CEPR

What do you think should be considered “middle class”? Use the sliders on the right side of the interactives below to select the low and high percentile limits of the middle class, for both household and personal income, using the Current Population Survey’s March 2015 data. (The low percentile limit needs to be below the high limit.) It will show the income range and number of households and income earners in the range.

The solid vertical lines denote Pew’s definition of middle income (a calculator from Pew can help you determine where you fall). In addition, the dashed vertical lines provide reference points, as described below. These can provide context to definitions of middle income and middle class (and they can be reflected over the 50th percentile to set both limits).

 

Household Income

  • Obama/Clinton: This is the upper limit of the middle class according to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (a $250,000 household income). Both have pledged to not raise taxes on households that make less than this.
  • FPL-2/FPL- 3/FPL- 4: These are the upper limits of household income for the Federal Poverty Level, which determines whether households are in poverty based on their household size (in these cases, two, three and four people). (Note: these could also be displayed on the Personal Income chart for single-income-earner households.)
  • CTC: This is the limit where the child tax credit starts to phase out, for those married and filing taxes jointly.
  • ACA-P: This is the limit where the Affordable Care Act premium tax credits end for a family of 3.
  • ACA-C: This is the limit where Affordable Care Act cost-sharing ends for a family of 3.

 

Personal Income

  • Obama: This is the upper limit of the middle class according to Barack Obama, a $200,000 personal income.
  • SNAP/Medicaid: Past this percentile in income, individuals are typically no longer eligible for SNAP (food stamps) or expanded Medicaid coverage (130 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty level).
  • FPL: This is the upper limit of household income for individuals for the Federal Poverty Level, which determines whether a person is in poverty.
  • Payroll: This indicates the percentile at which the payroll tax cap falls. Above $118,500, wages are not subject to the Social Security payroll tax.
  • CTC: This is the limit where the child tax credit starts to phase out for unmarried individuals.
  • EITC-L: This is the lowest upper income limit for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which looks at individual income.
  • EITC-H: This is the highest upper income limit for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which looks at individual income.

 


[1] CEPR analysis of March Current Population Survey (CPS) 2015. The public use version of the March CPS may be slightly different from published Census numbers. Income refers to income in 2014.

[2] See http://ropercenter.cornell.edu/meaning-middle-class/.

[3] See http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/02/04/americas-middle-holds-its-ground-after-the-great-recession/ and https://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/dan-balz-and-the-pew-research-center-discover-wage-stagnation.

[4] CEPR analysis of March CPS 2015.

[5] See http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2015/01/20/who-is-the-middle-class-anyway-a-look-at-obamas-focus-on-middle-class-economics/.

[6] See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/02/middle-class-poll_n_7487868.html.