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Where you rank by income

According to the Census Bureau’s Income in the United States: 2022 report, the median household income is $74,580 (a 2.3% decline from 2021), while household income levels for each class level are as follows:

  • Lower class: less than or equal to $30,000
  • Lower-middle class: $30,001 – $58,020
  • Middle class: $58,021 – $94,000
  • Upper-middle class: $94,001 – $153,000
  • Upper class: greater than $153,000

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Where you rank by net worth

Some finance experts prefer to view classes in terms of net worth because they believe it accounts for people’s financial habits. If you have a high income but spend much of what you make, you may not have much to show for it. Based on U.S. census data from 2021, here’s the median net worth of each class:

  • Lower class: $12,000
  • Lower-middle class: $61,260
  • Middle class: $145,200
  • Upper-middle class: $269,100
  • Upper class: $805,400

How to dig deeper

To get a more granular look at how you stack up, you can use the Pew Research Center’s American income calculator, which adjusts for the cost of living based on your location and size of your household. It can also determine where you rank in relation to other Americans of the same age, race or ethnicity and who have the same level of education and marital status. While the data is from 2018, it can still provide interesting insights.

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Money isn’t everything

At least one definition of the middle class doesn’t rely on either income or net worth. A 2010 report prepared by the U. S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration for the Middle Class Task Force defines the middle class “by their aspirations more than their income.” It identifies these as “home ownership, a car, college education for their children, health and retirement security and occasional family vacations.”

You can move up

If your aspirations remain out of reach or you’re merely dissatisfied with your current class level, don’t despair: you can improve your economic standing. Develop good financial habits and increase income when possible — and save the difference. And if you’re young, time is on your side to build your income and savings. Just practice patience and persistence.

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Douglas Warren Freelance contributor

Douglas Warren is a writer specializing in economics, business and finance. His writing is informed by his past work as an institutional portfolio manager, fixed income salesperson, credit analyst and personal financial consultant. He has a master’s degree in economics from Queen’s University and is a CFA® charterholder.

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