Middle class families in New Jersey are having a tougher and tougher time making ends meet.

Tatiana Gladskikh, ThinkStock
Tatiana Gladskikh, ThinkStock

The median household income for middle class families was about $51,700 last year, almost identical to what it was back in 1995, but many costs have risen dramatically since then.

A CNN analysis finds the cost of sending a child to a private, four-year college is up 61 percent over the past 19 years. Fast food hamburgers are 28 percent more expensive, the cost of going to the movies is up 22 percent, and renting or buying a house, reading newspapers, feeding your pet, and buying books are all significantly more expensive than they used to be.

"The middle class has become the middle class under assault, first and foremost, because we're not creating white-collar jobs -- middle-skilled, white-collared jobs that have high pay levels," said James Hughes, professor of economics and dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.

"Much of that has been supplanted by information technology and outsourcing," Hughes continued. "The jobs that are being created are not as high a quality as those jobs in the '80s and the '90s, and with middle class families paying more for almost everything, those families probably feel they're on the economic treadmill, trouping along, but they're not making any progress. So, our middle class is really undergoing a major squeeze."

Hughes said the median household income in New Jersey remains about 33 percent higher than the rest of the nation, but housing costs are 65 percent greater than most other states.

"Our incomes seem high, but they're essentially counter-balanced by much, much higher living costs," he said. "New Jersey is located in the older, mature part of the nation, there is very little room to build, and much of the housing stock is very expensive, so we have to deal with higher costs."

Hughes added this squeezing of the middle class is affecting how those people look at the future.

"Twenty (or) 30 years ago, people were optimistic their children were going to better off than them," he said. "But that's not the case today."

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