New indications have appeared in the US that show the middle class in the world’s largest economy is hollowing out.
A report by the Pew Research Center shows that a widening wealth gap is moving more households into either higher- or lower-income groups in major metro areas, with fewer remaining in the middle.
In nearly one-quarter of metro areas, middle-class adults no longer make up a majority, the Pew analysis found. That's up from fewer than 10 percent of metro areas in 2000.
That sharp shift reflects a broader erosion that occurred from 2000 through 2014. Over that time, the middle class shrank in nine of every 10 metro areas, Pew found.
Many experts warn that widening income inequality may slow economic growth and make social mobility more difficult.
The research has found that compared with children in more economically mixed communities, children raised in predominantly lower-income neighborhoods are less likely to reach the middle class.
Middle class adults now make up less than half the population in such cities as New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Houston.
The Pew research also found that income for the typical household fell in 190 of the 229 metro areas studied, further evidence of the decline in U.S. living standards since 1999.
The report studied 229 of the largest US metro areas, which constituted 76 percent of the US population.
Overall, cities with the largest middle classes are more likely to be in the Midwest. Those with the biggest low-income populations are more often in the Southwest, particularly near the Mexico border. Metro areas with the highest proportions of upper-income households are more likely to be found in the Northeast or along the West Coast.