Recovery from the recession started nearly four years ago, and the housing sector is still feeling the downturn's impact. Instead of "movin' on up," many Americans have been forced to downsize in terms of where they live.
The consequences could be severe, according to the Congressional Budget Office, if Congress can't find a way to keep tax cuts from expiring and to keep automatic spending cuts from taking effect in January.
The share of the nation's income earned by the middle class has fallen to its lowest level in recent decades. It's been surpassed by affluent earners as median wages stagnate and wealth concentrates at the top in a relatively weak economy.
Variables such as income level and education are among the popular choices by economists and researchers when compiling data on the employment status of a state or country, but some simpler factors can't be overlooked.