New study highlights long-term income challenges for boating

Elsewhere on the site today, you'll see a preview of the 2015 industry outlook, which points to a pretty positive outlook for next year.

Despite that, most realize there are also plenty of challenges for the long-term health of the industry, which we cover more in-depth in the January issue.

Most notably, we have significant demographic challenges as it relates to the age and ethnicity of boaters.

And perhaps even more importantly, the money issue -- whether you want to call if affordability or value or whatever, the simple fact is that the number of people who can, let alone want to, spend money on a boat continues to shrink.

Despite what many outside the industry think, boating has long been a middle-class activity. It's not Thurston Howell III and Elihu Smails driving the industry's growth.

That's what makes the latest study from the Pew Research Center so discouraging, as it points out what most of us already suspected: the gap between middle-income and upper-income families is the widest on record.

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In 2013, the median wealth of the nation’s upper-income families of $639,400 was nearly seven times the median wealth of middle-income families $96,500, the widest wealth gap seen in the 30 years the Federal Reserve has collected the data. America’s upper-income families have a median net worth that is nearly 70 times that of the country’s lower-income families, also the widest wealth gap between these families in 30 years, Pew reported.

In case you're wondering, here is the Center on how categorized income levels:

In our analysis, we categorized families by their household income, after we adjusted their incomes for family size. Middle-income families are families whose size-adjusted income is between two-thirds and twice the median size-adjusted income. Lower-income families have a size-adjusted household income less than two-thirds the median and upper-income families more than twice the median.

This methodology results in 46% of America’s families being classified as middle income in 2013. One-third of families were lower income and 21% were upper income. For a family of three in 2013, a household income of $38,100 qualifies as middle income and $114,300 or greater qualifies as upper income.

See the full results of the study here.

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