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Population Profiles

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    & Poverty
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    & Poverty
  3. Middle Class
    Beneficiaries
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    Beneficiaries
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    Beneficiaries

Middle Class Beneficiaries, 2014

Released: March 2017
Next expected update: 2018

DEFINITION: Although there is no official government definition of the middle class, the three middle quintiles of the income distribution ($28,000 to $109,000 for married couples and $11,000 to $41,000 for single persons) are a commonly used definition.

  • Social Security is the major source of retirement income (providing at least 50 percent of total income) for most middle class married couples and single persons aged 65 or older.
  • Social Security comprised more than half of total income for 83 percent of married couples aged 65 or older in the second quintile of the income distribution and for 49 percent of married couples aged 65 or older in the third quintile.
  • Social Security is even more important for single persons aged 65 or older, comprising more than half of total income for 97 percent of single persons in the second quintile, 91 percent in the third quintile, and 60 percent in the fourth quintile.
Percentage of Married Couples or Single Persons Aged 65 or Older for Whom Social Security Benefits Are 50 Percent or More of Total Income, by Income Quintile, 2014
Bar chart with two series. For married couples, 93.4% in first quintile, 83.2% in second quintile, 48.6% in third quintile, 10.2% in fourth quintile, and 0.3% in fifth quintile. For single persons, 96.5% in first quintile, 96.7% in second quintile, 90.5% in third quintile, 60.4% in fourth quintile, and 8.5% in fifth quintile.
Married couples:   Less than $27,538     $27,538–44,424     $44,424–67,621     $67,621–108,703     $108,703 or more  
Single persons:   Less than $10,859     $10,859–16,552     $16,552–24,400     $24,400–41,151     $41,151 or more  
SOURCE: Social Security Administration, Income of the Population 55 or Older, 2014, Table 9.A4.
NOTES: Total income includes Social Security, pensions, earnings, assest income, and other cash income. It does not include lump-sum pension payments, capital gains, noncash benefits (housing and energy subsidies), or savings.