The American middle class is shrinking rapidly, and those holding on to the vestiges of the socioeconomic bracket once exemplary of the American dream now have it worse than ever before.
This, according to a new study out from the Pew Research Center, is a trend that will most likely continue in the United States. As both President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney attempt to make their case to the American public of how they plan to embolden the American middle class, the population segment is in the worst shape it’s been since World War II.
In 1971, about 61 percent of American households were described as middle class. Today, just 51 percent fall into the group. The most rapid decline in middle-class affluence, according to Pew, has occurred over the past decade.
According to Pew:
For the middle-income group, the “lost decade” of the 2000s has been even worse for wealth loss than for income loss. The median income of the middle-income tier fell 5%, but median wealth (assets minus debt) declined by 28%, to $93,150 from $129,582.
The research center notes that the dismal past decade the middle class has endured has taken its toll on the confidence of middle-class Americans, with 23 percent doubting they will have the savings to last throughout retirement and only two-thirds believing that hard work guarantees one might get ahead.
“The notion that we are a society with a large middle class, with lots of economic and social mobility and a belief that each generation does better than the next — these are among the core tenets of what it means to be an American,” said Paul Taylor, the Pew Research Center’s executive vice president. “But that’s not necessarily the case anymore.”