Metro Charleston’s middle class shrank slightly between 2000 and 2014, but its upper-income households surged 37.8%. Households making lower incomes declined slightly.
The numbers, reported by the Pew Research Center, show that metro Charleston, overall, is doing better in income while the nation is doing worse.
Metro Charleston's 4.7% decline in the middle class did not sent more people into poverty. On average, it sent more people into upper, not lower, incomes. The national pattern was more mixed. There are more households in the upper incomes, but also in the lower ones.
The sharp rise in upper incomes in metro Charleston doesn't mean that every new local household at those levels is part of the "1%." Upper income begins at $125,000. Income for the 1% starts at about $15 million.
The Pew numbers do not break out incomes by race, so they don’t show whether black households in metro Charleston are doing better.
Demographically over the past decade and a half, metro Charleston has a smaller black population – 26% compared to 31% in 2000. The Hispanic population grew from 2% to 5%.
Other findings about metro Charleston from the Pew data:
- ·The 4.7% decline in metro Charleston’s middle class was slightly higher than the national average of 4%.
- The cost of living locally is 96% of the national average.
- In income inequality, the region ranks just below the worst-performing top quarter among the 229 metro areas in the survey (which covers 76% of the U.S. population).
- Metro Charleston was tied with metro Austin in Texas for the smallest decrease in middle-class households among its eight "peer" regions (see chart below).
- Charleston was the only region among its peers to see a decrease in lower-income households (see chart).