More Americans making $100,000 consider themselves working class than rich, and it shows just how expensive the US has become

Graham Denholm/Getty ImagesSome six-figure earners think they’re working class.
  • More people making at least $US100,000 consider themselves working class than affluent, according to an INSIDER and Morning Consult survey.
  • Along with other results from the survey, this finding points to an overarching trend: Respondents who display typical wealth markers – like growing up rich or earning a six-figure salary – don’t actually feel wealthy.
  • A rising cost of living is at play, which has decreased the value of a six-figure salary and contributed to the decline in the middle class.
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More people making at least $US100,000 consider themselves working class than affluent, according to an INSIDER and Morning Consult survey.

The survey polled 4,400 Americans – 570 of them reported making an income of $US100,000 or more. It asked respondents to define their current financial situation by selecting poor, working class, middle class, upper middle class, or affluent (or don’t know).

Of those earning $US100,000 or more who responded to the question, 10% identified as working class and around 6% identified as affluent. The majority identified as middle class (nearly 42%) or upper middle class (nearly 36%), while roughly 3% defined themselves as poor.

This response signals a trend that repeatedly popped up during the survey: Respondents who in some way identify with what many deem a typical measure of wealth don’t necessarily feel wealthy.

Read more: More than half of Americans who grew up rich don’t think they’re wealthy anymore, and it highlights uncomfortable changes in the US economy

For example, the survey results also found that more than half of Americans who said they grew up affluent no longer think they’re rich – they now consider themselves to be in a lower class. And more than one-third of millennials earning at least $US100,000 consider themselves middle class.

From the six-figure earners who consider themselves working class to the respondents who think they fell out of the affluent class, these findings all point to a growing cost of living.

A six-figure salary is no longer what it used to be

In the current economy, a six-figure salary may no longer be what it once was. According to research by Student Loan Hero, a 67% rise in wages since 1970 hasn’t kept up with inflating living costs: Rent, home prices, and college tuition have all increased faster than incomes in the US.

This is particularly evident in some of America’s most expensive cities, like San Francisco, where 60% of tech workers (who typically earn a six-figure salary) can’t afford homes, or New York, where the cost of living is double the average.

Even in smaller cities, like Jacksonville and Colorado Springs, a big cost of living increase has hit America’s middle class particularly hard, according to GoBankingRates.

An increased cost of living might explain why America’s middle class is shrinking. According to the Pew Research Center, the size of middle-class America has decreased by nearly 10% from 1971 to 2016. And from 2010 to 2016, their wealth didn’t increase at the higher rate of the upper class, widening the income gap between the two groups.

Millennials in particular are being “squeezed out of the middle class,” according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD),Richard Partington reported for The Guardian.

Ultimately, the value of the dollar decreases as living expenses increase, which also makes it harder to save. As a result, people, no matter their salary or class, aren’t seeing their money stretch as far.

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