As one of the wealthiest nations in the world, income levels in the United States are relatively high. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is earning the same amount. Different education levels, regional influences, and even job preferences can affect total income levels.
The average income for households in the United States for the last reported year was $51,939. In real median household income, this reflects an 8% decrease than income data from 2007, the year before the last recession.
What are the factors that influence household income? Depending on what demographic a household finds themselves in, the effects on their income could be dramatic. Here is a look at some of the specific categories that may increase or decrease income levels for US families.
How Education Affects Income in the United States
- Households with one person holding a doctorate degree had an average income of $81,400, which is nearly $30k per year higher than the median income levels.
- Households with a man holding an advanced degree had an average income of over $90,000 per year.
- When it is a woman holding an advanced degree, household incomes average $50,700 per year – which is less than the median average for US households.
- Year-round full-time workers with a professional degree had an average income of $109,600.
- The average income for someone with a Master’s degree in the United States is $62,300.
- On the other end of the educational spectrum, high school dropouts without a GED have an average household income of just $18,900.
- High school graduates without a college degree have an average income of $25,900.
- College graduate in the United States have an average income of $45,400.
- The lifetime earnings gap between men and women is the smallest for those individuals holding an Associate degrees with male life-time earnings being 27.77% higher than those of women.
- When men and women hold the same professional degree, the lifetime earnings gap is nearly 40%.
- The median annual household income for householders with a bachelor’s degree or higher was $73,446.
There is a direct correlation between the amount of potential income someone can earn and the educational levels they achieve. From the bottom of the spectrum to the top, the difference for men is nearly $70,000 per year. This makes it very worthwhile to focus on one’s personal education before going out into the job market. Although not every field has high-paying openings, like public sector job openings, a better education means better benefits, a better overall personal lifestyle, and more control over working hours. Yet education isn’t the only factor that contributes to the amount of money that a household earns in the United States.
How Race and Ethnicity Affect Income in the United States
- Caucasian/White Americans make up about 75% of all households in the US, but are 88% of all households in the top 5% of income levels.
- Only 4.75% of all household in the top 5% were headed by someone who identified themselves as being Hispanic or Latino of any race. This is compared to 12.5% of people in the general population identifying themselves as such.
- Asians, however, represent the highest mean household income when it comes to ethnicity with a $90.752 average. This is $11,000 higher than households with a Caucasian alone ethnicity.
- Asian American households also have the highest median household income of $57,518
- Blacks/African-Americans have the lowest overall mean household income at $49,629 per year. They also have the lowest median income levels at just $30,134, which is $20,000 below the national average.
- Only 7.21% were being headed by someone who identified as being Hispanic and 7.37% by someone who identified as being African American or Black.
It would be improper to say that all minorities are struggling with income levels, but this is certainly true with the Hispanic/Latino and Black/African-American communities. There is a significant dropoff once income levels go beyond the middle fifth of total household incomes in the United States. While Asians and Caucasians improve at this point, the percentage drop for the other groups dramatically, even when including education as a screening factor. What does this mean? That even if you are a highly educated Hispanic/Latino or Black/African-American woman in the US, you will have to fight for every dollar you earn.
The Struggle to Earn More Money in the United States
- The US Census Bureau estimates that the typical American family earned just over $53,000 in the last year. This is a family of four with two children.
- Household income levels in 1999 were higher than they were in 2014. It was the third consecutive year where household income levels were stagnant.
- Whites/Caucasians saw an income decline of 1.7%, while minority groups saw no meaningful changes to their income levels in 2014.
- Median income levels in the United States continue to remain lower than they were in 2007, the last year before the latest recession.
- This is occurring even though more than 2.8 million people are working full-time all year long.
- The earnings for women who work full time are about the same as they were in 2007, but they are 2.2% lower for men.
- 46.7 million Americans are living under the poverty level in the United States, weighted as a threshold of $24,230 for a family of four.
- Blacks/African-Americans and Hispanics/Latinos are 2.5x more likely to be living in poverty compared to Whites/Caucasians.
- 20% of US children are currently living in poverty.
Why is there so much anger in the US populace today? One reason is because of stagnant income levels. The economy may be recovering from the recession, but families are not recovering. It has been nearly 20 years since income levels reached their peak. Although poverty levels have remained consistent, this is not a measurement of success. It actually shows that working family incomes are lower, which means employers are offering lower wages. This is why you are seeing a push from low-income earners for better wages, like the $15 per hour movement, whether it is agreed upon or not.
Age and Income in the United States
- People in the 45-54 age demographic earn the highest average annual income in the US at $70,832 per year.
- People in the 15-24 age demographic earn the least, at $34,605 per year. This is slightly lower than the 65+ age demographic, which earns $36,895 per year.
- In the 35-44 or 55-64 age demographic, earners can expect a median income of over $60k per year.
- Between the age of 25 and 54, the typical American household can expect to see its annual income increase by 30%.
- Between the mid-50s and retirement age, however, household income plummets by almost 50%.
- If the typical American household is earning about $60,580 before retirement, it should hope to have about $48,500 in income, which means the average household is missing the mark by 25%.
What this data shows is that Baby Boomers are struggling to save money. Because this generation accounts for a majority of travel purchases and other discretionary spending, it isn’t necessarily because the money isn’t there to be saved. It’s just being spent. By trimming expenses, it may very well be possible to change the level of income that the 65+ age demographic could be earning in the next 5-10 years. Otherwise it may not be until Generation X begins to hit retirement age that meaningful changes to the age demographics happen in regards to income – and that’s only if they don’t make the same mistakes as their parents.
Why Your Job Matters in the United States
- The median salary of an administrative assistant in the US is $14 per hour, with a top salary of just over $48,000 per year.
- The median salary of a sales and marketing manager in the US is $54,657, but with a top compensation range of over $106,000 in some jobs.
- $8.00 per hour. That’s the median salary of a cashier, with top cashiers earning just over $11 per hour on average, or a top wage of under $25k annually.
- Registered nurses have a median salary of $26 per hour. Some earn upwards of $38 per hour, for a median salary of around $65k per year.
- Police officers have a median salary just under $50k per year. Total annual pay may top $80k in some districts, but this is supplemented by comprehensive benefits which often include a pension.
- Office managers earn a salary that is on pace with police officers, but without the same level of benefits unless the position is in a public service sector, such as social work.
The issue that households are facing in the United States is that some college degrees aren’t preparing students for the vocational skills they need. Our world is transitioning to one that requires high-tech skills and that’s not necessarily something a political science degree might offer. There is a direct correlation between the type of degree a person earns and the wages they can earn from a job. When IT managers can earn more than healthcare professionals, police officers, and other service professions, then these are the skills that parents should be encouraging with their children so that they really can have a better life.