As living expenses continue to rise nationwide, the traditional notion of the “middle class” is undergoing a transformation. The finance publication GOBankingRates recently delved into this shift, conducting a comprehensive analysis to determine the income thresholds defining middle-class status across various U.S. states.

Utilizing data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Surveys, GOBankingRates examined median household incomes for each state in 2012, 2017, and 2022. From these figures, they derived middle-class income ranges, defining this class as households earning between two-thirds to double the national median income annually. The analysis aimed to unveil the changes in middle-class income thresholds and ranges over a decade.

Pennsylvania’s Middle-Class Evolution since 2012

According to GOBankingRates’ report, households in the Keystone State could be considered middle class if their annual income fell within the range of $48,780 to $146,340 in 2022. Notably, both the upper and lower bounds of this range have expanded significantly since 2012, when middle-class households earned between $34,845 to $104,534 annually.

Over the span of a decade, Pennsylvania witnessed a 39.99% increase in its middle-class income threshold, positioning it in the middle of the pack nationally with the 25th-largest jump.

Amidst a Rising Cost of Living Nationwide

The analysis reflects a broader trend of increasing living costs across the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, expenses for various goods and services have surged, with transportation services experiencing the most significant uptick at approximately 11.2% over the past year.

A separate study by SmartAsset revealed that single working adults in Pennsylvania would require an annual income of at least $91,312 to achieve comfortable living standards. For families with two children, this figure rises substantially to $230,464 annually.

National Comparisons and Regional Disparities

The analysis highlighted substantial variations in the evolution of middle-class income thresholds across states. Oregon saw the most significant shift, with its middle-class household income range expanding by 53.15% over the past decade. In contrast, Alaska experienced the least change, with a 23.53% increase in its middle-class threshold.

From the lowest starting point in Mississippi to the highest requirement in Maryland, the definition of middle class varies widely across the country. These disparities reflect diverse economic landscapes and regional cost-of-living dynamics.

Ultimately, the evolving concept of the middle class underscores broader societal changes, including rising housing costs, shifting employment trends, and escalating expenses for essential services like education and healthcare.