Study shows number of middle class households dropped in all 50 states

A new state-by-state analysis from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that Wisconsin experienced the biggest decline in middle-class households in the country between the years 2000 and 2013.

The study found that the percentage of households in the middle class dropped in all 50 states, with Wisconsin’s drop from 54.6 percent to 48.9 percent being the most significant. Moreover, Wisconsin saw a 14 percent decline in median household income.

Illinois isn’t faring much better than Wisconsin, however. The analysis shows Illinois dropped from 49.8 percent in 2000, to 45.8 percent in 2013, and median income adjusted for inflation dropped from just over $64,000 to just over $56,000 in that same time frame.

Indiana fared worse than Illinois, dropping from 53 percent of households in the middle class in 2000, to 48.6 percent in 2013. Median income in Indiana dropped from just over $57,000 a year to less than $48,000.

Marc Levine — professor of history, economic development and urban studies, and director of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Economic Development — attributed Wisconsin’s shrinking middle class to the Great Recession, among other factors. He said reversing the trend would require raising the minimum wage and restoring unions, especially in the manufacturing industry.

Wisconsin’s economy relies on manufacturing perhaps more than any other state, said Levine. When manufacturing gets hit hard, he said, Wisconsin gets hit hard too.

Since 2000, Wisconsin has lost about 90,000 — between 18 to 20 percent — of its manufacturing jobs, according to Levine, in part due to free trade agreements and Chinese imports.

The Shrinking Middle Class Mapped by State