Two-Thirds of Middle-Class Americans Are Struggling Financially and ‘Gasping for Air’

Two-Thirds of Middle-Class Americans Are Struggling Financially and ‘Gasping for Air’

In a startling revelation, recent polls and economic data suggest that many middle-class Americans struggle financially, with many finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.

Fueled by persistent inflation and high interest rates, the cost-of-living crisis has left nearly two-thirds of middle-income households “gasping for air” as they navigate the challenges of an uncertain economic landscape.

The findings, published by the National True Cost of Living Coalition, paint a sobering picture of the financial strain experienced by middle-class families across the United States.

Despite positive economic indicators, such as misleading reports of solid job growth and low unemployment rates, many Americans face mounting financial pressure and a growing sense of unease about their prospects.

Poll Reveals 65% of Middle-Class Americans Face Financial Hardship.

A recent National True Cost of Living Coalition poll has highlighted middle-class Americans’ financial struggles. The poll defines middle-class income as being 200% above the national poverty line, which equates to approximately $62,300 for a family of four.

The findings reveal that 65% of respondents, spanning various education levels, occupations, and geographic areas, are experiencing financial hardship.

The poll’s diverse respondent demographics underscore the widespread nature of these financial struggles. The financial strain is felt across the board, from high school graduates to those holding advanced degrees and from blue-collar workers to white-collar professionals.

The inclusion of participants from both rural and urban areas further highlights the pervasive nature of this issue.

Inability to Save for the Future Worries Many Despite Affording Basics

While many middle-class Americans report being able to afford basic expenses, such as housing, food, and utilities, they express significant concern over their inability to save for the future.

The poll reveals that 40% of Americans can’t plan financially beyond their next paycheck, while an alarming 46% have less than $500 saved for emergencies.

This lack of financial cushion leaves middle-class households vulnerable to unexpected expenses and economic shocks. The long-term implications of this inability to save are profound, as it hinders their ability to invest in their future through education, homeownership, or retirement planning.

Middle-class Americans have little room for error and face a precarious financial future without adequate savings.

Economic Pressures Squeeze Middle Class Amid Positive Overall Indicators

The US economy appears to be thriving, with reported job growth and low unemployment rates. However, if you look deeper into the recent jobs report, in the past year, 1.2 million full-time jobs have been lost, replaced by 1.5 million part-time jobs.

The number of people holding multiple jobs also increased by 634,000 in one year. The number of people working multiple jobs in the US hit a near-record of 8.4 million in May 2024. Multiple jobholders account for 5.2% of civilian employment.

The positive overall indicators mask the financial pressures squeezing the middle class. High interest rates, high real estate costs, taxes, and persistent inflation have created a challenging economic environment for many households.

This divergence between the public’s perception of their financial struggles and the seemingly positive economic data has been a topic of much discussion.

While the economy may look healthy on paper, the lived experiences of middle-class Americans tell a different story. The financial strain households feel nationwide underscores the need for a more nuanced understanding of economic well-being.

Persistent Inflation and High Interest Rates Exacerbate Long-Term Income Lag

A report by the Pew Research Center reveals that middle-class income growth has lagged behind that of the upper class since 1970. This long-term trend has been exacerbated by the current cost-of-living crisis, driven by persistent inflation and high interest rates.

The prices of essential goods and services have skyrocketed since early 2021. For example, grocery prices have risen by more than 21%, while shelter costs have increased by 18.37%. Energy prices have also soared, a staggering 38.4% increase over the same period.

These rising costs have put immense pressure on middle-class budgets, making it increasingly difficult for families to make ends meet.

Lower-Income Households Hit Hardest by Rising Costs of Necessities

While the financial strain is felt across the middle class, lower-income households are particularly vulnerable to the rising costs of necessities. These households often have to allocate a significant portion of their limited income to essential expenses, leaving little room for savings or discretionary spending.

To put this in perspective, the typical US household needed to pay $227 more monthly in March 2023 to purchase the same goods and services as the previous year. When looking at a two-year timeframe, Americans are spending an average of $784 more per month, and when compared to three years ago, that figure jumps to a staggering $1,069.

These increased costs disproportionately impact lower-income households, who have limited flexibility in adjusting their budgets.

Americans Dip Into Savings, Rely More on Credit Cards to Cover Expenses

To cope with the increased cost of everyday expenses, many Americans are turning to their savings and relying more heavily on credit cards. As the prices of essentials continue to rise, households find it increasingly difficult to make ends meet without dipping into their financial reserves or taking on additional debt.

The long-term consequences of these coping mechanisms are concerning. Depleted savings leave households vulnerable to financial emergencies, while increased credit card debt can lead to a cycle of high-interest payments and economic stress.

As more Americans rely on these stopgap measures to cover basic expenses, the overall financial health of the middle class is put at risk.

Middle-Class Spending Pullback Impacts Retailers and Restaurants

The financial strain on middle-class households has ripple effects throughout the economy, particularly in the retail and restaurant sectors. As consumers tighten their budgets, businesses relying on middle-class spending feel the pinch.

Retailers such as Target and Kohl’s, known for their middle-class customer base, have reported declining sales and weaker financial results. Fast-food restaurants, another staple for middle-income consumers, resort to discounts and promotions to attract increasingly price-conscious diners.

These trends highlight the broader economic implications of reduced middle-class spending as businesses struggle to adapt to changing consumer behaviors.

Gap Narrows Between Public Recession Fears and Cooling Economic Data

While the overall economy has shown resilience in the face of inflationary pressures, recent data suggests a cooling trend. Job growth has slowed, manufacturing activity has contracted, and job openings have decreased. These indicators point to a potential narrowing of the gap between public recession fears and official economic data.

As the economy shows signs of slowing down, middle-class Americans may find some relief from the intense financial pressures they have been facing. However, the long-term impact of the pandemic, inflation, and high interest rates on household finances will likely continue to be felt for some time.

Policymakers and employers must closely monitor these trends to ensure the middle class is not left behind in a recession.

Financial Struggles of the Middle Class Could Significantly Impact Upcoming Election

The financial struggles middle-class Americans face have far-reaching implications, not just for the economy but also for the political landscape. As the 2024 election approaches, the economic well-being of the middle class is likely to be a vital issue on voters’ minds.

Candidates who can effectively address the concerns of middle-class voters and propose policies to alleviate their financial strain may have a significant advantage at the ballot box.

The party that can convince voters that it has solutions to improve the economic security of middle-income households could see its support surge.

However, failure to adequately address these economic challenges could lead to further disillusionment and frustration among middle-class voters. The outcome of the upcoming election may hinge on which candidate or party can best demonstrate their commitment to supporting the financial well-being of middle-class Americans.


Two-thirds of middle-class Americans struggle financially, and this pressing concern demands attention from policymakers, business leaders, and politicians hoping to be elected.

As households grapple with the impact of persistent inflation, high interest rates, and a lagging economic recovery, steps must be taken to support the financial security and well-being of the middle class.

By addressing these challenges head-on, we can work towards building a more equitable and prosperous future for all Americans.[1] [2] [3]