Middle class' share of the nation's income is shrinking

By:  Marisol Bello and Paul Overberg

For Reno car salesman Tim Ticknor, the squeeze on his middle-class existence gradually has turned into a chokehold.

In 2005, he was making more than $90,000 a year selling used cars to people who had moved to the Southwest for its booming economy. It was an income that allowed him to rent a townhouse with his wife and daughter in a gated community.

Over the next six years, as the economy slowed, so did his income. First, it dropped to $70,000, then after a time it fell to $30,000.

The car dealership where Ticknor last worked, making $90,000 a year, is bankrupt, and he is hustling as a day laborer for a temp agency.

Today, the car dealership where Ticknor last worked is bankrupt, and he is hustling as a day laborer for a temp agency. He and his family had to move into his mother-in-law's mobile home because they couldn't afford to pay rent.

Ticknor's story reflects how, across the nation, the middle class' share of the nation's income is shrinking. Reno, which has among the highest rates of unemployment and foreclosures in the United States, is a stark example: The share of income in the metro area that was collected by the middle class fell from 49.8% in 2006 to 45.8% in 2010, the year after the 18-month recession ended.

A USA TODAY analysis of Census data found the Reno area was among 150 nationwide where the share of income going to the middle class - generally made up of households that make $20,700 to $99,900 a year - shrank from 2006 to 2010. Metro areas where the middle class' share of income dropped outnumbered those where it grew by more than 2-to-1.

"The lower share of income is a way of saying income inequality is growing in the middle," says Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center, who has studied the shift. "The vast middle has less of the pie than it had before."

Continue reading on the USA Today website.