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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Debate Over the Disappearing Middle


The "plight of the middle-class," as it is subjected to forces transforming the U.S. economy as a whole in recent years, has become a major topic of interest among economists, political analysts, and policy makers. Understanding the debate, and even engaging in efforts to resolve it, should also be of interest to planners-particularly those who seek to plan for economic development. The debate over the disappearing middle is intertwined with two other major economic debates: that of the U.S.'s industrial decline, and that of the effects of changing demographics, especially in regards to the baby boom generation. The review of literature and research which follows is an attempt not only to identify the major issues of the alleged disappearing middle (which has also been referred to as the "declining" middle, the "shrinking" middle, and the "doomed" middle), but to show how these issues are inextricably linked with those of industrial decline and changing demographics in the U.S.

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