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Are You Middle Class? A Look at Several California Cities

There’s a high cost of living in California, and the latest data from 2021 reveals what it takes to be considered “middle class” in several California cities.

According to Pew Research Center data, the American middle class has been shrinking the past five decades.

More Americans have entered either the upper or lower income brackets since its peak, when it reached 61% in 1971, the Pew Research Center reports. The middle class has been shrinking since then, hovering around 50%.

There are many arguable definitions to what “middle class” constitutes, but according to Pew, it’s defined as as those earning between two-thirds and twice the median American household income, which in 2021 was $70,784, according to the United States Census Bureau.

If you earn between $47,189 and up to $141,568 in America, you are considered middle class. But there are lots of factors to take into account in each city, as there are drastic cost of living fluctuations throughout such a large nation like the U.S.

CNBC looked at 20 metro locations across the U.S.

Here’s what you’d have to make in several California cities to be considered “middle class.”

Los Angeles, Long Beach, Anaheim

For these LA and Orange county cities, it’s not entirely surprising that you’d fall within middle class range earning these amounts, if you could survive on $55,000. With high demand and low supply for housing, rent or mortgages in these SoCal metros would quickly eat up the low-end middle class income amount.

Low-End Middle Class IncomeHigh-End Middle Class Income
$55,000$165,000

Riverside, San Bernardino, Ontario

Low-End Middle Class IncomeHigh-End Middle Class Income
$51,000$154,000

San Diego, Chula Vista, Carlsbad

Low-End Middle Class IncomeHigh-End Middle Class Income
$61,000$182,000

San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley

Low-End Middle Class IncomeHigh-End Middle Class Income
$77,000$232,000

It may be a bit surprising that even earning $232,000 — what some might consider upper class earnings — you’d still be considered middle class in the Bay Area.

Curious about the rest of the U.S.? Take a look at this graphic to get an idea of what middle class is around the nation.


Source: NBC Los Angeles

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