The 15 states with the smallest middle class

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  • The size of the American middle class varies from state to state.
  • Using data from the US Census Bureau, we found how many households fall between 2/3 and 200% of the median household income in each state.
  • Here are the 15 states with the smallest share of households falling in that middle-income group.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The fate of the middle class is one of the central concerns of American politics and economics. How many people fall in the middle class varies from state to state.

In an analysis of class in America, the Pew Research Center classified households as middle-income if they fell between 2/3 and 200% of the national median household income. We used that definition to find how many households in each US state had middle-class incomes.

According to the US Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey, the median household income that year (the most recent for which data is available) was $US60,336. Using data from the Minnesota Population Center’s 2017 American Community Survey Integrated Public-Use Microdata Series, we counted up how many households in each state had incomes between 2/3 of that median (or $US40,224) and double that median (or $US120,672).

Washington, DC, had a smaller middle class than any state, with just 36.6% of households in the capital in the middle-income bracket. Because it is not a state, we’ve omitted it from the following list.

Here are the 15 states with the smallest share of households falling in that middle-income bracket, along with the share of lower-income households below 2/3 the national median, and the share of upper-income households above 200%:


15. Georgia: 45.0% of households are middle income. The state’s median household income of $US56,183 was a bit below the national median of $US60,336.

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Share of lower-income households: 37.6%

Share of higher-income households: 17.4%


14. South Carolina: 44.8% of households are middle income. Meanwhile, the state had a larger than average share of lower-income households and a smaller share of higher-income households.

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Share of lower-income households: 41.7%

Share of higher-income households: 13.5%


13. Connecticut: 44.2% of households are middle income. Connecticut is the mirror image of South Carolina, with a larger share of higher-income families than most states.

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Share of lower-income households: 27.6%

Share of higher-income households: 28.2%


12. Arkansas: 43.9% of households are middle income, and the state had the third-smallest share of higher-income households in the country.

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Share of lower-income households: 45.0%

Share of higher-income households: 11.1%


11. Rhode Island: 43.5% of households are middle income. Rhode Island’s median household income of $US63,870 was a bit higher than the national median.

Share of lower-income households: 34.9%

Share of higher-income households: 21.6%


10. Kentucky: 43.4% of households are middle income. Kentucky had a larger than average share of lower income households.

Share of lower-income households: 44.0%

Share of higher-income households: 12.6%


9. California: 43.1% of households are middle income. The state’s median household income of $US71,805 was much higher than the national median.

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Share of lower-income households: 29.7%

Share of higher-income households: 27.2%


8. Alabama: 43.0% of households are middle income. Alabama’s poverty rate of 16.9% was higher than the national rate of 13.4%.

Share of lower-income households: 44.3%

Share of higher-income households: 12.8%


7. Mississippi: 42.4% of households are middle income. Mississippi had the highest share of lower-income households in the country.

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Share of lower-income households: 48.0%

Share of higher-income households: 9.6%


6. New Mexico: 42.2% of households are middle income. New Mexico had a smaller share of higher income households than average.

Andriy Blokhin/Shutterstock

Share of lower-income households: 45.6%

Share of higher-income households: 12.2%


5. New Jersey: 42.2% of households are middle income. The state’s median household income of $US80,088 was about a third higher than the national median income.

Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Share of lower-income households: 26.6%

Share of higher-income households: 31.1%


4. New York: 42.0% of households are middle income. New York had a higher than average share of upper income households.

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Share of lower-income households: 33.6%

Share of higher-income households: 24.4%


3. West Virginia: 42.0% of households are middle income. The state had a larger than average share of lower income households.

Share of lower-income households: 47.9%

Share of higher-income households: 10.2%


2. Louisiana: 40.9% of households are middle income. Louisiana’s median household income of $US46,145 was lower than the national median.

GTS Productions/Shutterstock

Share of lower-income households: 45.7%

Share of higher-income households: 13.3%


1. Massachusetts: 40.7% of households are middle income. Massachusetts’ poverty rate of 10.5% was below the national rate of 13.4%.

Share of lower-income households: 29.0%

Share of higher-income households: 30.3%

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