After the 2008 recession hit middle-class families hard, and amid complaints that the Trump administration’s massive tax bill primarily benefits the most wealthy while continuing to dissolve the middle and working classes, new census data has found that middle-class income rose to its highest levels in 2017.
Last year the median U.S. household income was $61,372, and having finally crossed the $61,000 mark means that middle-class families are now making more than they made in 1999. What’s interesting about this finding is that the middle class had the same median income in 1999 as they did in 2007, a year before the recession. So while this is indicative of some post-recession recovery, it is evidence that economic circumstances for the middle class in terms of income are stagnant in a larger sense.
According to the Census Bureau, middle-class median income has risen steadily for the last few years namely due to a lowering unemployment rate. As Trudi Renwick, an assistant division chief at Census Bureau, points out, as the economy recovers, more people aren’t just finding work, but making the switch from part-time to full-time work as well. Despite this, many still note that wages have stagnated and while the middle class has recovered, they could perhaps be fairing even better if they were paid more. As Douglas Holtz-Eakin, head of the right-leaning American Action Forum, told the Washington Post, the focus post-recession was “putting people back to work,” not making sure their wages increased.
Still, it’s only fair to note that the 2017 figures represent what was happening before the current administration assumed power. as they were calculated before any of Donald Trump’s policies went into effect. The effect of the tax bill on wages and middle-class mobility remains to be seen.