For much of America’s history, the middle class has been a useful paradigm for understanding what is meant by "the American dream." But across the country, definitions of the middle class are changing, and income data recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau prompts questions about the differing experiences of who identifies as part of the middle class.
The Census Bureau data says the 2016 median household income in the United States was just over $59,000 in 2016 – a number not seen in this country since 1999. In Texas, however, the 2016 median household income was $56,565 – more than$2,000 below the national median.
Dr. Kevin Leicht, head of the Department of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and author of "Middle Class Meltdown in America: Causes, Consequences and Remedies," says that definitions of the middle class are largely informed at the local level. In addition to its economic importance, he says the middle class holds unquestionable cultural significance.