Where the Middle Class Lives -- and Doesn't Live

The American middle class isn't shrinking, but it continues to fall further behind upper-income households financially, research shows.

About half (52%) of American adults lived in middle-class households in 2016, according to Pew research, but income disparity has increased between the middle class and wealthier class.

According a recent Brookings Institution report that examines where the middle class lives, the presence of the middle class varies considerably across U.S. metro areas. National policies aimed at improving the conditions of the middle class, and helping people rise to join it, will impact metropolitan areas differently. Therefore, the report concludes, interventions like the Earned Income Tax Credit or Medicaid can have important local implications.

Local economic factors can shape the size of the middle class. These include the types of industries and the jobs available, education and skills of workers, and access to transportation, housing and education, according to Brookings.

So where does the middle class live? And where don't they live?

Because salaries and cost of living vary geographically, for the purpose of the study, the report defines middle-class as U.S. households with incomes between about $25,000 and $120,000 in 2017, then adjusts them based on regional price parities and average household size.

The study examined data from 382 metro areas to determine the share of households that were low, middle, and high income.

Here are the 15 places with the largest share of middle class, and the 15 with the smallest share of middle class.

1. Jacksonville, N.C.
1. Jacksonville, N.C.

Places with the largest share of middle class:

1. Jacksonville, N.C.

  • Middle-class households: 73.7%
  • Low-income households: 16.1%
  • High-income households: 10.2%

Jacksonville is home to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River. The Brookings Institution report found that the metro areas with the largest middle classes are almost exclusively small and mid-sized, and some had a strong military presence. Military towns like Jacksonville, N.C., and Hanford, Calif., (No. 11 on this list) have uniformed service members and contractors who mostly earn middle incomes.

Above, a retired gunnery sergeant speaks at the Beirut Memorial in Jacksonville's Camp Lejeune in 2012.

Photo: Lance Cpl. Paul Peterson/Wikipedia

2. Homosassa Springs, Fla.
2. Homosassa Springs, Fla.

2. Homosassa Springs, Fla.

  • Middle-class households: 70.8%
  • Low-income households:17.9 %
  • High-income households: 11.2%

Photo: Shutterstock

3. Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
3. Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

3. Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

  • Middle-class households: 70.4%
  • Low-income households: 12.5%
  • High-income households: 17.1%

Photo: Wollertz / Shutterstock

4. Odessa, Texas
4. Odessa, Texas

4. Odessa, Texas

  • Middle-class households: 70.3%
  • Low-income households: 18.5%
  • High-income households: 11.2%

Photo: Shutterstock

5. East Stroudsburg, Pa.
5. East Stroudsburg, Pa.

5. East Stroudsburg, Pa.

  • Middle-class households: 70.3%
  • Low-income households: 13.3%
  • High-income households: 16.5%

Photo: Doug Kerr from Albany, NY, United States/Wikipedia

6. Yakima, Wa.
6. Yakima, Wa.

6. Yakima, Wa.

  • Middle-class households: 70.2%
  • Low-income households: 20.8%
  • High-income households: 9%

Pictured is Yakima's downtown farmers market.

Photo: Michelle Baumbach / Shutterstock

7. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah
7. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah

7. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah

  • Middle-class households: 70.1%
  • Low-income households: 11.8%
  • High-income households: 18.1%

Mormon communities (Logan, Ogden, and Provo, Utah) were prevalent on this list. They tend to have good-paying jobs and larger family sizes that place most of their households in the middle class, according to the Brookings report. The area is also home to the Hill Air Force Base.

Photo: Shutterstock

8. Logan, Utah-Idaho
8. Logan, Utah-Idaho

8. Logan, Utah-Idaho

  • Middle-class households: 70.1%
  • Low-income households: 18.7%
  • High-income households: 11.3%

Photo: Shutterstock

9. Idaho Falls, Idaho
9. Idaho Falls, Idaho

9. Idaho Falls, Idaho

  • Middle-class households: 69.7%
  • Low-income households: 16.3%
  • High-income households: 14%

Photo: B Brown / Shutterstock

10. Provo-Orem, Utah
10. Provo-Orem, Utah

10. Provo-Orem, Utah

  • Middle-class households: 69.6%
  • Low-income households: 14.5%
  • High-income households: 15.9%

Photo: Shutterstock

11. Hanford-Corcoran, Calif.
11. Hanford-Corcoran, Calif.

11. Hanford-Corcoran, Calif.

  • Middle-class households: 69.5%
  • Low-income households: 19.7%
  • High-income households: 10.8%
Photo: Bruce Fingerhood from Springfield, Oregon, US/Wikipedia

12. Sheboygan, Wis.
12. Sheboygan, Wis.

12. Sheboygan, Wis.

  • Middle-class households: 69.1%
  • Low-income households: 12.2%
  • High-income households: 18.7%

Manufacturing centers like Elkhart, Ind., Joplin, Mo., and Sheboygan, Wis. boast significant numbers of middle-paying jobs in that sector.

Photo: Shutterstock

13. Joplin, Mo.
13. Joplin, Mo.

13. Joplin, Mo.

  • Middle-class households: 69%
  • Low-income households: 18.7%
  • High-income households: 12.3%

Photo: Gorup de Besanez/Wikipedia

14. Elkhart-Goshen, Ind.
14. Elkhart-Goshen, Ind.

14. Elkhart-Goshen, Ind.

  • Middle-class households: 68.8%
  • Low-income households: 14.6%
  • High-income households: 16.6%

Photo: Publichall/Wikipedia

15. Bend-Redmond, Ore.
15. Bend-Redmond, Ore.

15. Bend-Redmond, Ore.

  • Middle-class households: 68.6%
  • Low-income households: 14.5%
  • High-income households: 16.9%

Photo: Shutterstock

368. New York-Newark-Jersey City, N.Y., N.J., Pa.
368. New York-Newark-Jersey City, N.Y., N.J., Pa.

These are the metro areas with the lowest percentage of middle class, out of 382 metro areas:

368. New York-Newark-Jersey City, N.Y., N.J., Pa.

  • Middle-class households: 55.2%
  • Low-income households: 22.6%
  • High-income households: 22.3%

Photo: Shutterstock

369. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pa.
369. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pa.

369. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pa.

  • Middle-class households: 55.1%
  • Low-income households: 21%
  • High-income households: 23.9%

The cobblestone streets and brick homes in Society Hill, an upscale neighborhood in Philadelphia.

Photo: Shutterstock

370. Grand Forks, N.D.-Mn.
370. Grand Forks, N.D.-Mn.

370. Grand Forks, N.D.-Minn.

  • Middle-class households: 55.1%
  • Low-income households: 24.1%
  • High-income households: 20.8%

Photo: Shutterstock

371. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas
371. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas

371. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas

  • Middle-class households: 55.1%
  • Low-income households: 34.9%
  • High-income households: 10%

Photo: Library of Congress

372. Champaigne-Urbana, Ill.
372. Champaigne-Urbana, Ill.

372. Champaigne-Urbana, Ill.

  • Middle-class households: 55%
  • Low-income households: 23.8%
  • High-income households: 21.2%

The area is home to the University of Illinois.

Photo: Jonathan Street / Shutterstock

373. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.
373. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.

373. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.

  • Middle-class households: 54.9%
  • Low-income households: 21.2%
  • High-income households: 23.9%

Photo: Shutterstock

374. Huntsville, Ala.
374. Huntsville, Ala.

374. Huntsville, Ala.

  • Middle-class households: 54.5%
  • Low-income households: 17.8%
  • High-income households: 27.7%

Photo: Shutterstock

375. Valdosta, Ga.
375. Valdosta, Ga.

375. Valdosta, Ga.

  • Middle-class households: 54.1%
  • Low-income households: 31.1%
  • High-income households: 14.8%

Photo: Rob Hainer / Shutterstock

376. Boulder, Co.
376. Boulder, Co.

376. Boulder, Co.

  • Middle-class households: 53.5%
  • Low-income households: 15.4%
  • High-income households: 31.1%

Photo: Shutterstock

377. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass., N.H.
377. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass., N.H.

377. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass., N.H.

  • Middle-class households: 52.5%
  • Low-income households: 17%
  • High-income households: 30.5%

Photo: Shutterstock

378. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.
378. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.

378. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.

  • Middle-class households: 52.5%
  • Low-income households: 17.2%
  • High-income households: 30.3%
Photo: Shutterstock

379. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.
379. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.

379. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.

  • Middle-class households: 52.5%
  • Low-income households: 17.2%
  • High-income households: 30.3%

Photo: Shutterstock

380. Ames, Iowa
380. Ames, Iowa

380. Ames, Iowa

  • Middle-class households: 52.1%
  • Low-income households: 20.9%
  • High-income households: 27.1%

Photo: EQRoy / Shutterstock

381. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
381. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.

381. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.

  • Middle-class households: 51.6%
  • Low-income households: 14.1%
  • High-income households: 34.4%

Photo: Shutterstock

382. Bloomington, Ill.
382. Bloomington, Ill.

382. Bloomington, Ill.

  • Middle-class households: 51.2%
  • Low-income households: 22.4%
  • High-income households: 26.4%

The Bloomington area comes in last, with the smallest share of middle class households at 51.2%. See the Brookings Institution's full report, or look up the share of households by income category in your community on the interactive dashboard.

Photo: William Wesen Appraiser/Wikipedia

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