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What’s Behind the Ballooning Upper Middle Class? Education

The upper middle class, defined using incomes adjusted for inflation and family size, expanded from 12.9 percent of the U.S. population in 1979 to 29.4 percent in 2014, an Urban Institute report released in June found. Together, the upper middle class and the rich had 30 percent of income in 1979 and 63 percent in 2014. In the same period, the middle class’s share of income declined from 46 percent to 26 percent.

In addition to showing that the richest 1 percent of Americans aren’t the only ones who have gotten richer, the study adds evidence to the link between income and education. Fifty-eight percent of the upper middle class had four-year college degrees in 2014, up from 26 percent in 1979. About 32 percent of the U.S. population had four-year degrees in 2014.