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Pew Research Center

Pew Research Center


The Pew Research Center came out with a study showing the American middle class is shrinking. This is true in many metropolitan areas, including Rochester.

Between 2000 and 2014, the Rochester region’s share of lower income people went up from 22.2 to 25.2 percent. The share of middle income people went down from 59.6 to 56.7. The share of upper income people remained the same, down only .2 percent to 18 percent.

Here is how middle class is defined, nationally:




In Rochester, as in most Rust Belt cities, middle income people account for a majority. Income inequality is not as pervasive as it is in some major cities.

When you look at household income, you see big losses for Rochester individuals and families. These dollar figures are adjusted for 2014. The median household income for middle class people was $8,000 more in 1999. The median household income for everyone is down nearly $10,000.



1999 Median 2014 Median
All Lower Middle Upper All Lower Middle Upper
72,711 26,996 79,587 178,250 63,220 26,016 71,278 159,074


The losses in Rochester were worse compared to New York State as a whole:


1999 2014
All Lower Middle Upper All Lower Middle Upper
60,868 23,974 76,377 193,166 59,844 21,834 73,227 175,267


Rochester is not alone. Pew finds:

The decline in household incomes at the national level reflected nearly universal losses across U.S. metropolitan areas. Middle-income households lost ground financially in 222 of 229 metropolitan areas from 1999 to 2014. Meanwhile, the median income of lower-income households slipped in 221 metropolitan areas and the median for upper-income households fell in 215 areas.

The trends in income point to economic pressures on the middle class, including in areas where it still holds a large share of the population.

Communications Bureau, City of Rochester

In Monroe County, the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer.

The census compares household income by dividing the total number of households by five. The bottom fifth earns the least amount of money and the top fifth earns the most. According to data released this week, in Monroe County:

– The bottom fifth of households earned an average of $10,379, down $319 (3 percent) from 2010 and down $988 (9 percent) from 2008.

– The top fifth had an average household income of $165,573 in 2011, up $2,471 (1.5 percent) from 2010 and up $5,266 (3 percent) from 2008.

– The top 5 percent of earners made an average of $283,603, up $2,622 (1 percent) from 2010 and up $15,260 (6 percent) from 2008.

– The middle fifth earned an average of $50,084 in 2011, up $621 (1 percent) from 2010, but down $1,733 (3 percent) from 2008.

– The top fifth of earners took in 49 percent of all household income. The top 5 percent took in 21 percent of all household income. The poorest fifth of households took in 3 percent of all household income.

– The top fifth of earners made 16 times more money than the bottom fifth in 2011, up from 15 times in 2010 and 14 times in 2008.

There’s no denying income inequality is real in Monroe County.  Rochester has the 7th highest child poverty rate in the nation at 54 percent.

There have always been two Rochesters. The haves and the have-nots. Former Mayor Bob Duffy laid out his vision for “One City” in his 2006 inaugural address:

Let us look at what tends to divide us – politics – race -religion – geography. We need to commit to work to break down those barriers. Our future depends upon our sense of unity of purpose. We must look at our community as family. And when times are tough, families pull together and draw upon each other’s strengths. We are a family and now is the time to show it.

Today I ask you to look in the mirror – to ask yourself each day what did I do today to improve Rochester – and what can I do tomorrow to have a positive influence for a child – for your neighborhood and for our community.

Then, look out the window – and find that opportunity. Every child in our city is an opportunity. Every street in our city is an opportunity. And every job you can offer to someone offers opportunity.

We are a community of great wealth and great poverty. Our future success depends on our ability to connect our great assets with our greatest needs. We are two cities today. In the future, we have to work and commit to be one. One city.

Links of the Day:

– A new study knocks Rochester for having the lowest graduation rate of black males in the country.

– The Susan B. Anthony House would like more Rochesterians to visit.

– Cuomo’s press office made reporters sign waivers before going on a tour of the Adirondacks.

– Xerox is on a hiring spree in Colorado, where an economic development official says $10-an-hour jobs are better than nothing.