Hispanics have experienced a small increase in income status, according to a report released Wednesday by Pew Research Center. However, after more than four decades as the nation's economic majority, the middle class as a whole is losing ground and is now matched by the upper and lower economic tiers.
In 2014, almost half - 49 percent - of the nation's aggregate income went to upper-income households and 43 percent went to middle-income households. By contrast, in 1970 those numbers were 29 percent and 62 percent.
At a time when some of the presidential candidates are putting the middle class at the heart of their economic message ahead of the 2016 election, the report points out the discussion has pushed politicians to promote policies that might return the middle class to greater prosperity, such as addressing income inequality or the minimum wage.
Since 2001, Hispanics have experienced a small increase in income status, while their share in the lower-income tier was flat.
Hispanic adults have slipped down the income ladder since 1971, driven by an increase from 34 percent to 43 percent in their lower-income share. Pew Research Center says this is likely due to the rising share of immigrants in the Hispanic adult population, from 29 percent in 1970 to 49 percent in 2015. Economically, Hispanic immigrants trail behind U.S.-born Hispanics.
Despite this, in the short term foreign-born Latino adults have sustained increases in income status since 2001. One factor behind this short-term trend for Hispanic adults, says Pew Research Center, could be the slowdown in immigration from Mexico, especially of unauthorized immigrants, who tend to be less educated.
The report says that white and Asian adults are more likely to be in the upper-income tier than black and Hispanic adults, and less likely to be in the lower-income tier. While the income status of Asians ticked down due to slightly more growth in the lower-income tier than the upper-income tier from 2001 to 2015, Asians have experienced a rise in income status since 1991, the first year for which data have become available.
At a time that the country is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, so has the middle class. Hispanics are now 15 percent of U.S.middle-income adults in 2015; up from 11 percent in 1971.