American middle classes no longer world’s richest (guess who is!)

Shopping in NYC, but America's middle classes are no longer the richest in the world (FlickrCC Craig Dietrich)
Shopping in NYC, but America’s middle classes are no longer the richest in the world (FlickrCC Craig Dietrich)

America’s middle classes are no longer the richest in the world – having been overtaken in the wealth stakes by their Canadian counterparts.

For almost four decades the lower and middle-income tiers of American society have been by far the most affluent on the planet.

But, while the super-wealthy in the U.S. are continuing to see incomes and assets soar, the average Joe is falling behind, according to new figures from researchers LIS.

Studies over the last 35 years show middle class income in the U.S. has plateaued while other advanced countries have caught up and, in Canada’s case, nudged ahead.

As recently as 2000 Canada’s middle class was markedly lagging behind the U.S. but by 2010 it had achieved parity and they have since surpassed America.

And it’s even worse for America’s poor. A family at the 20th percentile of the income distribution in the U.S. makes significantly less money in 2014 than a similar family in Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland or the Netherlands. The reverse was true 35 years ago.

In real terms the incomes of the poor have not changed since 2000. Across the Pond in Europe comparable incomes have increased – up 20 percent in Britain and 14 percent in the Netherlands over the same period.

Analysts say the long-awaited recovery of the U.S. economy is hugely weighted towards the rich, with income gains flowing to a small slice of high-earning households at the very top of American society.

Harvard economist Lawrence Katz told the New York Times: “The idea that the median American has so much more income than the middle class in all other parts of the world is not true these days.
“In 1960, we were massively richer than anyone else. In 1980, we were richer. In the 1990s, we were still richer, but that is no longer the case.”

Income data for the study was compiled by researchers from the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) who analyzed data from the Luxembourg Income Study database in connection with The New York Times.


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