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Income of young adults

Question:
What is the average income for young adults?

Response:

In 2016, some 73 percent of young adults ages 25–34 who were in the labor force1 worked full time, year round. The percentage of young adults in the labor force working full time, year round was generally higher for those with higher levels of educational attainment. For example, 79 percent of young adults with a bachelor's degree worked full time, year round in 2016, compared with 69 percent of young adult high school completers (those with only a high school diploma or an equivalency credential such as a GED certificate).

Changes over time in the percentage of young adults in the labor force who worked full time, year round varied by level of educational attainment. Among young adult high school completers who were in the labor force, a lower percentage worked full time, year round in 2016 (69 percent) than in 2000 (71 percent). In contrast, the corresponding percentage for those with a bachelor's degree was higher in 2016 (79 percent) than in 2000 (77 percent). In addition, the percentage of young adult labor force participants who worked full time, year round increased among those with a master's or higher degree (from 73 percent in 2000 to 79 percent in 2016). At the following educational attainment levels, there was no measurable difference between 2000 and 2016 in the percentage of young adult labor force participants who worked full time, year round: those without a high school diploma or an equivalent credential such as a GED, those with some college but no degree, and those with an associate's degree (60 percent, 69 percent, and 72 percent, respectively, in 2016).

For young adults ages 25–34 who worked full time, year round, higher educational attainment was associated with higher median earnings; this pattern was consistent from 2000 through 2016. For example, in 2016 the median earnings of young adults with a master's or higher degree were $64,100, some 28 percent higher than those of young adults with a bachelor's degree ($50,000). In the same year, the median earnings of young adults with a bachelor's degree were 57 percent higher than those of young adult high school completers ($31,800). In addition, in 2016, the median earnings of young adult high school completers were 26 percent higher than those of young adults who did not complete high school ($25,400). This pattern of higher earnings associated with higher levels of educational attainment also held for both male and female young adults as well as for White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian young adults.


Percentage of the labor force ages 25–34 who worked full time, year round, by educational attainment: 2000–2016

The data in this figure is described in the surrounding text.

1 Includes equivalency credentials, such as the GED credential.

NOTE: Data are based on sample surveys of the noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities) and military barracks. Full-time, year-round workers are those who worked 35 or more hours per week for 50 or more weeks per year. The labor force refers to the population who reported working or looking for work in the given year.


1The labor force consists of all civilians who are employed or seeking employment.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). The Condition of Education 2018 (NCES 2018-144), Annual Earnings of Young Adults.

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