An estimated 44% of West Hollywood residents are middle class. That puts West Hollywood in the middle among nearby cities. The estimates come from a new report by WeHo by the Numbers, based on census data and an earlier analysis by the Pew Research Center.
The middle class can be defined by income, assets, demographics, education, aspirations or other factors. The report uses a broad income-based definition developed by Pew. Pew started with the median household income in the US in 2014. (Median means that half of households made less, half made more.) It assumed that middle-class households were those that made between two-thirds of and twice the median income. Then they calculated the required income for different household sizes.
According to Pew’s calculations, a single adult in the US needed to make between about $24,000 and $72,000 to be middle class. The required income was higher for families because they have higher expenses: $34,000 to $102,000 for a couple and $48,000 to $144,000 for a family of four.
The new report by WeHo by the Numbers takes those ranges and adjusts them for the Los Angeles region in 2017. For a single adult, the adjusted range is about $29,000 to $88,000. It is $41,000 to $124,000 for a couple and $59,000 to $176,000 for a family of four.
The income ranges are fundamentally assumptions, subject to debate. The report raises the possibility that the low ends may be too low. For example, according to the federal government, a Los Angeles County resident making less than $50,500 is eligible for low-income subsidized housing programs. Despite the questions, the reports sticks with the broader ranges derived from Pew’s analysis.
Using its income ranges, Pew found that half of American adults were middle class. It also found that the middle class shrank over the last 40-plus years. It went from 61% of adults in 1971 to 50% in 2015. As the middle class shrunk, lower- and higher-income groups both grew. Lower income went from 25% to 29% of adults. Higher income rose from 14% to 21%.
Pew also calculated the percentages for Los Angeles and other metropolitan areas, adjusting for differences in the cost of living. It estimated that 47% of adults in the region were in the middle class in 2014. That was slightly lower than the national average of 50%. It was a percentage point below the regional number from 2000. However, the bigger difference between Los Angeles and the U.S. was in the lower-income group. That group covered 37% of adults in the region, but only 29% of adults in the U.S. as a whole.
Pew’s approach cannot be used directly to estimate the size of West Hollywood’s middle class. The detailed census data is not available for a city as small as West Hollywood. The report instead proposes three estimates based on three different approaches. The preferred estimate is 44%.
The report compares West Hollywood to nearby cities. The middle class appears to be a larger share of adults in West Hollywood (44%) than in Hollywood (40%), Beverly Hills (40% for the area that includes the city), or Santa Monica (42%). It is smaller than in cities such as Burbank (51%), Pasadena (45%), and Glendale (45%). It’s also lower than the regional average of 47%.
To find out more, see the full report, How big is the middle class in West Hollywood?