How Much Does the Average American Make?

How Much Does the Average American Make

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the median personal annual income for adults is $35,805. Meanwhile, the median salary per household is $67,521.

To get the median, the U.S. Census Bureau gathers data over the past 12 months from anyone age 15 and older. It then lines up all income values in numerical order to find the middle value, known as the median. Half of all households make either more or less than this value.

Knowing the median income is helpful for those who want a salary comparison with their peers. It’s also a good way of being able to tell if they’re getting paid a fair amount in their industry.

So, how much does the average American make? It depends on several factors, such as gender, age range, education level, and geographic location. With that in mind, here are some recent statistics to get an idea of where your annual net income stacks up.

Summary of Average U.S. Income

The median U.S. household income was $67,521 in 2020. This is about a 3% decrease from the median household income in 2019. For the most part, the average annual income has gone up in the past few decades.

Here are some other key findings about the median salary in the U.S. and how much the average American makes:

  • The average annual income is $91,547.
  • The median earnings for individual males are $49,389, while their female peers make $35,838 in similar fields and positions.
  • Around 12% of the American population makes between $35,000 and $49,999 a year.
  • Households with individuals ages 45 to 54 earn the highest median income at an estimated $90,359.
  • The two lowest earning groups are those ages 65+ ($46,360) and those who are 15-24 years old ($46,886).
  • Asian households have the highest median income at $94,903.
  • Hispanic ($55,321) and Black ($45,870) households come in with the lowest annual median income.
  • Maryland is the state with the highest median income at $84,805.
  • Mississippi has the lowest median income at $45,081.

Median U.S. Annual Income by Year

The median income fluctuates every year, but it has seen a general upward trend since 1967. From 2019 to 2020, the median U.S. annual income dropped 2.9% across all households. This marks the first major decline since 2011.

Here is data on the median income over the past decade or so, according to Statista.

Year Median household income (by year) Median individual income (by year)
2020 $67,521 $39,027
2019 $69,560 $39,871
2018 $64,324 $37,004
2017 $62,626 $35,980
2016 $60,309 $34,963
2015 $58,476 $33,617
2014 $55,613 $32,220
2013 $56,479 $31,705
2012 $54,569 $31,231
2011 $54,673 $30,500
2010 $55,520 $30,440

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual income for full-time workers (households) in 2021 was $51,480. In the second quarter of 2022, it was around $54,132.

One thing to note is that the information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics may differ from that of the Census Bureau. This is because they use different methods to collect and analyze data.

Demographics Stats

When it comes to determining the median or average income, gender and age play a major role. The median income and potential lifetime earnings can vary quite a bit based on these factors. Additionally, the income data for these demographics show interesting patterns in the median U.S. salary. They also make it easier to make more accurate salary comparisons.

Median Annual Income by Gender

As of 2020, female employees who worked full-time year-round still earned less than their male counterparts. There has been some progress towards achieving equal pay and bridging the annual income.

However, there is still a significant gap in earnings based on gender. Based on the data, female workers tend to earn $10,000 to $14,000 less than their male peers. Several factors may contribute to why female workers tend to make a lower annual net income than their male peers. These may include:

  • The need to work fewer hours due to raising children or taking care of elderly parents
  • Men working at jobs or in industries that traditionally pay higher
  • Certain demographics receive more discrimination when it comes to annual U.S. salary

According to the U.S. Census, here’s an overview of earnings based on gender for the past decade or so. The data pertains to those who work year-round at full-time civilian jobs.

Year Median U.S. income (male) Median U.S. income (female)
2020 $49,389 $35,838
2019 $49,378 $36,273
2018 $48,182 $33,661
2017 $47,589 $33,671
2016 $ 45,541 $33,311
2015 $ 45,468 $33,046
2014 $ 44,477 $31,076
2013 $ 44,775 $30,485
2012 $ 42,825 $30,363
2011 $ 43,069 $30,623
2010 $ 43,764 $31,532

The median annual income for both males and females generally increased from 2014 to 2020. In 2020, the female-to-male earnings ratio was 0.830. This is not a significant change from the previous year. However, it is an improvement over previous years.

Average Income by Age

Age is another notable factor in terms of average income and median earnings. Historically, people make the highest amount in their 40s to 60s. This may be because they are more established and/or experienced in their career. On the other hand, younger workers tend to make less money.

Here’s the average income by age:

Age Average income
65 years old and up $46,360
55 to 64 years old $74,270
45 to 54 years old $90,359
35 to 44 years old $85,694
25 to 34 years old $71,566
15 to 24 years old $46,886

Annual Earnings by Education Level

The educational attainment level often makes a difference in how much an individual earns each year throughout their career. Here are some other quick statistics on the annual earnings based on education level:

  • People who’ve attended college typically earn more money than those with only a high school diploma.
  • On average, people with a bachelor’s degree make more than twice as much money as people without one.
  • Those with a bachelor’s degree make around 34.3% more than the median income when compared to those without a college education.

Here’s the most recent census data on the median income by education level.

Year 2020 2019
Bachelor’s degree or higher $106,936 $110,002
Some college (no degree) $63,653 $65,510
High school diploma only $47,405 $49,316
No high school diploma $29,547 $31,347

For the most part, people made around $2,000 more per year in 2019 than they did in 2020. This is regardless of educational attainment level.

Keep in mind, that the data does not necessarily account for the type of degree obtained, nor how desirable it is in the job market. Higher degrees and certain majors tend to yield a higher salary than others.

Highest Earning Starting Salaries

Positions in the STEM industries (science, technology, engineering, and math) tend to have the highest starting salaries for new graduates. These fields have been in high demand for years, and they continue to be so now.

Other positions with a high starting salary include finance, construction, architecture, and business. Here’s a comparison table for the top 15 starting jobs by salary:

Job title Median income (base salary)
1 Software Engineer / Systems Engineer $70,000
2 Engineer (Electrical or Mechanical) $68,000
3 Programmer Analyst $64,008
4 Civil Engineer $61,500
5 Economist $60,000
6 Construction Positions $60,000
7 Statistician / Data Scientist / Data Analyst $60,000
8 Financial Analyst / Investment Banking Analyst $60,000
9 Registered Nurse $58,928
10 Business Analyst / Network Administrator $58,000
11 Physicist / Computer Programmer $55,000
12 Mathematician $54,018
13 Accountant $52,000
14 Laboratory Technician $50,000
15 Architect / Project Designer $50,000

Conclusion

Anyone who wants to do a salary comparison for their annual net income should start with the median U.S. salary for their demographic. Although the numbers may vary, this is a great way of determining whether they’re making a competitive salary or not. It’s also helpful for those who want to know how much the average American makes.

Remember, census data can provide an estimate, but many factors play into what the median U.S. salary is. This includes employment type, age, gender, and industry.

Angela Mae Watson Angela Mae Watson Last update:
Angela Mae is a personal finance writer specializing in loans, debt management, investing, retirement planning, and financial literacy. She comes from a journalistic background and pulls from hands-on experience and deep-dive research to breathe life into her stories. Her goal is to help others achieve financial stability and independence. When not writing, she can be found traveling, honing her yoga skills, hiking, or exploring new means of healthy, sustainable living.