U. of I. Study Identifies Illinois' Shrinking Middle Class

A new report from a University of Illinois expert in urban development and local economies found that the share of middle-income households in the state of Illinois has fallen steadily from nearly 60 percent in 1970 to below 50 percent in the current, post-Great Recession period.

The large middle class in Illinois that emerged during the middle of the 20th century has experienced a consistent but multifaceted squeeze since roughly 1980, with middle-class incomes stagnating relative to higher incomes, according Robert Habansto Robert Habans, a postdoctoral research associate in the School of Labor and Employment Relations at Illinois.

“It’s all about giving people opportunities to jump from low-wage work to something that pays better, because conventional pathways to middle-class income levels have evaporated for many workers,” Habans said.

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