Pew Research shows shrinking middle class - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Pew Research shows shrinking middle class

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In the past decade, every income group in America has seen income decline. But, it is the middle income tier that really took a hit.

It is described by the Pew Research Center as a "lost decade for economic well being".

The fact is, the middle class has shrunk.

On Thursday, Pew Research Center shows that 85% of middle class Americans say it is more difficult to maintain their standard of living.

32-year-old Philip Oswald is married, with three children. He works as a music director at Mountaintop Community Church.

In recent years, Oswald's family finds itself working to stay in the middle class tier.

"I used to spend a lot more than I do now, I used to eat out everyday for lunch, now I eat at home when I can and take any opportunity I can to save money," Oswald says. "We used to spend money as if it was guaranteed every week, month to month. We just kind of lived as if we're going to get paid and money is going to come in."

Oswald says he and his family made sacrifices that impact their overall quality of life.

"We used to have two new cars and a motorcycle, now we have one old car with a lot of mileage," Oswald says. "My wife, instead of putting our children in daycare will stay home with them so we can save money that way."

The Oswald family is part of a growing demographic of middle class families who've made changes to meet their needs, not their wants.

Larry Harper, assistant professor at Samford University's Brock School of Business says the middle class is defined by a family of four that makes roughly $50,000 a year.

"They find themselves a little despondent because their expectations had to change and today, the expectation is to meet your bills, pay everything on time," Harper explains. "Now, the opportunities to move from lower to middle to upper income brackets, those opportunities certainly have declined."

Harper says, while sacrifices are being made and the quality of life is changing, the class remains the same.

"I don't think that one would say today the middle class even under today's circumstances are struggling to make ends meet," says Harper.

Oswald sees the point Harper makes. He says he is thankful for the life his family has.

"Even in my worse condition, I'm still way better off than so many people," Oswald says. "I don't ever want to complain about anything. Because I do feel very blessed."

Pew Research Center asked middle class Americans who they blamed for the circumstances.

There is plenty of blame to go around. First and foremost, Congress. They also blame banks and corporations.

Both the Bush administration and the Obama administration are also held responsible.