About half of American adults lived in middle-income households in 2016, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. In percentage terms, 52% of adults lived in middle-income households, 29% in lower-income households and 19% in upper-income households.
Our calculator below, updated with 2016 data, lets you find out which group you are in – first compared with other adults in your metropolitan area and among American adults overall, and then compared with other adults in the United States similar to you in education, age, race or ethnicity, and marital status.
Our new analysis shows that the share of adults who live in middle-income households varies widely across the 260 metropolitan areas examined, from 39% in Laredo, TX to 65% in Sheboygan, WI. The share of adults who live in lower-income households ranges from 19% in Ogden-Clearfield, UT to 49% in Laredo, TX. The estimated share living in upper-income households is greatest in San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA (32%) and the smallest in Lewiston-Auburn, ME (8%).
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 2016).
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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 $45,200 to $135,600 in 2016. Lower-income households had incomes less than $45,200 and upper-income households had incomes greater than $135,600 (all figures computed for three-person households, adjusted for the cost of living in a metropolitan area, and expressed in 2016 dollars).
The cost-of-living adjustment for an area was calculated as follows: Jackson, Tennessee, is a relatively inexpensive area, with a price level that is 17.9% less than the national average. The Hawaii metropolitan area known as Urban Honolulu is one of the most expensive areas, with a price level that is 24.4% higher than the national average. Thus, to step over the national middle-class threshold of $45,200, a household in Jackson needs an income of only about $37,150, or 17.9% less than the national standard. But a household in Urban Honolulu needs a reported income of about $56,250, or 24.4% more than the U.S. norm, to join the middle class.
The income calculator encompasses 260 of some 380 metropolitan areas in the U.S., as defined 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: Previous versions of this post and interactive calculator were published Dec. 9, 2015 and May 11, 2016. Both have been updated to reflect the Center’s new analysis.