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Income of young adults

Question:
What is the average income for young adults?

Response:

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 and may be entering the workforce for the first time or transitioning from part-time to full-time work. In 2019, some 75 percent of those in this age group who were in the labor force1 worked full time, year round. This percentage was generally higher for those with higher levels of educational attainment. Levels of educational attainment refer to the highest levels of education attained. For example, 79 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree worked full time, year round in 2019, compared with 72 percent of those who completed high school (those with only a high school diploma or an equivalency credential such as a GED) in this age group.

Between 2010 and 2019, the percentages of 25- to 34-year-olds in the labor force who worked full time, year round increased for every level of educational attainment.2 During this period, the percentages of 25- to 34-year-olds in the labor force who worked full time, year round increased among those who completed less than high school (from 48 to 65 percent), those who completed high school (from 60 to 72 percent), and those with some college but no degree (from 61 to 69 percent). Similarly, between 2010 and 2019 the corresponding percentages also increased among those with an associate’s degree (from 66 to 73 percent), those with a bachelor’s degree (from 74 to 79 percent), and those with a master’s or higher degree (from 74 to 80 percent).

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 within each year from 2010 through 2019. For example, within 2019, the median earnings of those with a master’s or higher degree were $70,000, some 26 percent higher than the earnings of those with a bachelor’s degree ($55,700). In the same year, the median earnings of those with a bachelor’s degree were 59 percent higher than the earnings of those who completed high school ($35,000), and the median earnings of those who completed high school were 19 percent higher than the earnings of those who completed less than high school ($29,300). This pattern of higher earnings associated with higher levels of educational attainment also held for both males and females, as well as for those who were White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian.3


Median annual earnings of full-time, year-round workers ages 25–34, by educational attainment: 2010 through 2019

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

1 Includes equivalency credentials, such as the GED.

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. Earnings are presented in constant 2019 dollars, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), to eliminate inflationary factors and to allow for direct comparison across years. Caution should be used when comparing 2019 estimates to those of earlier years due to the impact that the coronavirus pandemic had on interviewing and response rates. For additional information about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the March CPS data collection, please see https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps/techdocs/cpsmar20.pdf.


1The labor force consists of all civilians who are employed or seeking employment. In 2019, some 85 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds were in the labor force.

2 Caution should be used when comparing 2019 estimates to those of earlier years due to the impact that the coronavirus pandemic had on interviewing and response rates. For additional information about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the March CPS data collection, please see https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps/techdocs/cpsmar20.pdf.

3 Data for other racial/ethnic groups were not analyzed separately.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2021). The Condition of Education 2021 (NCES 2021-144), Annual Earnings by Educational Attainment.

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