Is America Going Backwards?

( – The United States seems to be ever-more divided and fractured with each passing week. People are at odds over school curriculums, government leadership, inflation, foreign wars and so many other social and economic issues. 

At the same time obesity is getting higher and polling suggests citizens are less hopeful about the future than perhaps ever before. With all that it should not be a very big surprise to find out the middle class is doing worse now by most metrics than it was 20 years ago.

The people often referred to as the ‘forgotten class,’ especially by Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential run to the White House, are suffering most. When looking at the same group during the 1990’s and comparing it to the present day we see they have less wealth, poorer health and less upward mobility possibilities. A recent study done by the “Research Network on Aging Society” found that as people are turning 50 their life expectancy has gone down from two decades ago. The trend is worse for women than men. The study was conducted across racial lines and was focused on households generating between $38,000 to $114,000. 

They found that although the number of smokers has been cut in half, the health of the people has not increased as one might expect. In fact, people are reporting more ailments and choric pain than they did 20 years ago. Obesity increased at about the same rate among the upper-middle and lower-middle classes with women in both classes being about equal, but obese upper-middle class men are outpacing their lower-middle class counterparts.    

Researchers found the starkest difference was in economic prosperity. From 1994 through 2018, the upper-middle class saw their wealth increase about 13% whereas the lower-middle class had virtually no increase at all in all that time. The home-ownership gap between the groups was about 10% in the mid-90’s and has roughly tripled today. The lower-middle class it seems can generally expect to spend a longer time with chronic health issues than those of 20 years ago, and with less money to see them through.

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