The American Middle Class Under Stress

Policy Paper
April 27, 2011

Click here to download the slideshow, "The American Middle Class Under Stress."

The foundation of America's middle class is under strain. 

High unemployment and the restructuring of the labor market have eroded middle-class incomes after decades of stagnation.  Meanwhile, the cost of health care, education, and other essential middle-class goods have increased, consuming a larger share of household income. And the bursting of the housing bubble has wiped out trillions of dollars in home equity that the majority of Americans rely on as the primary source of wealth and retirement security.

In their latest presentation, Sherle R. Schwenninger, Director of the Economic Growth and American Strategy Programs at the New America Foundation, and Samuel Sherraden, Policy Analyst for the Economic Growth Program, evaluate the state of America's middle class after the Great Recession.


1. Jobs and Wages: High Unemployment

2. A Jobless Recovery

3. More of the Employed Have Low-Income Jobs

4. The Under-Employed American

5. Real Wages are Falling

6. Government Transfers Have Partly Offset the Stagnation of Wages

7. The Erosion of the Social Wage: Rising Health Expenditures

8. Higher Education is Not Affordable

9. The Emergence of “Screwflation”

10. The Great Recession Dealt a Blow to Middle Class Wealth

11. Home Equity and Wealth

12. Uneven Recovery: Stocks and Home Prices

13. Deleveraging Remains a Painful Reality

14. A Less Secure Retirement

15. Shifting the Risk of Retirement Onto Employees

16. Relying on Social Security

17. Signs of Middle Class Decline: More at the Top, Less for the Middle

18. Signs of Middle Class Decline: Low Social Mobility