ChildStats.gov—Forum on Child and Family Statistics
faces of children
Home  |  About the Forum  |  Publications  |  Data Sources  |  Help
Search

America's Young Adults: Special Issue, 2014

Median Earnings

Median earnings are an important measure of young adults' economic well-being. This indicator examines the median annual earnings of young adults ages 20–24 who were working or looking for work and were not enrolled in school, by educational attainment, gender, and race and Hispanic origin. In addition, it presents information on changes in median earnings for these young adults between 1980 and 2012.

Indicator Econ2.A: Median annual earnings (in constant 2012 dollars) for young adults ages 20–24 not enrolled in school by educational attainment, 1980–2012
Median annual earnings (in constant 2012 dollars) for young adults ages 20–24 not enrolled in school by educational attainment, 1980–2012

NOTE: Data on associate's degrees are not available prior to 1995. Earnings are shown in constant 2012 dollars, based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey.

Indicator Econ2.B: Median annual earnings for young adults ages 20–24 not enrolled in school by gender and race and Hispanic origin, 2012
Median annual earnings for young adults ages 20–24 not enrolled in school by gender and race and Hispanic origin, 2012

‡ Reporting standards not met (too few cases for a reliable estimate).

NOTE: The revised 1997 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards for data on race and ethnicity were used to classify persons into racial groups. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey.

  • Although median annual earnings for young adults ages 20–24 remained relatively stable between 1980 and 2000 (in inflation-adjusted dollars), earnings have declined since 2000 for young adults at all levels of educational attainment. Median earnings were generally higher between 1980 and 2012 for young adults with higher levels of educational attainment and for males than for females.
  • In 2012, median annual earnings for young adults were $17,460 overall and ranged from $13,910 for young adults with less than a high school education to $24,990 for those with a bachelor's or higher degree. Also in this year, median earnings were $18,700 for males and $15,920 for females.
  • In 2012, median earnings were higher for males than for females among those with less than a high school education and among those whose highest level of education was high school completion. However, there was no statistically significant difference between the earnings of males and females among those who had an associate's degree or among those with a bachelor's or higher degree.
  • For White, non-Hispanic young adults in 2012, median earnings were higher for high school completers than for those who had not completed high school; the corresponding differences in earnings were not statistically significant for Black, non-Hispanic and Hispanic young adults. In addition, earnings were higher for White, non-Hispanics with a bachelor's or higher degree than for their peers with an associate's degree.
  • Among those who had completed high school in 2012, median earnings were higher for White, non-Hispanics than for their Black, non-Hispanic and Hispanic counterparts; earnings were also higher for Hispanics than for Black, non-Hispanics. There were no measurable differences in earnings among those with a bachelor's or higher degree.

table icon YAECON2 HTML Table