Charts of the week: Defining the middle class, suburban growth, and China’s natural gas imports

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How do Americans self-identify their socioeconomic class?

In a new report from the Future of the Middle Class Initiative at Brookings, experts analyze the various ways academics define America’s middle class and illustrate 12 income-based definitions in a series of interactives.

Using Pew survey data graphed below they consider how income might affect self-perceived status and write, “It is nonetheless striking that half of those in households with six-figure incomes define themselves as middle class; and that even among those with incomes below $30,000, a third define themselves as middle class and another third as lower-middle class.”

Suburban growth continues to outpace city growth in some metro areas

In a new study, William Frey, demographer and senior fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program, finds suburban growth has outpaced city growth in America’s largest metropolitan areas for the second year in a row. Frey suggests waning city growth rates reflect emerging patterns in the nation’s population dispersal “from large metropolitan areas to smaller ones, from cities to suburbs, and from the Snow Belt to the Sun Belt.”

Chart: Primary city vs suburb growth rates

China’s natural gas imports are climbing despite large domestic shale gas deposits

In their research on China’s bilateral relations and trade, Ye Qi and Jiaqi Lu from the Brookings-Tsinghua Center explain why, despite reportedly having world’s largest shale gas deposit, economic and technological factors have forced China to rely on imported natural resources. According to the authors, China is the fastest growing natural gas consumer in the world. The chart below depicts how the country’s natural gas consumption, production, and imports have changed since 2000.