MarketWatch here says that Pew estimates middle class household income for a family of 3 at between about $35,000 and $105,000 for 2011.
To understand how too liberally defined that is, consider that in 2011 almost 60% of individual wage earners made $35,000 or less . . . about 91 million wage earners out of 151 million.
Actually the middle third of all those paycheck earners, 50 million, made between just $15,000 annually and not quite $40,000, the average of which is about $27,500. Make over $40,000 and you were already in the top third of individual wage earners that year.
A couple making $27,500 can survive in this world, but it wouldn't have been able to buy the median priced home of $225,000 in 2011. Just financing that without a down payment, an impossibility, at the average 30-year rate of 4.5% in 2011 would have meant 50% of income going to principal and interest.
Putting 10% down would drop that to 45% of income, still hardly affordable. And who do you know making $27,500 with $22,000 saved for a down payment on a house?
They'd be renting, most likely, and not yet solidly middle class.
In 2016 the average median sales price of a home in the US soared to nearly $314,000, putting the American dream even farther out of reach than ever before for the majority.