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“Most Americans partake in the benefits offered by these new technologies, from smartphones to better dental care,” said Professor Carl Shapiro, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley and an expert on technology and innovation who stepped down from President Obama’s Council on Economic Advisors last year. “Somehow this impressive progress has not translated into greater economic security for the American middle class.”

What middle class? In 2010, the Department of Commerce published a study about what it would take for different types of families to achieve the aspirations of the middle class — which it defined as a house, a car or two in the garage, a vacation now and then, decent health care and enough savings to retire and contribute to the children’s college education. It concluded that the middle class has become a much more exclusive club. Even two-earner families making almost $81,000 in 2008 — substantially more than the family median of about $60,000 reported by the Census — would have a much tougher time acquiring the attributes of the middle class than in 1990.

Throw in the cost of going to college, which has been rising faster than inflation and you’ve got problems. About two-thirds of people with bachelor’s degrees relied on loans to get through college, up from 45 percent two decades ago. Average student debt in 2011 was $23,300. And people work about as much as they did 25 years ago. Despite the grind, the net worth of the typical American family in the middle of the income distribution fell to $66,000 in 2010 — 6 percent less than in 1989 after inflation. In the new normal, the real wages of workers on the factory floor are lower than they were in the early ’70s. And the richest 10 percent of Americans get over half of the income America produces.

“Almost all of the benefits of growth since the trough of the Great Recession have been going to those in the upper classes,” said Timothy Smeeding, who heads the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Madison-Wisconsin. “Middle and lower-income families are getting a smaller slice of a smaller economic pie as labor markets have changed drastically during our recovery.”

This is what we have come to. We have to either define the middle class down a couple of notches or we acknowledge that the middle class isn’t in the middle anymore. And what about us – Black folks? That’s easy. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Zack Burgess is an award winning journalist, who is the Director/Owner of OFF WOODWARD MEDIA, LLC, where he works as a Writer, Editor and Communications Specialist. His work can be seen at zackburgess.com. Twitter: @zackburgess1

Stuck In The Middle: Why Hard Work And Education Only Get You So Far  was originally published on blackamericaweb.com

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