How Much Does the Average American Make? 20+ Statistics About the Average Salary in the US

ByJulija A.
April 12, 2022

Over the decades, the average salary in the US has increased significantly. In 1970, the median household income was $9,870, and 50 years later, in 2020, the median household income was more than seven times that, at $67,521.

Although the average salary has been increasing every year, the average living costs have grown even more quickly, and it can be tough to get by on just one (or even two) salaries in today’s economy.

To provide some context, we decided to compare the average and median household incomes in America and answer the question: “How much money does the average American make?”

Editor’s Choice:

  • In 2020, California had 1.14 million households with $1 million or more in investable assets.
  • The median income for an American household was $68,400 in 2019.
  • Since 1979, the top earners in the US have seen their wages grow by 157.8%.
  • Full-time working men had a real median income of $57,456 in 2019.
  • The median income of American White men aged 25 to 54 was $60,008 in 2020.

General American Household Income Statistics

These statistics will demonstrate how the average and median American household income has changed over the years. The data presented here can be a good pointer to what you can expect to add to your personal savings in the next few years.

The median income for an American household was $69,560 in 2019.

(US Census Bureau)

The median household income in the USA fluctuates, but it has generally been on an upward trend. However, despite inflation and rising living costs, the median income fell by $2,039 from 2019 to 2020.

On the other hand, the average American household income is significantly higher than the median household income, as the median income is a more accurate representation of the earnings of the entire population.

The average is much more sensitive to extreme values, and since the wealthiest Americans increased their riches significantly in the pandemic, the average household was about $30,000 higher than the median: $97,974 in 2020 and $96,955 in 2021.

Income inequality in the US is the highest among the G7 countries.

(Pew Research Center, World Population Review)

Income inequality is measured by dividing the income of the top 10% of earners by the income of the bottom 10% of earners in a given sample. This ratio of the aggregate household income in the US was at 9.1 in 1980, meaning the top earners made nine times as much money as the poorest people in the country.

While this is already high, results from 2018 show that this divide has grown by more than a third in the last 40 years, and is now at 12.6. The US’s Gini Inequality Index is at 41.4; for comparison, Slovenia’s least unequal status nets it an Index of 24.6, while South Africa’s spot at the top amounts to 63.

In 2020, the poverty rate in the US was around 11.4%.

(US Census Bureau)

The poverty rate in the US has been declining since the end of the Great Recession at the beginning of the 21st century. However, it has recently gone up again, most likely due to the pandemic, and has increased from 10.5% in 2019, to 11.4% in 2020.

While this is still not as bad as in 1993, for example, when the poverty rate stood at 15% - i.e., almost one out of every seven individuals was living below the poverty line - there is still much room for improvement.

The US median household income decrease between 2008 and 2009 was the same as between 2019 and 2020.

(US Census Bureau, Institute for Policy Studies)

If we look at the numbers from the United States Census Bureau's survey on median household income at the national and state levels for 2008/2009, we'll see a decrease of 2.9%. This decrease reflected the Great Recession's impact on the whole US economy and the average wage in the US. 

Almost the same decrease was registered between 2019 and 2020, meaning that the impact of the pandemic was almost equivalent to that of the biggest economic crisis in recent years.

Add to that the fact that the wealth of US billionaires actually increased by 55% in the first year of the pandemic, and we can conclude that this drop in earnings has affected the bottom end of the earning spectrum the most.

Since 1979, the top earners in the US have seen their wages grow by 157.8%.

(Economic Policy Institute)

Income inequality has been an ongoing issue in the United States for a while now. A study from the Economic Policy Institute shows that between 1979 and 2018, the top earners in America saw their wages grow by 157.8%.

In contrast, during that same period, the wages of those in the “bottom” 90% increased by only 23.9%.

The overall rise in income inequality has led to various socioeconomic consequences. Some ways those at the lower end of the spectrum offset some of this financial pressure include debt consolidation and refinancing.

In 2020, Maryland had a real median household income of $94,384.

(Statista)

The US state distribution of income has plenty of variations. In 2020, Maryland had a median household income of $94,384, making it the wealthiest state in the US. On the other hand, Mississippi, which is at the bottom of the list, had a median household income of less than half as much - $44,966.

By comparing all the states and their median household incomes, we get that the average median household income in the US for 2020, for all the states, was $67,521.

About 10.42 million US households had an income of $200,000 in 2019.

(Statista)

These households earned almost three times the national median household income. While this number is small compared to the total number of American households, the $200,000 income bracket is not the same for everyone. Depending on household size and composition, this amount can be significantly higher.

52% of US adults lived in middle-income households in 2018.

(Pew Research Center)

As we previously mentioned, income inequality is a significant issue in the United States. A study from the Pew Research Center shows that in 2018, 52% of adults in America lived in middle-income households.

This means they earned between two-thirds and double the national median household income. Almost a third (29%) of US adults were in lower-income households, while 19% were in upper-income households. It is essential to be aware of these disparities and do what we can to help close the gap.

The lowest-paid workers in the US earned $25,160 a year in 2021.

(BLS)

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest-paid earners in America were shampooers. Conversely, cardiologists had the highest salary - $353,970 - and right below them were anesthesiologists, who earned $331,190 per year in 2021. In fact, the top 18 spots in the BLS’s list of wages per occupation are all taken by medical professionals.

34.3% of households in the US earned more than $100,000 in 2022.

(IBISWorld)

If your question is “How much does the average American make a year,” here is the answer: In 2022, about 34.6% of households earned more than $100,000 per year. This is an increase from the previous two years, which had 33.6% and 33.8% of households reaching a six-figure income, respectively.

Women working full-time earned 17% less than men in 2020.

(US Census Bureau)

According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2020, men with full-time jobs had real median earnings of $61,417. On the other hand, women in the same position earned $50,982, which shows the gender wage gap in the United States is still very wide.

Between 2018 and 2019, the total number of full-time workers increased by around $1.2 million. By the end of 2019, the economy had grown for 126 consecutive months, which was the longest economic expansion in American history.

8% of people in the US had an annual household income of between 150,000 and 199,999 in 2020.

(Statista)

This represents a slight decrease from the percentage of people in this income bracket in 2019, when there were 8.8% of them. On the downside, 9.4% of people had an average annual household income of less than $15,000.

This data is essential because it helps us understand where most of the population stands financially, and identify which groups need more help and support from the government and other institutions.

The median household income peaked in 2019 at $69,560.

(US Census Bureau)

Since 2014, the average and median American household income have been increasing each year. There were no reductions and no stagnation in these numbers. In 2019, it reached its peak at $69,560, but that did not last for long.

Things started changing, and in 2020, the median household income dropped to 67,521. This drop was mainly caused by the pandemic and the economic downturn it brought.

​​Loudoun County, VA, had the highest median household income for the 2013-2017 period.

(CNBC)

Based on data collected from the US Census Bureau’s 2013-2017 American Community Survey, London County, Virginia, was the US region with the highest median household income, at $129,588. Its median household income for this period was $129,588, booming past runner-ups like Fairfax, Virginia ($117,515) and Howard County, Maryland ($115,576).

On the opposite end, the area with the lowest median household income in the US was McCreary County, Kentucky, followed by Holmes County, Mississippi, and Sumter County, Alabama.

In 2019, all middle-class Americans put together held less wealth than the top 1%.

(Bloomberg)

According to Federal Reserve data, the middle 60% of American households had less wealth than the top 1% - they held 26.6% and 27% of all US wealth, respectively. In other words, more than a quarter of the country’s money is concentrated in the hands of a very small number of people.

This is a significant change compared to the past few decades. For example, in December 1990, those from the top 1%  held just a bit over 17% of the wealth, while the middle-class held more than 36%. The average median household income was $54,621, which amounts to ​​$106,842 in 2019 money.

In 2020, California had the most households with $1 million or more in investable assets.

(Statista)

In 2020, there were around 6.98 million individuals in North America with financial assets worth at least one million dollars. Most of those people seem to be living in California, as this state has 1.14 million households with investable assets totaling one million or more. In contrast, the national average salary was $56,310 at the time, which shows a significant gap between different social classes.

This information allows us to identify in which states American wealth is concentrated, i.e., which states have a disproportionate amount of billionaires, and tax laws that are probably more favorable to high earners.

In 2020, you had to earn at least $390,066 to rank among the top 1% of all earners.

(USA TODAY)

Did you ever wonder how much you need to make to be in the top 1% of earners in a specific state? Here's the answer. If you lived in West Virginia in 2020, and your average annual income was $318,831 or more, you were among the top 1% of earners in that state, where the bar is lowest. At the same time, those who lived in Connecticut had to face the stiffest competition and earn at least $827,194 to be at the top.

The median income of American white men aged 25 to 54 was $60,008 in 2020.

(CNBC)

The median income of American white men aged 25 to 54 was $60,008 (annually) in 2020, based on Q2 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the flip side, the median income of American Black men from the same age group was $44,980.

These numbers show that there is a significant gap in median salary in the US between white and Black men, even when they are in the same age group, indicating that racism actively affects the job opportunities available to US citizens of different races, as well as their chances of reaching better-paid positions.

The median income for women between 25 and 34 years of age in the US in 2020 was $867 a week.

(CNBC)

In 2020, the median income for women in the US aged 25 to 34 years was $45,084 annually, which is $867 a week. Women from 20 to 24 years earned $610 a week, while those in the 35-to-44-years group earned $1,011 weekly.

Out of these three, women in the youngest age group earned $52 less than men each week, the middle group earned $96 less than their male counterparts, and in the 34-to-44 group, women earned $228 less each week. 

This gap becomes even wider in the following age group, when people generally reach the top of their earning potential, and then shrinks to the smallest it ever is after the age of 65, when it’s at $36.

Black people had the highest poverty rate in 2020, at 19.5%.

(US Census Bureau)

Despite pandemic response policies meant to alleviate the impact of the economic downturn on the most vulnerable groups in US society, Black people were still the poorest demographic in the country. Nearly a fifth of them lived below the poverty line.

Next in line were people of Hispanic origin, of whom 17% lived below the poverty line. The least affected minority were Asian people, of whom 8.1% fell under this threshold.

Final Thoughts

With the pandemic still going on, and its impact to be felt for years to come, the path of the average yearly income for Americans remains uncertain. Both the average and median household incomes fell in 2020, and recovered only slightly in 2021.

Wealth disparity is most certainly on the rise, however, as is inflation; for most people, this means their income won’t be able to account for the rising cost of living.

The income inequality and wage gaps between demographics, be they gender- or race-based, remain ever-present and are likely to be even more noticeable as the recession continues.

FAQ

What is the average income of an American?

+

According to a recent report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average income in the US in 2021 was $58,260 per year or $1,120 per week. The most lucrative professions are all in the medical arena, with cardiologists being the top earners by a long shot, as their annual mean wage was $353,970 - over $20,000 above the next profession in line.

How much do Millennials make?

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The average income of a Millennial in 2020 was $47,034 a year, or $905 a week. The average American income for the same period was $56,310 a year. These numbers show that there is still a lot of progress to be made regarding income equality, and there is still a significant difference in income among different age groups.

How much money does the average 25-year old make?

+

This is a difficult question, because there is no one "average" 25-year old. It depends on various factors, such as their education, career level, and occupation. However, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics data, from Q4 2021, the median salary of 20 to 24-year-olds was $667 per week, or $34,684 a year.

Who is considered middle class?

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The American middle class represents 60% of people on either side of the average income in the US. In other words, your median household income should have been between $50,641 and $135,042 for you to be in this group. Just for comparison, the average salary in the US in 2020 was $56,310, so you can see that the middle class falls in between the average and high earners.

Sources

About author

Albert Einstein is said to have identified compound interest as mankind’s greatest invention. That story’s probably apocryphal, but it conveys a deep truth about the power of fiscal policy to change the world along with our daily lives. Civilization became possible only when Sumerians of the Bronze Age invented money. Today, economic issues influence every aspect of daily life. My job at Fortunly is an opportunity to analyze government policies and banking practices, sharing the results of my research in articles that can help you make better, smarter decisions for yourself and your family.

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