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Study: A shrinking middle class in Florida means more economic polarization

A report being released today says the percentage of Floridians earning less than $15 an hour has risen. In this April 2015 photo, protestors in front of a McDonald’s on N. Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa north of Interstate 275 are calling for higher pay. [SKIP O’ROURKE  |   Times]

A report being released today says the percentage of Floridians earning less than $15 an hour has risen. In this April 2015 photo, protestors in front of a McDonald’s on N. Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa north of Interstate 275 are calling for higher pay. [SKIP O’ROURKE | Times]

Florida is becoming more economically polarized between the have-plenties and the have-very littles.

There's been a sizable increase in the percentage of wealthier Floridians, with many in the middle class able to improve their financial condition since the end of the Great Recession. But the ranks of the middle class itself are shrinking. And the share of workers in the lowest-income "working class" has remained unchanged, with many stuck in perpetually low-wage occupations without a clear path upward.

Those are among the conclusions drawn from Florida International University's annual State of Working Florida report coming out today.

This year's report concentrates on lowest-wage earners — which Florida International characterizes as "working class" — and their problems with economic mobility.

The five main occupations for lower wage workers are sales; food preparation and service; office and administrative support; building and ground cleaning and maintenance; and transportation and material moving jobs.

Here are some key takeaways from the analysis:

• Between 2009 and 2014, the share of households that belonged to the upper class grew 8.1 percent, the middle class share shrank 3.5 percent and the lowest-income working class share grew a modest 1.1 percent.

• Most Floridians are no longer in the middle class. The share of middle-class households stood at 49.1 percent, with an 18.9 percent share for the upper earners and 32 percent in the lowest-earning group.

• Health care practitioners and technical jobs, as well as computer and math occupations in general, saw the biggest gains in shares of all jobs between 2009 and 2014.

• As of 2014, the average upper-class household earned three times as much as the average middle-class household and 10 times as much as the average working-class family. The raw numbers: average household income of $118,847 for the upper-class households, $39,275 for middle-class households and $12,098 for working-class households.

• Although all levels saw income declines during that five-year span, the working class suffered the most with a 6.7 percent drop, twice the percentage drop experienced by the upper-income group.

• A drop in household incomes in the working class led to increased poverty rates among every demographic group in that range. Overall, the poverty rate rose almost 12 percent.

• About 16.9 percent of all workers earned less than $10 an hour in 2014, up from 16 percent five years earlier.

• About 40.9 percent of all workers earned less than $15 an hour, up from 39.5 percent.

• Women earned 78 cents for every $1 earned by men, when the comparison was controlled for age, education and occupation.

• Racial and ethnic minorities earned 92 cents for every $1 made by whites when also controlled for age, education and occupation.

To read the full report, go here.

Study: A shrinking middle class in Florida means more economic polarization 09/12/16 [Last modified: Monday, September 12, 2016 11:02am]
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