High-tech hubs like the Raleigh Research Triangle in North Carolina, Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas, aren’t immune to a collapse in the middle class that is gripping the United States.
“While Raleigh’s population continues to grow, the new data from Pew shows that the robust population growth has not necessarily translated into higher incomes for its new residents,” according to the Financial Times, citing income data from the non-partisan Pew Research Center
. “In the areas surrounding tech-friendly San Francisco and neighboring San Jose, both median incomes and the middle class’s share of the population have fallen. In Austin, a more direct rival to Raleigh, median incomes for a household of three fell to just over $74,000 from just under $78,000 in 1999.”
Raleigh has attracted the biotech industry because of research universities in the area that turn out highly educated professionals, but the city is also grappling with a declining middle class and growing poverty, the FT reports.
“Raleigh is confronting a growing poverty problem driven by existing populations and the arrival of less-educated migrants … in search of lower-end construction and service jobs, when the real job openings are in technology or healthcare and other high-skilled industries,” the newspaper reports. “Groups working with Raleigh’s poor say that, even years on from the 2007-08 global financial crisis and the recession that followed, they are busier than ever.”
Middle-class Americans, once considered to be the bedrock of the country’s thriving economy, are becoming a dying breed as wealth distribution is increasingly split by the ultra-rich and everybody else.
The middle class has retreated in nine out of 10 U.S. metropolitan areas since 2000, as income inequality widened after the recession, CBS News says on its website, citing a Pew report
“The report expands the organization's research into the fortunes of the country's middle class, which Pew in December found had declined to less than 50 percent of households, representing a major shift in America's economic fabric,” CBS reports.
The “hollowing out” of America's economy has become a major campaign issue for politicians across the ideological spectrum and partly explains the popularity of “outsider” presidential candidates like Republican front-runner Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent seeking the Democratic nomination.
Both candidates are running on a platform of helping America's dying middle class, particularly by renegotiating trade deals with low-cost countries like China and Mexico.
Pew defines the middle class as households with annual income between two-thirds to double the national median — that's about $42,000 on the low end to $125,000 at the upper limit for a family of three. The portion of Americans living in middle-income households fell from 55 percent in 2000 to 51 percent in 2014.
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