What is ‘middle class’ in Virginia?

Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury
Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury
Published: Feb. 5, 2019 at 12:34 PM EST
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What defines Virginia’s low- and middle-income residents is at the heart of a heated debate about taxes.

Democrats and Gov. Ralph Northam want to adjust tax policy to benefit what they’ve called low-income Virginians while Republicans want to focus on tax relief for the middle class.

But based on income data, both plans would benefit the state’s wide-ranging middle class.

Northam, a Democrat, lasered in on people making less than $55,000 a year — lower-income Virginians, he’s called them — while Republicans have focused on what they call the middle class: people like a couple that makes $110,000 to $130,000 a year, leaders have said.

However, according to available data on what Virginia’s middle class looks like, Northam’s plan is not just a fix for people with low incomes, it also affects members of the middle class in most parts of the state.

And despite criticism Republicans have received for presenting a plan that would only benefit high-earners, parts of their plan would benefit the same low-income earners Northam wants to help.

The administration’s plan doesn’t seem to have a way forward since House Republicans have advanced their own legislation and the Senate has an entirely separate plan moving through its chamber that will give tax relief to people of all income levels, Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City, said recently.

There is no single official way to define the middle class, said Kathryn Piper Crespin, a policy analyst at the University of Virginia Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. The center makes population estimates that are used in official state reports.


The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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