Middle class in the U.S. can mean something  very different depending on where you call your home state.

Census bureau numbers show a shocking  disparity in the definition of ‘middle income’ – with Maryland boasting an  average of $67,469 and Mississippi posting an appallingly low $39,078, a  difference of $28,391.

Debate over the definition of middle class  comes after President Obama’s State of the Union address this week. He detailed  his plan to get the middle class back on track, mentioning the term a total of 8  times in his speech on Tuesday.

‘It is our generation’s task, then,  to  reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth: a rising,  thriving  middle class,’ he told a  joint-session of Congress but since the term is  defined so differently by region, many are now wondering who would actually be  helped.

The competition to court  the middle  class  was felt this week, after the president’s annual address called on increased  attention to improve the status of middle income earners.

In particular, he called for an increase in  the minimum wage by $1.75 to $9 an hour,  tax reform and investment in technology training.

But Republicans shot back, blaming the  Democrats for the lack of economic growth and slow job creation.

The GOP is earnest to reach these middle  class voters as well, particularly after the  party’s embarrassing failure to  appeal to the working class during the  2012 presidential election.

Though the Republican SOTU response by  Senator Marco Rubio (Republican – Florida) got more  attention for his hilarious  water break than the substance of his remarks -  he did mention the words  ‘middle  class’ and ‘working class’ a total of 17 times, The Wall Street Journal  counted.

As the middle income sector remains the  object of desire for both parties, it has become increasingly unclear who  actually falls into that income sector.

Data from 2011, shows the  median household income across the nation was $50,054.

A close examination of average  household  income by state shows that as the top and bottom income levels vary – naturally  so does the middle.

The three year average of median household  income from 2009 to 2011 of  residents in Maryland was $67,469, with the average  in New Hampshire ($67,287) and  Connecticut ($67,165) close behind.

But the average dropped significantly as one  traveled down the coast.


Mississippi posted the lowest average at  $39,078. Its neighbors in Arkansas ($39,806) and Tennessee ($41,524) also posted  income averages that were shockingly low. 

These vastly different levels can make it  hard to adequately craft policies for the generic ‘middle class’ segment, when  the middle is not equal.

Pundits have responded that the term  ‘middle  class’ is much too broad to target the exact population that will receive aid.

‘There are two kinds of middle-class  Americans struggling today,’ Jim  Tankersley wrote in a Washington Post  editorial after Mr Obama’s speech.

‘There are the people who can’t find work or  can’t work as many hours as  they’d like. And there are full-time workers who  can’t seem to get  ahead.’

Dante Chinni  pointed out in his analysis in  The Wall Street Journal that the impact  of Mr Obama’s proposal to raise the  minimum wage will have great or  little impact depending on the region.

‘In some places that money may be a crucial  part of middle-class life, but  in others it may be more about summer jobs for  high school students,’ he wrote.

As Democrats and Republicans battle it out  for the middle earners, they could find that sector increasingly elusive.

Top 25 U.S. States for Average  Median Household

1     Maryland                               $67,469

2    New  Hampshire                  $67,287

3     Connecticut                        $67,165

4    New  Jersey                         $65,072

5     Massachusetts                   $62,809

6     Virginia                               $62,776

7     Alaska                                $60,566

8     Colorado                            $59,803

9     Hawaii                                 $59,605

10    Washington                       $59,370

11     Utah                                  $58,438

12     Minnesota                         $56,869

13    District of  Columbia           $56,566

14     California                           $56,074

15     Delaware                           $55,421

16     Vermont                             $54,805

17     Wyoming                           $54,458

18     Nebraska                           $53,927

19    North  Dakota                     $53,827

20     Illinois                                $52,801

21     Wisconsin                         $52,574

22    Rhode  Island                    $52,142

23     Oregon                             $51,735

24    New  York                           $51,547

25     Iowa                                  $51,322

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2010 to 2012  Annual Social and Economic Supplements.



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