One study found the best places to live for "middle-class" families

You can get by on a middle-class income, but probably not in the state you’re living in right now.

Middle-class income, or two-thirds of the U.S. median household income, can be achieved if you move to Iowa. Mortgage payments are low, tuition is moderate, and nearly 3-in-4 residents own a home, according to a study from GOBankingRates.

South Dakota isn’t far behind. There, median household income is roughly $78,000 annually — the fifth-highest in the country. Higher education tuition is a bit over $8,000, and mortgage payments aren’t more than $1,000. Nearly two-thirds of residents own homes.

“South Dakota is one of only two states where the median household income of middle-class families increased between 1999 and 2014, and of the states it had the higher increase,” GOBankingRates says. “It’s also one of four states where the proportion of middle-income households is increasing.”

West Virginia, Nebraska, and North Dakota round out the top 5. Mississippi at number 7 is one of only four states where the middle class is growing, not shrinking. In-state tuition is less than $7,500 and the median home listing price is $173,000 — one of the lowest in the study, according to GOBankingRates.

At the other end of the list, Hawaii ranks as the worst state for middle-class families, as it is one of the most expensive places to live in the country.

“The state had the highest median home price of any state at $600,000, as well as the highest mortgage down payment ($120,000) and monthly mortgage payment ($2,594),” the study says. “Because of the high real estate prices, Hawaii also had the second-lowest percentage of homeowners.”

Massachusetts has one of the fastest-shrinking middle-class, which is why they are the second-worst state for this group. While college graduation is high — 71 percent — in-state tuition is more than $12,000. Monthly mortgage payments are almost $1,800 and the median list price for homes is $409,900.

California, the third-worst state for the middle-class, has three of the most expensive cities in the country.

“It’s one of the most expensive states to own a home, with the median list price for homes at $499,000,” GOBankingRates says. “Because of the high home prices, it also has the second-highest monthly mortgage payment.”

Home ownership is one of the biggest struggles for the middle-class. Affordable housing was once a major pathway to American “adulting.” Now, many are reconsidering owning homes due to affordability woes. Right now, home prices are climbing high and some are wondering if we’re in a housing bubble right now because of it.

Homes are selling, but the supply is not keeping up with demand. Cheap homes do exist, but the ones who need them the most can’t afford them. They get snatched up by higher bidders, renovated, and re-sold for much more than the original purchase price. Because of this, Americans are continuing to rent, but even lower-end units are experiencing major monthly rent increases. As less expensive apartments become scarce, developers are building more units, but instead of affordable ones, they’re making high-end, luxury apartments for renters with higher incomes. Middle- and low-income Americans are being priced out of both homes and apartments.

Meet the Author

Dori Zinn

Dori Zinn


Zinn is a freelance journalist based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Budgeting & Saving, Credit & Debt, Family

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Article last modified on July 10, 2018 Published by, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: True Middle-Class Exists. In Iowa - AMP.