Views of the Middle from Across America

Thursday, December 19, 2013

This week, the U.S. Census Bureau released new data on median household income levels for every community across America.

Oftentimes, towns and cities are highly stratified areas, where household incomes differ by tens of thousands of dollars despite only being separated by a few blocks. The team at WNYC used the data to create an interactive map that catalogues these discrepancies. 

To help us understand these numbers and put a face to the data, The Takeaway set out to find ordinary "median earners" from different Census tracts around the county—folks whose household income matches the median for their neighborhoods.  

Javes Cruthird of Pompano Beach, Florida; Tim Wood of Chatham, Massachusetts; Margaret McGlynn of Dickinson, North Dakota; and Tanya Lundberg of Northville, Michigan, join The Takeaway to describe what it's like to live in the middle.

When looking at your community, where do you fit in? Type in your city or town and state in the map below to find out.



Javes Cruthird, Tanya Lundberg, Margaret McGlynn and Tim Wood

Produced by:

James Born, Ellen Frankman, Alex Kapelman and Mythili Rao


T.J. Raphael

Comments [8]

The myth of the welfare state, fully bought by the Tea Party (which slanders the Occupy Movement as Communists and anarchists and moochers) is bearing the brunt of the blame for the declining middle class. We have ignorant Americans buying the fear-mongering and supporting policies which work to their manifest disadvantage, to wit: favoring the richest Americans and fostering growing income inequality.

Meanwhile, the recipient of much actual welfare, the military and military industrial complex, receive so much more than is necessary to guarantee our security. Caveat: The money is targeted at toys and operations and NOT to taking care of the troops who serve. There is NO justification for US troops in South Korea and little justification for US troops in Japan. Our country, explicitly founded on anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism, is now mired in these unworkable and expensive (in terms of blood and treasure) fantasies. It is tragic that we have departed so far from our principles. Tragic for us and tragic for the people upon whom we inflict these immoral fantasies. And the only understanding we can muster for the blowback is the ignorant, arrogant and pathetic "They hate us for our freedoms."

Dec. 19 2013 05:14 PM
Anne Lyon from Bordentown, NJ

My husband and I fall just above the median for our town. We live in a very modest home, drive older vehicles and are careful about how we spend our money. While we don't feel "poor" by long shot, we do feel like we live at a lower level than many of our friends and neighbors.

Dec. 19 2013 04:42 PM
homebuilding from OK

Misunderstandings regarding USA health insurance abound !

To the lady who was on John's four person panel--she didn't know the value of her husband's coverage, and '...didn't worry about it.'

Employer covered family health care plans can easily exceed $1,000 per month. That money ISN'T in your pay packet, folks ! It's real money--it's part of your salary that goes right to the medical and insurance system. And the amount goes up every year--faster than inflation for everything else--LONG BEFORE OBAMACARE

The central feature of ObamaCare and RomneyCare in to move more people onto medical insurance with as many efforts, as possible, to introduce some cost control, and to make primary and preventive care far more accessible.

Both the remaining lack of understanding (the significant, historical negatives of our 'system') and the 'hatred of all things, Obama, totally mystifies me.

The comments of the woman who had lived abroad only served to point out how very alone the USA is in the world, with an incredibly expensive, decrepit system

Dec. 19 2013 02:33 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

These are the good years...I follow news programs like "The Takeaway," closely, and listen to what the economists predict for the future.
I will keep my two jobs and look for a third.
My birthstone is grind.

Dec. 19 2013 02:08 PM
Chris from Dallas TX

My husband & I are 43, with 2 children. I'm an artist & he worked for a big corporation. Over the 15 years he worked for them, he continually advanced his career, received raises, but we haven't had much of a lifestyle change. We stay on a budget, rarely vacation, send our kids to public schools, have a modest home, yet we can just keep up with the day to day. It's frustrating that we have no college savings and we have to be so careful with anything extra, with a good salary. With years of planning, my husband finally quit the company this summer and we started a small business. We really thought, "What do we have to lose?" We certainly weren't getting anywhere wildly different with the stable corporate job.

Dec. 19 2013 12:49 PM
Ellen from San Antonio, Texas

I am a 64 y/o registered nurse with a master's degree, recently laid off from a clinical position due to a work-related back injury in Texas, which does not require workers comp. Since recovery, I have not found a "sedentary" position, and my federally based unemployment expires Dec. 28. A bleak future.
At the time of my layoff in 2013, I ran an inflation calculator on my original (1979) wage and my 2013 wage. The current was about 6% LESS in real value than my 1979 wage.

Dec. 19 2013 12:28 PM
Jennifer Drouin from New York


I think you bring in some very valid points. The question is then how do we get minimum wage and salaries which have not kept up with inflation to make up for back inflation and current and continuing inflation? Legislation is the only way, but lobbyist will be lining up to fight against this. The current discussion about raising minimum wage for hourly workers and how it will cost a nominal increase for products because costs will be carried over to the consumer but this does not need to be the only way. Salaries for those making over a million should be frozen while those making 100,000 or less should be raised. Again legislation would need to be put in place perhaps a win win solution with something along the lines that company heads cannot make more than 10x what its lowest employee is paid (making sure of course that it is a living wage and salary not needing dependence on government aid such as heat assistance, rental assistance or food assistance). If such legislation were passed then if the higher ups in company wanted a higher salary they would need to raise everyone's salary and wage all the way down the line. Companies such as Walmart, Target and the like should be ashamed that they don't pay their employees and living wage so they need not be dependent on rental assistance, heating assistance and food assistance. We allow this through our legislation or lack of legislation. We need to stop subsidizing these multimillion dollar corporations.

Dec. 19 2013 12:08 PM
Steve Auerbach from New York

In addition to the important issues of inequality (focus on the top 1% or 0.1%)
and poverty (focus on bottom 10-20%), the relatively ignored issue has been economic INSECURITY. The middle 80-90% of the American population whose income and household wealth has stagnated since the early 1970s, who are a paycheck away from losing it and don't have the job security to know if that paycheck will be there next monthnor next year, who can't afford to not have their kids go into longterm debt to pay for college, whose retirement benefits have gone from defined benefit to defined contribution with no security of being there. All of the above are related to the same financialization of everything, deregulation, changes in taxes and the rest of the wall street/corporate/plutocratic grab since the early 1970s that is part of the inequality meme. But attention to insecurity as the framework for thinking about it is I believe a better explanation for the response by the American people (e.g., to the extent that the tea party is white middle class insecurity based populism on the right and the occupy movement has any traction from the left, to the rise, hopefully, of liberal economic populism as exemplified by Elizabeth Warren). I suggest Jacob Hackers books Great Risk Shift and Winner Take All Politics.

Dec. 19 2013 09:38 AM

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