The Places Where the Middle Class Lives

Jacksonville, North Carolina has a large middle-class population, thanks in part to the large number of military personnel who live there.

Jacksonville, North Carolina has a large middle-class population, thanks in part to the large number of military personnel who live there. Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

New analysis from the Brookings Institution indicates that smaller metro areas have larger middle-class populations.

Small and mid-sized metro areas have the largest middle-class populations, according to new research from the Brookings Institution.

The analysis, titled “Where does the American middle class live?”, examines the presence of the middle class in 382 metro areas across the country. It defines the middle class as “occupying the middle three quintiles of the national income distribution,” which in 2017 meant a household income between $25,000 and $120,000. (Those national thresholds were then adjusted to account for regional price parities and average household size, which influences the resources available per person.)

Based on those metrics, Brookings senior fellow Alan Berube found the middle class is largest in Jacksonville, North Carolina, making up 73.7 percent of households. Homosassa Springs, Florida is second (70.8 percent), followed by Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (70.4), Odessa, Texas and East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania (both 70.3). Bloomington, Illinois comes in last of the 382 metro areas surveyed, with 51.2 percent of the population comprised of middle-class households.

Courtesy Brookings Institution

Many metro areas with large populations of middle-class residents fall into one of what Brookings categorizes as the “three M’s”—manufacturing centers, military towns and Mormon communities. Elkhart, Indiana and Sheboygan, Wisconsin, for example, have “significant numbers of middle-paying jobs” in the manufacturing sector, while Jacksonville, North Carolina has a large population of “uniformed service members and contractors who predominantly earn middle incomes.” In Utah's Mormon communities, including Logan, Ogden and Provo, residents “tend to have good-paying jobs and larger family sizes that place most of their households in the middle class.”

Generally, prominent industries in a given metro area have a strong effect on the size of its middle class, the report says.

“Metro areas where a larger share of the population works in retail, construction, administrative services, agriculture, manufacturing and transportation have larger middle classes on average,” Berube writes. “These industries tend to provide decent-paying jobs for individuals who may not possess a four-year college degree and who represent the bulk of the workforce in most metro areas.”

By contrast, areas with high numbers of people working in “professional services, information, finance and management industries” have smaller middle classes and larger high-income populations.

To that end, metro areas with the smallest middle classes include college towns—such as Ames, Iowa; Champaign-Urbana, Illinois and Santa Cruz, California—where large, temporary populations of lower-income students and permanent populations of highly paid faculty “leave relatively few earners in the middle.” Tech capitals—San Francisco, Boston and Boulder, Colorado—also have larger high-income populations, leaving less room for middle-class earners.

Region is also important, the analysis notes. Eleven of the 15 metro areas with the largest middle classes are located in Southern and Western states, where metro areas tend to be newer and more suburban.

Courtesy Brookings Institution

An area’s demographics also have an effect on middle class size, according to the research. “Metro areas in which non-Hispanic whites account for a larger share of population tend to have larger middle classes,” while metro areas with larger black populations have smaller middle classes. Metro areas with large Asian populations, most of them in California, also have smaller middle classes, but larger shares of high-income households.

“These patterns make sense given the strong, long-standing relationship between race and income in America,” the analysis notes.

Because the size of the middle class varies from place to place across the country, national policies aimed at improving life for that population segment will impact different metropolitan areas in different ways.

“Researchers and policymakers should more deeply examine middle-class conditions at the local level to truly understand and improve middle-class resilience,” Berube concludes.

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
MN Water District and High School Collaborate on Stormwater and Education
Forest Lake, MN, USA
New Parking Plaza Adds Capacity & Embraces Sustainability at San Diego Airport
San Diego, CA, USA
Chula Vista creates a Digital Equity and Inclusion Plan
Chula Vista, CA, USA

NEXT STORY: Would the U.S. Tsunami Warning System Have Averted Indonesia’s Disaster?

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.