Job losses, wage cuts and underemployment during the recession have taken a very specific toll on the nation’s middle class.
According to a December report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the middle class contracted in every state between 2000 and 2013.
“The saying has been, for many years, that this generation may be the first generation that does not have a greater standard of living than their parents,” Tim Evans, vice president of economic development at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said.
Pew defines the middle class as households earning between 67 percent and 200 percent of the median income level in each state.
These parameters would mean that Georgians earning between $31,886 and $95,658 make up the middle class.
The median income level in Georgia in 2013 was $47,829, according to census figures, which ranks 33rd among all states.
That’s down from $58,473 in 2000.
Therefore, the share of households in Georgia’s middle class in fell to 44.2 percent in 2013 from 49 percent in 2000.
The loss of real income is compounded with rising living costs, as well as new everyday costs that didn’t really exist in 2000: cellphones and in-home Internet service are all but necessities now. And the lack of affordable housing has become a challenge for many communities.
“There’s definitely a connection between housing costs and availability and the workforce,” Evans said.
But while the statistics reveal the consequences of the recession, “It doesn’t tell the whole story,” Evans said.
For example, though income adjusted for inflation has fallen, and is problematic, society also benefits from better public infrastructure, health care and government support programs.
Low fuel prices also help the cause, Evans added. And wages are showing signs of trickling back up, while professionals who lost their jobs during the recession and began working lower-paying gigs are now finally getting back to their industry of expertise.
“Expenses are very different for us now, and measuring quality of life gets to be a very tricky thing,” Evans said.