Here's what the typical American worker earns at every age

Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/FlickrYounger workers tend to have lower incomes than older workers.
  • Workers’ salaries vary by age, with older workers tending to make more than younger workers.
  • Using data from the US Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey, Business Insider estimated the median income for full-time, year-round workers at every age.
  • Incomes tended to gradually increase with age among workers in their 20s and 30s. There is a plateau, however, among workers lasting from their late 30s to their early 60s.

Workers’ salaries vary by age, with older workers tending to make more than younger workers.

The US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey asks millions of people every year about various social, demographic, and economic aspects of their lives. One of the topics on the survey is respondents’ total income from all sources.

Using individual-level data from the Minnesota Population Center’s 2016 ACS Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, we found the median total personal income for each year of age from 18 to 70 among respondents who said they had year-round, full-time employment, here defined as usually working at least 35 hours a week and 50 to 52 weeks in the past year.

The results show an interesting pattern. Incomes tended to gradually increase with age among workers in their 20s and 30s, with the median full-time employed 18-year-old earning about $US16,700 and the median 37-year-old earning about $US50,000.

But there is a plateau among workers from their late 30s to early 60s, with workers in that age range all having median incomes of about $US50,000 to $US55,000. Full-time workers above the usual retirement age of 65, however, enjoyed higher median incomes than younger workers.

It’s worth noting that these figures represent a snapshot in time, comparing workers of different ages in 2016, rather than a trend showing how the typical worker’s earnings change through time. That is, there’s no guarantee that a typical 25-year-old’s income in 2016 will grow over the next decade to match what a typical 35-year-old’s current income is, for example.

Here’s the median total personal income for full-time, year-round workers at each year of age, showing the rise through the mid-30s and the plateau until retirement age:

And here’s a look at the specific medians for each year:

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