How Much You Need To Earn To Be Middle Class in America\u2019s 50 Largest Cities

The middle class is a pillar of economic and social stability in the United States. Not only a reliable market for goods and services, the American middle class is also an engine of entrepreneurship and innovation, and their tax dollars help sustain investment in quality public services. 

Despite the importance of the middle class, there is no universally accepted definition of what exactly it means to be middle class. Falling between the working and upper classes on the income spectrum, the middle class is generally understood as having disposable income for luxuries such as vacations and eating at restaurants. Typically, middle class households are able to put money away for savings and retirement, but they cannot afford big-ticket items – such as a house, car, or college education – without taking out a loan. 

These indicators of middle class status are not hard and fast rules, however, and are somewhat abstract. However, household income, while perhaps less comprehensive, serves as a quantifiable gauge of middle class status. 

Using household income data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey, 24/7 Wall St. identified the income it takes to be considered middle class in each of America’s 50 most populous metro areas by looking at the income range of the middle 20% of households by earnings. The 50 metropolitan areas on this list are ordered by population, from smallest to largest. 

It is important to note that many members of the middle class, more broadly defined, may have incomes that fall outside of the ranges presented on this list. Still, most households with incomes within these ranges comprise the core of the middle class in each city. 

Among the cities on this list, exactly how much the typical middle class household earns varies considerably. Poorer cities, including those in the Rust Belt region, tend to have lower incomes overall, partially due to the decline of America’s manufacturing sector. Meanwhile, in cities along the West Coast with booming tech industries, most households earn well over $100,000 a year. In these places, the income necessary to be considered middle class is higher than typical. (Here is a look at America’s richest cities.)

In San Jose, California, home to Silicon Valley, households making between $108,000 and $177,000 per year fall in the middle 20% of households and are considered middle class by this definition. In Cleveland, meanwhile, households that earn between $48,000 and $78,000 annually are considered middle class. (These are the 30 American cities with the most foreclosures.)

Click here to see the income it takes to be middle class in America’s 50 largest cities.

Click here to see our detailed methodology.

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