Every state in the union saw its middle class decline from 2000 to 2013, including Washington despite its diversified and trade-dependent economy
In 2000, 51.7 percent of Washington households were considered middle class. By 2013, the percentage had fallen to 47.4. It was on the higher end of declines that struck every state, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Median income here fell to $58,405 from an inflation-adjusted $63,079 in 2000.
“Middle class” is defined as households making between 67 percent and 200 percent of a state’s median income. Pew analyzed the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and data gathered by the University of Minnesota.
Elsewhere in the Northwest:
- Alaska fell from 53.5 percent to 51.8 percent.
- Idaho fell from 52.7 percent to 51.9 percent.
- Oregon fell from 51.4 percent to 47.7 percent.
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Some of the most severe declines came in Midwestern and Southern states whose manufacturing industries were decimated by China entering the World Trade Organization. For example, Wisconsin’s middle class declined from 54.6 percent to 48.9 percent; Ohio’s from 50.9 percent to 45.7 percent, and North Carolina from 50.3 percent to 45.7 percent.
Trade policies are not the only thing that disrupted the middle class; there’s offshoring of jobs, financialization of the economy, lax antitrust enforcement, two recessions including the worst since the Great Depression and its lingering effects, rent-seeking by the rich rather than investing in job-creating enterprises, further decline of unions and a host of policies that siphon more money from rising productivity upwards. But it is worth noting that even Washington, the rare state that runs a trade surplus with the world, was not immune.
You can check each state on this interactive map.
Meanwhile, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis took a deep dive into how to define “middle class.” It’s an ambiguous term. The demographically defined middle class saw its income drop by 16 percent from 1989 to 2013. For families with income and wealth significantly below average — the working poor — the decline was 54 percent. You can read the entire report here.
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