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What is the Average Middle Class?

I’m a sucker for statistics, probably why I enjoy looking at numbers like the average retirement savings [3] or the average tax refund [4], but I never gave the term “middle class” much thought until recently.

Fortunately for us, U.S. News & World Report has compiled some statistics [5] on what the “average” is for a lot of money related statistics, like income, hours worked, etc.

Let’s take a look…

Average Income

For a two parent, four person household, the average income is between $51,000 to $123,000. The median is $81,000. That’s higher than I would’ve expected as the “typical” household has a sole breadwinner and one homemaker (it turns out 76% of two-parent families have both parents working). The case for this arrangement is pretty clear for anyone who has looked at the cost of daycare!

The range of this metric, $51k to $123k, really illustrates how meaningless it is without additional information. $123k in a low cost of living area is not the same as in a higher cost of living area. Unless it’s normalized for cost of living, it’s really difficult to find value in it.

That being said, would you consider someone earning $123,000 to be “middle class?” That’s $10,000 a month, pre-tax.

Other Average Statistics

Here are some other “middle class stats:”

Finally, average net worth [6] is around $84,000 according to the Federal Reserve (in 2007 the figure was $120,300).

What do you think of the statistics? Did any surprise you? Would you consider income of $123,000 to be middle class?