Here’s How Much Middle-Class Income Fell Over 15 Years

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Median Household Income
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If your college graduation is a distant memory, but you still feel like you need to cut Netflix this month to put that cash toward your utilities, I’ve got some news: You’re not alone.

According to a Pew Research study comparing income earned in 1999 and 2014, no one — including those in the upper class — has fully bounced back from the recession.

For this study, the Pew Research Center used the national median income to define lower, middle and upper class.

Those in the lower class made less than two-thirds of the median income. Middle class families brought in between two-thirds and double the national median. Upper class families earned more than double.

Using adjusted 2014 dollars, the study found that the median income for a three-person middle-class household fell by more than $5,000 between 1999 and 2014, from $77,898 to $72,919.

So if you’re still comparing your own cash flow to your parents’ or even an older cousin’s income, don’t do it. Everyone is making a bit less now, not just you.

Making Less Than $77K? You Might Still be Middle Class

Of course, in defining what constitutes the lower, middle and upper classes, Pew assumes a few things.

For example, you might need more than $77,000 per year to fall in the center of the middle class, but that’s only if you have a family of three and live in a relatively large metropolitan area like Washington, D.C., or New York City. If you moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, and rented a place a few miles from Penny Hoarder headquarters, things change quickly.

Here, you could take a whopping $30,000 pay cut, and your family would still fall in the middle class, Pew’s calculator shows.

Want to know where you stand?

The Pew Research Center created a class calculator where you drop in your location, income and household size to see how you stack up to others in your metropolitan area and nationwide. Try it out.

Ready to Break Into the Upper Class? Here’s How Much You Need

Of course, if you’re still holding onto the American dream, you might still be holding out hope of breaking into the upper class sometime soon.

The median income for an upper-class family is $173,207 per year (compared to $186,424 in 1999).

But again, that’s for a family of three. If that number feels a bit intimidating, it might surprise you to know how much less you need just to break the upper-class barrier, especially if you have a smaller family.

CNBC crunched some numbers to calculate the income smaller and larger households need to be considered upper class. It might be less than you think:

Household of one: Minimum of $72,126.

Household of two: Minimum of $102,001.

Household of three: Minimum of $124,925.

Household of four: Minimum of $144,251.

Household of five: Minimum of $161,277.

Your Turn: Try the Pew Research Center Class Calculator and tell us, are you lower, middle or upper class?

Desiree Stennett is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. The calculator says she’s middle class.

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