Is Disney Pricing Out the Middle Class?


With the rising prices at Walt Disney World, you read a lot of articles talking about how Disney is pricing out the middle class and it’s becoming a playground for the rich. I wanted to see how much of a difference there actually is from the 1990s to today in the percentage of income the middle class spends on tickets for a week’s vacation. First, let’s try to define the middle class since everyone has a different view of who is in the middle class. If you just look at the numbers, the true middle class would fall, where else, right in the middle. Based on 2014 US Census Bureau, the median household income in the US was $53,013, not counting for inflation.

Now let’s take a look back at the history of the median household income since 1990 and compare a family of 3 (with everyone being over the age of 10) taking a 6night/7day trip to Walt Disney World and buying the cheapest ticket package they could at the time. We will only look at ticket prices since taking a vacation can vary greatly depending on if you drive or fly or stay in the park or get a place outside of Walt Disney World. All household incomes will not include inflation prices and the ticket prices will not include taxes at that time.

In 1990, the median household income in the US was $28,680 and if you were buying tickets for 7 days, that would have cost you $537. Pretty good compared to today’s prices. If you do the math, the ticket prices for a week would have counted for 1.87% of a household income at that time. Now let’s look at the information for 1995. The median income at that time was $33,456 with tickets for a week costing you $684, which would have accounted for 2.04% of a household income. In 2000, the median income was $41,446 and tickets for a week would have cost you $867 accounting for 2.09% of a household income. So as you can see the number is starting to trend upward.


Then in 2005, Walt Disney World redesigned their ticket structure and started offering base tickets. A base ticket allows you entry to your choice of one theme park per day for the length of your ticket. That means that you would now have to pay extra for park hopping. So in 2005, the percentage a household of 3 spends on tickets actually went down based on buying a base ticket for a week. Again, looking at the numbers, the average income for a household was $45,700 and prices for a week would have cost you $597, accounting for 1.31% of a household income. A steep drop compared to 2000.

In 2010, the ticket prices for a week would have counted for 1.87% of a household income at that time. In 2014, the last year the US Census Bureau published median household income, the median household income was $53,013. Tickets for a week would have cost you $972 accounting for 1.83% of the household income. Now if we simply estimate an increase of 1% in median income for the next 2 years (which is what it was from 2013-2014), in 2016 the median household income would be about $54,734. Tickets this year will cost you $1,110 before taxes. The percentage of a household income for those tickets would be 2.03%. Do you realize that at 2.03%, that accounts for the 12th highest percentage of household income for tickets over the past 26 years. In fact the percentage is still lower than all but 3 years from the 1990s.


So, are we at the point of pricing out the middle class? I don’t think we are there yet. Planning a Disney trip isn’t cheap by any means, but any time you plan on taking a nice trip you’re going to have to pay more. A trip to Walt Disney World shouldn’t be the same price as going to your local beach for a week. Now I’m not saying that means I’m all for Disney raising ticket prices every year. Who wants to pay more for tickets if they don’t have to? Everything is going up year after year. I don’t see car manufacturers lowering their price or airlines lowering their prices. I think the problem is that Disney is such a huge entity that it’s easy for people to simply come out and accuse Disney of pricing out the middle class. Until people stop going to the park and the lines start getting shorter, the prices will continue to increase. There are things you can do to cut cost on planning a trip to Walt Disney World. There are many books, articles, and podcasts out there that can help you plan an affordable trip to Walt Disney World. Don’t be discouraged by what people are saying. With some planning you too can experience your first or another Walt Disney World trip.


I think as Disney fans we want everyone to be able to afford a trip to Walt Disney World. We want people who haven’t been there to experience the excitement of planning a trip to Disney or seeing the excitement on our children’s face when we tell them the they are going to Disney World. We want everyone to experience the goose bumps of walking into Magic Kingdom that first day and walking onto Main Street and looking down at Cinderella’s Castle. The feeling and joy you get is just…well… magical.

Research Information:US Census Bureau and AllEars.Net


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