What is the average income for young adults?
This Fast Fact examines the annual earnings of 25- to 34-year-olds who worked full time, year round (i.e., worked 35 or more hours per week for 50 or more weeks per year). Many people in this age group recently exited formal education. They may be entering the workforce for the first time or transitioning from part-time to full-time work. In 2021, some 72 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds in the labor force1 worked full time, year round. This percentage was generally higher for those with higher levels of educational attainment. For example, 79 percent of labor force participants in this age group who had a bachelor’s degree as their highest level of education worked full time, year round in 2021, compared with 68 percent of those who completed high school.2
For 25- to 34-year-olds who worked full time, year round, higher educational attainment was associated with higher median earnings. This pattern was consistent for each year from 2010 through 2021 (in constant 2021 dollars).3 For example, in 2021,
This pattern of higher earnings associated with higher levels of educational attainment held for both males and females, as well as for those who were White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian.4
Median earnings increased between 2010 and 2021 at some but not all educational attainment levels for 25- to 34-year-olds who worked full time, year round. Specifically, median earnings (in constant 2021 dollars) increased between 2010 and 2021 for
However, the median earnings were not measurably different in 2021 than in 2010 for those with some college but no degree or those with an associate’s degree. At all attainment levels, median earnings in 2021 were either higher than (at the levels of high school completion and associate’s degree) or not measurably different from (at all other attainment levels) median earnings just prior to the pandemic in 2019.
1 Data are based on sample surveys of the noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities); data include military personnel who live in households with civilians, but exclude those who live in military barracks. The labor force consists of all those in this population who are employed or seeking employment. The percentages of 25- to 34-year-olds who were in the labor force were not measurably different across 2019, 2020, and 2021 (85 percent each), according to Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2020 through 2022.
2 Refers to those whose highest level of education completed is a high school diploma or an equivalency credential such as a GED.
3 Constant dollars are based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.
4 Data for other racial/ethnic groups were not analyzed separately.
SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics. (2023). Annual Earnings by Educational Attainment. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved May 24, 2023, from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/cba.
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