A majority of working Americans haven't noticed the higher payroll taxes -- with the lowest income households the least likely to have been affected, Bankrate.com reported Monday.
Some 48 percent said they hadn't noticed the 2 percent increase in Social Security tax that began to be taken out of paychecks at the first of the year, the North Palm Beach-based website reported. Another 7 percent said they haven't been affected by the tax hike, according to the new research that Bankrate.com released.
Nearly a third -- or 30 percent -- reported they had not reined in their spending because of the tax increase, about $20 a week for a worker earning $50,000 a year.
"What is shocking is that the lowest-income households were the least likely to have cut back on spending and the most likely not to have noticed the change in the payroll tax," said Greg McBride, Bankrate.com's senior financial analyst.
That could be that low-income workers do not always work the same hours, so they might not notice the pay cut, McBride suggested. On the other hand, higher-income salaried staffers might tend to feel the drop in their paychecks since they get the same check every pay period, he said.
In fact, those most likely to have cut spending were households with income between $50,000 and $75,000 per year -- workers, who for the most part, who earn more than the median household income, McBride added.
"These results contradict the widely held assumption that lower-income households would feel the biggest squeeze from the payroll tax cut expiring," McBride said.
Households headed by college graduates were the most likely to have cut spending, the poll found. Those headed by those with less than a college degree were the most likely not to have noticed the higher payroll tax rate.
Overall, Americans are feeling more upbeat about their finances, reporting the most optimism since December 2010. Four of Bankrate.com's Financial Security Index’s five components -- job security, debt, net worth and overall financial situation – were up.
The upswing in the stock market is helping, McBride said. So is the uptick in the job market, he added.
Savings is the only laggard. All five components improved over the past firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @donnagehrke