The primary burden of inflation has shifted from middle class to low-income households thanks to a shift in the spending categories hardest hit by price hikes, according to a study published Wednesday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
At the onset of rising inflation in the spring of 2021, middle-income households, defined as those earning between $50,000 and $150,000 per year, bore the brunt of inflation as they purchased more used cars and gasoline than other demographics, according to the New York Fed. However, as the cost of gas falls and the price of food and housing surges, lower-income households, defined as those earning less than $50,000, now face higher effective costs — roughly 0.3 percentage points higher than average — since they spend a larger portion of their income on food and housing than middle and high-income households.
“As of December 2022, the bottom 40 percent have the highest year-on-year inflation rate of the three groups, and the inflation rate of the middle-income group is below the national average,” the report reads. “It is likely the case that the same rate of inflation represents a greater welfare loss for lower-income than higher-income households because of the former’s lower capacity for substituting to less expensive goods, greater liquidity constraints, and larger marginal utility of real income.”