California’s Fresno Ranks Worst Place for Middle-Class Life in U.S.

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 The U.S. middle class- and working-class families are faring worst in Fresno, California, a new study finds after comparing economic metrics for the nation’s largest metro areas.

The study, recently released by the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity, ranks the 50 biggest U.S. metro areas based on the economic well-being of middle- and working-class residents.

The study, which analyzed the costs of basic goods and services, weekly earnings, and unemployment rates, ranks Fresno the last among 50 metro areas in both overall performance and leftover income.

Leftover income, which means how much cash a median earner has left over after purchasing necessities each month, is a key measure the study looked at.

For Fresno and other bottom-ranked cities, the figures for leftover income are negative. The report shows that the average household in Fresno region fell 21.5 percent short of affording necessities.

Fresno is the largest city in the greater Central Valley region in California and the most populous inland city in the state. The Metropolitan Fresno region’s economy is dominated by agricultural production.

Los Angeles, also a bottom-ranked city, comes in the 49th place in terms of leftover income, with the average household falling 20 percent short of meeting basic needs.

The report shows the best-performing place is also in California – San Jose, a major technology hub in the country.

The city ranks the first in terms of leftover income, as the average household had 25.4 percent of their income remaining after spending on necessities, according to the report.

The researchers suggest that rising costs in those expensive cities, such as San Jose and San Francisco, are offset by higher wages.

They find that the best-performing cities typically have a more even mix of jobs at different wage levels, while the worst-ranking cities have one thing in common: a high share of low-paying jobs.

The report also shows that overall, 60 percent of people in the United States struggle to meet basic needs, which likely reflects sharp increases in living costs, driven by inflation. 

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