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Chapter 3. Employment-Related Characteristics

Indicator 30. Median Earnings

Median earnings are the reported annual wage and salary earnings of full-time, full-year workers. In 2009, the median earnings of 15- to 19-year-olds were $18,000 for males and $17,000 for females (in constant 2010 dollars). For 20- to 24-year-olds, median earnings was $25,000 for males, compared to $22,000 for females.

In 2009, median earnings for males and females between the ages of 20 and 24 were lower in constant dollars than in 1980. For young adult males, median earnings decreased from $32,000 in 1980 to $25,000 in 2009. Median earnings for young adult females were higher in 1980 ($24,000) than in 2009 ($22,000). There were no measurable changes over time for median earnings of males and females ages 15 to 19.

The median earnings of young males, ages 15 to 19, were higher than those of females in 1980, 1995, 2000, and between 2003 and 2007. There was no measurable difference in median earnings between the sexes in 2009. For young adults between the ages of 20 and 24, males consistently earned more than females for each year shown, with the exception of 2007 when there was no measurable difference. However, the gap between median earnings of male and female young adults did narrow during this period from $8,000 in 1980 to $3,000 in 2009.

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30a. Snapshot: Median Earnings by Educational Attainment

In order to examine median earnings by educational attainment, this snapshot focuses on 16- to 24-year-olds. The median earnings in 2009 for all full-time, full-year workers ages 16 to 24 was $24,000, a figure that was not measurably different from the median earnings in 1999 (in constant dollars). Generally, for both sexes, higher median earnings were associated with higher educational attainment. For example, those with a bachelor's or higher degree in 2009 had median earnings of $33,000, while those who had not completed high school had median earnings of $18,000.

In 2009, the median earnings of male workers were higher than the median earnings of female workers ($25,000 vs. $22,000). Males generally had higher median earnings than females for each educational level. For example, males with a bachelor's or higher degree earned $41,000 in 2009, compared to $30,000 for females with a bachelor's or higher degree.

The median earnings for 16- to 24-year-olds with some college or an associate's degree were lower in 2009 than in 1999 (in constant dollars, $22,000 vs. $24,000, respectively). The median earnings in 2009 were not measurably different from those in 1999 for young adults whose highest level of education attainment was a high school diploma or less or a bachelor's degree or more. The earnings gap between 16- to 24-year-olds with only a high school diploma or its equivalent and those with a bachelor's or higher degree did not measurably change when comparing 1999 and 2009. In 1999, youth and young adults ages 16 to 24 with a bachelor's or higher degree earned $11,000 more per year, on average, than those who had only completed high school; in 2009, this gap was $9,000.

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