Under Pressure: The Squeezed Middle Class

Published on April 10, 2019

Middle-class households feel left behind and have questioned the benefits of economic globalisation. In many OECD countries, middle incomes have grown less than the average and in some they have not grown at all. Technology has automated several middle-skilled jobs that used to be carried out by middle-class workers a few decades ago. The costs of some goods and services such as housing, which are essential for a middle-class lifestyle, have risen faster than earnings and overall inflation. Faced with this, middle classes have reduced their ability to save and in some cases have fallen into debt. This report sheds light on the multiple pressures on the middle class. It analyses the trends of middle-income households through dimensions such as labour occupation, consumption, wealth and debt, as well as perceptions and social attitudes. It also discusses policy initiatives to address the concerns raised by the middle class, by protecting middle-class living standards and financial security in the face of economic challenges.

This report has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union.


overview and main findings

Social media highlights:
  • Governments must act to help the struggling #MiddleClass @OECD_Social
  • In many countries there is a MiddleClass bias: more people think of themselves as part of the middle class than what their socio-economic conditions would suggest. Are you #MiddleClass? Find out here with our income calculator  @stescarpetta
  • Housing prices have increased three times faster than middle incomes. See how the #MiddleClass are being squeezed in OECD countries @stephancarcillo
  • Millennials are falling out of the middle class all over the world @CBSNews
  • So much of news is about the extremes of wealth and deprivation. Fascinating report from OECD on biggest group in the middle and their collapsing prosperity. Middle classes losing out to ultra-rich - BBC @seanjcoughlan

Video of presentation of the report at the UNDP Headquarters in New York 


country fact sheets: how does your country compare ?




 Squeezed middle class infographic



The OECD Income Distribution Database offers data on levels and trends in Gini coefficients before and after taxes and transfers, average and median household disposable incomes, relative poverty rates and poverty gaps, before and after taxes and transfers.

►  IDD database