NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The middle class is moving forward financially, but still can't get back to square one in the seven-plus years since the economy suffered its worst battering since the Great Depression, and analysis from the Federal Reserve saying the middle class had largely recovered from the Great Recession may have been premature.
At least, that's the view from researchers at Ohio State University.
Instead of "catching up" in key household economic areas such as home values, investment portfolios and household debt, as the Fed indicated had already occurred, the Ohio State study says Americans are still down 14% in household income since 2006, just before the economy turned south.
The OSU study also shows the middle class absorbed the "biggest hit" from the downturn.
That outlook differs substantially from the federal government's assessment of household income in current terms, which claimed household income "was the highest in nominal terms since 1945."
But the Federal Reserve didn't cover all the bases in a few critical areas, most notably in a "failure" to adjust for inflation and population growth; the inclusion of stock market accounts held by foreign investors (which should not have been included in the Fed's assessment data, the OSU report says) and it included nonprofit wealth, when only household income should have been included (again, according to OSU researchers).
That led to a more optimistic economic forecast than reality holds, says Randy Olsen, report co-author and an economics professor at the university.