Middle class in PA? You should make that much money

How much does a Pennsylvania household need to earn to be considered middle class? Here’s a look at what one analysis found.

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Living a comfortable life is becoming increasingly expensive across the country, and the definition of the so-called “middle class” is changing.

Exactly how much does a household need to earn today to meet middle-class status? That question was the recent focus of the financial publication GOBankingRates, which produced a data-driven report analyzing changes in middle-class income thresholds and ranges over a ten-year period for every U.S. state.

In its analysis, GOBankingRates scoured the US Census Bureau’s American Community Surveys and looked up each state’s median household incomes for 2012, 2017 and 2022. Once these median household incomes were isolated, the publication found middle-class income ranges for each year, defining that class as those whose annual household income was two-thirds, which was double the national median income. From there, GOBankingRates ultimately found changes over a decade in the income ranges and thresholds of the middle class.

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Here’s what you need to know about the publication’s findings for Pennsylvania and beyond.

How has Pennsylvania’s middle class changed since 2012?

Here in the Keystone State, households can qualify as middle class by earning between $48,780 and $146,340 per year, according to the GOBankingRates report. Both the upper and lower end of that range have expanded significantly since 2012, when a middle-class household in Pennsylvania could rake in between $34,845 and $104,534.

The 10-year change in Pennsylvania’s middle-class income threshold rose 39.99% over that period, putting it in the middle of the country for the 25th largest increase, says GOBankingRates.

Overall, life in the US has become more expensive in recent years.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, the cost of all items increased about 3.4% over the past year through April 2024. Overall food prices rose 2.2% on the year, while shelter (up 5.5%) Energy services (+3.6%) and petrol (+1.2%) also recorded increases. No category measured by the agency saw a greater increase in average costs than transportation services, which rose about 11.2% over the past 12 months.

A recent and separate analysis from financial company SmartAsset calculated the basic cost of living for single working adults and families with two parents and two children in the US. According to that study, a single working adult in Pennsylvania should earn at least $91,312. per year to live comfortably. That figure rises to $230,464 for Keystone State families with two children.

How does the rest of the country compare?

No state saw a bigger shift in its definition of middle class than Oregon, which saw a 53.15% ten-year change in the income range of its middle class households. According to GOBankingRates’ analysis, the middle class household income in the Beaver State will be between $51,088 and $153,264 in 2022 – significantly higher than in 2012, when between $33,357 and $100,072 would qualify as middle class.

Meanwhile, the definition of middle class has changed least in Alaska, where the middle class threshold increased by just 23.53% between 2012 and 2022. As of 2022, Alaska households had to earn between $57,580 and $172,740 to qualify as middle class.

Mississippi offered the lowest starting point for its middle class, which as of 2022 ranged between $35,323 and $105,970. On the other hand, Maryland needed a household income of $65,641 to be considered middle class, the highest in the country that year.

Here’s a full breakdown of the 10-year change in income requirements for middle-class households for all 50 states, plus their middle-class income ranges as of 2022:

  1. Oregon – $51,088 to $153,264 in 2022, an increase of 53.15% compared to 2012
  2. Washington – $60,217 to $180,650, up 52.13%
  3. Colorado – $58,399 to $175,196, an increase of 50.4%
  4. California – $61,270 to $183,810, an increase of 49.68%
  5. Idaho – $46,809 to $140,428, an increase of 49.34%
  6. Utah – $57,889 to $173,666, up 49.29%
  7. Montana – $44,227 to $132,682, an increase of 45.95%
  8. Tennessee – $42,690 to $128,070, up 45.07%
  9. Rhode Island – $54,247 to $162,740, up 45.04%
  10. Massachusetts – $64,337 to $193,010, an increase of 44.78%

In an accompanying story, GOBankingRates interviewed experts and discussed some of the elements behind the ever-changing definition of “middle class” in the US. Some contributing factors include higher housing costs, lower homeownership rates, mounting debt, an increasing reliance on “gig” economic opportunities, and higher costs for education and health care needs.

You can read the full GOBankingRates study at Additional reports on the site explore the methodology behind the analysis and other assessments.

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Matt is a 2022 graduate of Penn State. Before joining the Center Daily Times, he was editor-in-chief of Onward State and general assignment reporter at
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