Middle class Americans now comprise less than half, or 49.9%, of the nation's population, down from 61% in 1971, according to a new Pew Research Center report. For Pew, . In 2014, that ranged from $41,900 to $125,600 for a three-person household.
For decades, . A healthy middle class kept America strong, experts and politicians said.
But more recently, . Presidential candidates on both sides of the political aisle are campaigning on ways to bolster the nation's middle class and increase opportunities to climb the economic ladder.
"The ", said Rakesh Kochhar, associate director of research at Pew. Not only are more Americans shifting into the upper and lower classes, but they are moving into the higher range of the upper class and the lower range of the lower class.
"This ", he said.
"There are fewer opportunities that place people in the middle of the income distribution," Kochhar said.
One silver lining, however, . The ranks of the upper class are growing faster, according to Pew's research.