Being middle-class often seems as American as apple pie or baseball. Even though the middle class has technically shrunk since the financial crisis, Americans are still more likely to identify as middle class than any other stratum, whether they make $20,000 or $200,000 a year. In 2012, nearly half of Americans identified as middle class, according to Pew Research Center.

But what does middle class rightly mean? It turns out that the concept varies a lot depending on where you live, as Quoctrung Bui of NPR's Planet Money found out when he looked at families in the middle of the income distribution in 30 of America's most populous cities (mostly excluding the suburbs).


For those 30 cities as a whole, the median family makes around $64,000, according to data in the 2013 American Community Survey, which looks at households of two people or more who are related by blood or marriage. But in Detroit and Cleveland, the median family is making around $30,000, while in San Francisco and Seattle, the total is roughly $100,000. San Jose ranks at the very top; as Bui notes, 13 percent of families around San Jose (which includes the heart of Silicon Valley) have annual incomes of $250,000 or more.

Republished courtesy of Planet Money.

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