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Florida’s shrinking middle class

A new study from the Pew Research Center finds the phenomenon of a shrinking middle class is a reality across Florida.

According to Pew, the percentage of families earning middle class incomes has fallen in nearly nine out of 10 major cities nationwide over the last several years.

That includes most population centers in Florida. Four metros in the Sunshine State make the list – Punta Gorda, Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, and Jacksonville.

Though the data varies from city to city, the study notes that in some areas, a decline in middle class incomes can sometimes correspond with an rise in upper class incomes (but not always). For example, in Punta Gorda, the middle class fell and the upper class rose, while in Orlando and Tampa, middle incomes are down as more people have tumbled into the lower class.

Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, middle incomes have declined. While more people in North Florida are making lower incomes, at the same time, there’s been an increase in top earners in the region.

So how is middle class defined? Roughly, the study considers “middle class” to be an income of $42,000 to $125,000 a year for a family of three (with cost-of-living adjustments for more expensive areas).

The widespread phenomenon, driven by rising income inequality, wage stagnation, and the loss of manufacturing jobs, is seen by some pundits as at least one contributing factor behind the rise of Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign (and, one could argue, Bernie Sanders‘ as well).

Written By

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at

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