The pandemic brought unusually large and novel changes to the US labor market. We investigate how the pandemic affected workers of different ages, racial or ethnic backgrounds, and gender and the degree to which these effects have persisted after a year of recovery.
We analyze how median real incomes in the United States have changed since 1980 under a definition of the middle class that adjusts for changes in demographics. We find that failing to adjust for demographic shifts in the population relating to age, race, and education can indicate a more positive outlook than is truly the case. We also find that the real median incomes of today’s middle class are somewhat higher than they used to be, particularly for households headed by two adults. We find, as in prior research, that prices for housing, healthcare, and education have risen more than middle-class incomes, while prices for transportation, food, and recreation have risen less than middle-class incomes.