lot, and you have to click through the links to verify his stated conclusions.

lester1's picture

You cant outsource good paying jobs for 30+ years and think everthing will be ok. Globalization and free trade is the main reason for the decline of the middle class.

Until something is done to balance trade, the decline of the middle class is the new normal. Amazing how few people and the media understand this.

kumquatsunite's picture

Cassandra AKA Ross Perot told ya'll but nooo; nobody would listen. Next up, vote for the one who says it's gonna be hard; it's gonna be rough, but we'll make it. That'll be a Republican, born in the US with no allegiances to other countries, cultures, or communism:)

ILoveDebt's picture

Republican politicians neither say that or mean that.  They don't care about the average person any more than the Democrats do.  They pander to the bible belt, to supposed conservative ideologies, etc, but the only decisions that any of them seem to make always benefit themselves first and by mere coincicdence, some small sliver of their constituents as well.


The more well off they are, the less you'll see them voting for things that make sense for anyone but the rich.  This is true from both sides, they just have different ideas on how to preserve the wealth.  

jarana's picture

"Globalization and free trade is the main reason for the decline of the middle class"


Free trade (or something analogue) does not exists since decades (maybe centuries).

Globalization of free markets should imply a global 'states' decrease.

Maybe you mean globalization of the "unique" and "true" government... (coercion) as the cause of the decline (in number and quality) of the people free to interact with reality without the permission of a third party (middle class).

Bumbu Sauce's picture

Just go to the grocery store.  I used to get meat out of the throwaway pile for less than a dollar.  Now it is $5.  It's insane.  I don't know how you raise kids in this day and age.

babylon15's picture

Costco.  Seriously.  At my local grocery store farm raised salmon is $25 per pound.  At Costco, farm raised salmon is $8 per pound and it's way fresher.  Wild salmon is $10 per pound.  Costco's business strategy is to have high volume and low prices.  Oh, and you're supporting a great cause too.  Costco has extremely low employee turnover and high compensation - the average full time employee at Costco makes $17-$21 an hour.

pgroup's picture

Shop there for cheap prices - fine. But it's complete bullshit that it's for a good cause. The big cheese of Costco is a bath house buddy of Jugears, and Costco is the reason WA state booze costs about 33% more than a couple of years ago.

kumquatsunite's picture

Look at the cost of a box of cereal. Now that's frightening. 

I'm a scratch cook, though, which makes a lot of difference. When you use all that you cook with, it streeeetcheeesss...

Pee Wee's picture

Grocers Incorporated just jammed prices on everything up again - I would estimate almost 10% across the board.

I still get meat out of the throwaway pile, but they moved it behind the store to the big metal bins and attached criminal charges.

Kids?  Those with any sort of income don't raise kids, they pay taxes instead.

q99x2's picture

Over the past decade or so, the percentage of Americans that are working has gone way down

Is there something wrong with that or are you one of the fools still working.

q99x2's picture

10. The overall homeownership rate has fallen to the lowest level since 1995.

11. The homeownership rate for Americans under the age of 35 is at an all-time low.

Homes are about lose 75 percent of their value and people are waiting for the drop in price.

12. According to one recent survey, 52 percent of all Americans cannot even afford the house that they are living in right now.

They are morons and shouldn't be able to afford children anyway.

13. The average age of vehicles on America’s roads has hit an all-time high of 11.4 years.

Mine is 22 years old so why sell your car when it is paid off and will run for another 11 years. 

Anyhow you have to wait until after the collapse to see what the middle class will be. Maybe there won't be any classes.

Pee Wee's picture

"...lose 75 percent of their value and people are waiting for the drop in price."

Joke is on you.  ZIRP has decimated "price," the word itself has been marginalized to have no meaning.

The proper word in the new era is PAYMENTS. 

Soon, nothing you didn't already have will be owned.

To the author - Mission Accomplished.

AdvancingTime's picture

Sometimes the old guys who have seen it all have the most perspective and the guts to speak up because they have less to lose. What I like about numbers is that when they are not jockeyed, jerked around, and falsified they tend to tell the truth. Looking down the road the numbers do not work.

Allen H Meltzer is viewed by many economist as America’s foremost expert in monetary policy, Meltzer is the author of the three-volume “A History of the Federal Reserve.” For over 25 years he was the chair of the Shadow Open Market Committee, a group that meets regularly to discuss the policy of the Federal Reserve. “We’re in the biggest mess we’ve been in since the 1930s,” he recently stated. “We’ve never had a more problematic future.” More on his thoughts in the article below.


blunderdog's picture

Yeehaw!  Made it into the top 48%!

ebworthen's picture

Decimated, crushed, bled, parasitized, sold down the river, anally raped, ball and chain of serfdom about their ankle.

Captain Jack Sparrow's picture

I have friends that are broke, but the guy keeps spending money on his motorbike and the girl keeps spending money on makeup.

Some people create their own financial problems.

There definitely appears to be a growing problem in America though

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

Have to agree with that. I'm shocked at the number of people living in poverty covered in tattoos. I never got one so I don't know the price but the shear number on people's bodies makes me think they have spent some serious dollars on something nonessential.Or do they come with a free Obama phone?


kumquatsunite's picture

Even a modest size tattoo costs around $400. So add that up the next time you're looking at someone. As to me, I won't let anyone serve me food if I can see any tattoos. I presume they have hygience problems or are otherwise deficient in neurons that will make it not that "clean>"

Just hate the looks of the things. Imagine when all these tattoed-idjats get to be in their foties and fifties. Yuck.

By the way, do you know that tattoos destroy the sweat cells in the skin and that changes the smell of the person. The more tattoos they more they smell. The Japanese say they can smell "the beast coming;" they are speaking of the Yakuza whose bodies are covered in tattoos and because of the destruction of the sweat glands when the tattoos are done; it changes their smell.

Also, certain religions like Jews aren't allowed to have tattoos. A Jew with a tattoo isn't allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetary. Not sure but doubt that applies to those who had the tattoos from Hitler's regime.

RaceToTheBottom's picture

I would guess like any religion, there is a spectrum, from orthodox to more liberal.  My wife has a small tattoo (Hebrew) and she is Jewish.

Never heard that buried in a Jewish cemetary bit

Pee Wee's picture

"but the guy keeps spending [YOUR] money on his motorbike and the girl keeps spending [YOUR] money on makeup."

fibonacci&#039;s claus's picture

Headline is all wrong.  The middle class has been completely destroyed for a long time.  My dentist cut his schedule 5 years ago to 3 days a week.  Taxes weren't worth it.  Now he is going out of business and just barely held onto his jumbo loan house.  " god is dead and so is the middle class.


intric8's picture
Global Wage Arbitrage
SMC's picture

I think we are well past the point that people need proof.

The current system is not worth saving and arguably can not be “fixed” in the sense that it depends on infinite growth using finite resources.

The question is, what sort of world do we want for future generations?

Walt D.'s picture

What’s this? A picture of an idiot holding a scroll up for me to read! I’ll read it.—It looks so unlike Portia! This outcome isn’t what I hoped for, or what I deserve. “The one who chooses me will get what he deserves”! Didn’t I deserve anything more than a fool’s head? Is this my prize? Don’t I deserve more than this?" (Shakespeare - The Merchant of Venice). People got what they voted for. This is what they deserved. They voted, expecting something for nothing. They got nothing. The Government can not give you anything - the Government generates no money. It can only give you what it has taken away from someone else. And the problem with socialism/communism/Marxism/Obamunism is that sooner or later you run out of other people's money.

earnulf's picture

The American Middle Class was destroyed starting with the Trickle Down Years in the previous century.   The bloom was off the WWII rose as the recipients of the largess from the Greatest Generation flushed it all down the toilet.

America has never been a homogenous society.   There have always been rich and poor and the folks somewhere in between.    But since the revolution, the driving force has been an idea, a dream, a picture of a country full of folks who were courageous, outstanding, hard working, honest and forthright.   We were born in a fight against tyranny and tempered by our convictions as wrong as they might be.

Funny thing, our forefathers revolted over a two percent tax.    Today we have sales taxes over ten percent in some states and cities.

We are no longer Americans, we are colors, we are nationalities, we are different religions and we are takers.   Like the Romans we have gotten soft, we take umbrage at the slightest provocation and feign hurt over slights that should be ignored.   We meddle where we are not wanted or invited and we seek our diversions because we have no direction.   We are quick to blame others and apparently shy away from mirrors lest we actually see the person responsible for our troubles.

Dr. Cosby had it right, if your not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.   If you are not pulling with us, you are not contributing.    If you can't speak the language, you aren't able to communicate.   You can march to the beat of your own drum, but there are times when you have to march in step.

I have seen the work ethic of my father and the work ethic of those workers today.   I have been the recipient of my fathers teachings regarding money, saving and welfare and I see all of those no longer apply.   Anyone can get credit, declare bankruptcy and do it all over again.     Children are having children and living off government largess, tax money which I pay in each payperiod.    I'm the outlier, the freak, the one who hasn't figured out the scam.    20+ years on the job, 23+ years of marraige, money put aside for retirement earning a pittance, a paid for home and still living paycheck to paycheck.

90% attendance at work is considered by most to be "Great"    That's five WEEKS a year off.    I don't get that after 20 years.    We have forgotten what that you have to work to make it, because those who don't, have no incentive to start.     Minimum wage was never a "living" wage, it was to get your foot in the door, pay your dues and move on to a better job, show the employer what you had, earn thier respect and trust.    Today, people don't put in 1 year without moving to another job.     Of course companies no longer take care of thier workers either.     We lost the employee loyalty in the 70's with M&A and have never looked back, even while we destroyed our work base.    It's a long road back, hopefully we'll take the one that is not paved with "good intentions"