Is the American Dream Slipping Away for the Middle Class?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011
By Paul Martin

By Sheryl Nance-Nash

Every parent wants more for their child than they had for themselves. Ideally, each generation should move forward. But it’s not a given in America. A middle class upbringing does not guarantee the same status over the course of a lifetime, finds a new studyDownward Mobility from the Middle Class: Waking up from the America Dream by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

A third of Americans raised in the middle class, those defined as being between the 30th and 70th percentiles of the income distribution, fall out of the middle as adults, according to the report. In the parent’s generation, this definition of middle class roughly translates to income from about $32,900 to $64,000 in 2010 for a family with two adults and two children. For the children’s generation, the income range was $53,900 to $110,000 for a family of four.

There are differences in the rates of downward mobility from the middle based on both family background and personal characteristics.

The report looked at downward mobility among black, white and Hispanic men and women raised in the middle class in three ways: the percentage that fall out of the middle class, the percentage that fall 20 or more percentiles below their parents’ rank in the income distribution, and the percentage of those whose income is 20 or more percent below their parents.

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