In the past there was a strict taboo against talking about money, especially what you earned.

As far as employers were concerned, there was a good reason for this.

It prevented employees from finding out who was paid the most.

After all, any employee would be unhappy if they discovered someone else is doing the same job and getting paid more.

Disgruntled employees are not good for business. 

Of course, the law now insists on salary transparency.

Despite this, roughly 50% of Americans are unable to discuss their salary thanks to non-disclosure agreements (NDA).

In general, employees assume the NDA is protecting them, but there is no guarantee that you’re being paid more just because you signed an NDA.

It’s time to take a look at what is the average American income.

You can then decide where you fit on the scale and what you should be doing about it.

Key Statistics

  • The average american worker earns $54,132 a year
  • Highest average earners in the US are aged between 45-54
  • The average management role pays nearly twice as much as other roles
  • People with professional degrees have the highest average salary
  • Average wages are highest in maryland
  • In 2020/2021 average wages for full time employees decreased by 4.1%
  • As of 2021 men, on average, earned 27% more than women
  • The average US household earns $97,962
  • 10% of americans earn over $200,000 a year
  • Between 1964 and 2018 the average american’s real wage is just $2.38 more

What Is the Average American Income in 2024?

1. The Average American Worker Earns $54,132 A Year

What Is the Average American Income: Most Relevant Statistics

The most direct answer to what is the average American wage is $54,132 a year.

Interestingly, the average wage increased more than usual during the pandemic.

This was largely because certain industries, such as healthcare, were crying out for staff.

It was also possible to do huge amounts of paid overtime, pushing the average wage up. 

Statista looked at all employed workers, (not self-employed ones), and included overtime, commission, and declared tips. 


2. Highest Average Earners In The US Are Aged Between 45-54

The average wage varies according to age.

For most of your life the average will increase.

This is because you are learning the ropes and moving up the career ladder. 

However, this changes when you pass 54 and your average earnings start to fall.

It’s not clear why your skills are less valued after this age. 

When you’re between 16-19 your average wage is $31,356.

This will increase a little until you hit the 25-34 age range and average incomes are $50,752.

Average wages peak between 45-54 at $61,412, although this is only fractionally higher than between 35-44.

Earnings then start to taper off, although at 65 the average wage is still higher than the average 25-34 year old. 


3. The Average Management Role Pays Nearly Twice As Much As Other Roles

The latest BLS survey shows data from 2022 and gives management and professionals an average annual income of $75,868.

Construction and maintenance roles come close with $50,128.

Sales and office-based roles earn an average of $45,084 and transportation and production roles $41,964.

It’s service roles that are the least financially rewarding.

At an average of $36,764, management roles are earning more than twice as much. 


4. People With Professional Degrees Have The Highest Average Salary

It’s drummed into you from a young age that a good education is necessary to secure the best jobs in life.

In most cases this is true and the data backs this up. 

The data looks at earnings in 2021 and shows that people who haven’t earned a high school diploma earn an average of $32,552 a year. 

Gain a high school diploma and this rises to $42,068 and, add in time at college without a degree and earnings get boosted to $46,748.

Those who gained a degree cross the $50k threshold.

Associates average $50,076, Bachelor degrees earn $69,368, and people with master’s earn an average of $81,848.

People with professional degrees top the chart at $100,048, better doctorates with $99,268.

In short, get educated to earn more. 


5. Average Wages Are Highest In Maryland

Average Wages Are Highest In Maryland

Unsurprisingly, the average American wage will fluctuate according to which state you live in.

This is partly due to different states having different laws, and partly a result of the industries in each state. 

Maryland tops the chart with an average household income of $94,384.

It’s closely followed by the District of Columbia with $88,311.

The top ten slots include New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Utah, Colorado, Virginia, and Washington.

The list is rounded off with Hawaii in tenth place and an average household income of $80,729.

At the bottom end of the scale, Mississippi has an average household income of just $44,966.


6. In 2020/2021 Average Wages For Full Time Employees Decreased By 4.1%

The average wage should increase year after year.

Ideally, this rise should at least match inflation, ensuring people are no worse off.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. 

In the 2020/2021 year the average wage of all workers increased by 4.6%.

However, the average wage of full-time employees was reduced by 4.1%. 

This was a direct result of the global pandemic.

Many full-time roles were either lost or employees were forced to take pay cuts in order to maintain their jobs. 

Subsequently, more people took part-time employment which corrected the balance and gave the average wage a positive spin without reflecting the hardship individuals and families were faced with.

(US Census Bureau)

7. As Of 2021 Men, On Average, Earned 27% More Than Women

It’s fair to say equality between employees has progressed significantly in recent years.

However, that still doesn’t mean all employees are treated equally. 

According to the latest survey, in 2021 the average male earned $50,391 and the average female earned $36,726.

In other words, male salaries were 27% higher than female ones. 

The percentage gap changes according to the industry you are in.

Self-employed women earn, on average, 60% of what men earn. 

The same difference is notable in private sector jobs.

Interestingly, men in local government roles are still paid more than women, but the difference is less pronounced.

For example, the average male local government worker earns $57,860 while the average female earns $46,622.

Disappointingly, the census results show that the gender pay gap is still alive and kicking.

In 2016 women earned 74% of men in the equivalent role.

In 2021, it’s 73%, slightly worse. 

(US Census Bureau)

8. The Average US Household Earns $97,962

The Average US Household Earns $97,962

As of 2021 the US Census Bureau recorded an average household wage of $97,962.

Of course, this is made up of households at both ends of the earning scale. 

Taking into account the number of high-earners and how their significant incomes can affect the average, the census produces an adjusted figure.

This is more accurate and a better guide to judge your household income against.

For 2021, this figure was $69,717, not much higher than the average individual income. 

Don’t forget, this survey tracks all income sources, not just money from employment. 

(US Census Bureau)

9. 10% Of Americans Earn Over $200,000 A Year

The average American wage is defined by totaling all earnings and dividing them by- the number of employees.

While this can look good on paper, the reality is some people earn huge sums of money and others are struggling to stay afloat. 

According to the latest statistics, 10.3% of Americans earn over $200,000.

To balance this, 9.4% of Americans earn under $15,000 per year. 

16.5% earn around the average, that’s between $50,000-$74,000, a further 16.8% earn between $15,000-$35,000.

The US is listed sixth in terms of average real-world wages.

That’s helped by the 27.5% of Americans that earn between $75,000-$150,000.


10. Between 1964 And 2018 The Average American’s Real Wage Is Just $2.38 More

In 1964 the average hourly wage was just $2.50, a seemingly impossible figure to live on today. 

However, in 2018 the average American hourly wage was $22.65, seemingly far superior to over 50 years ago.

Unfortunately, you need to consider inflation for this period.

Inflation is the percentage at which goods and services rise in price.

This is generally a result of economic factors, such as increased difficulty in mining raw materials or manufacturing the product. 

If inflation is 10% then a product which was $1 becomes $1.10.

The hourly wage of $2.50 would need to rise by $0.25 to ensure you have the same buying power as before inflation increased prices. 

When we allow for inflation between 1964 and 2018, the average hourly wage of $2.50 would be the equivalent of $20.27 today. 

In short, you’re a couple of dollars an hour better off than you would have been in 1964.


What To Do If You Think You Are Underpaid

What To Do If You Think You Are Underpaid

Most people feel they could be paid more for what they do.

However, it’s unlikely that your company has unlimited funds to cover pay rises across the board.

Instead, you should be paid a fair wage. 

That means, you should be earning roughly the same as other people doing the same role in the industry, and exactly the same as anyone completing the same tasks and responsibilities within your workplace. 

If that’s not the case, you need to take action:

Go Surfing

We’re not talking about getting wet.

You need to surf online and take a look at the salary sites relating to your state and area.

You’ll be able to see averages relating to your industry and community. 

This will help you confirm you are underpaid and what you should, on average, be paid. 

If you’re comfortable doing it and haven’t signed an NDA, approach colleagues to find out what they are earning.

Approach Management

Armed with this information you can approach management.

Tell them about your service, your skills, why you feel you are underpaid, and ask for a rise. 

They will either say yes or no!

Consider Education

If you want to bolster your annual wage then you should look at improving your education.

In many cases employers will help with the cost of this, making it easier for you to learn.

The additional skills you learn may help you in your current role, provide advancement opportunities, or even take you in a new career direction.  

Change Jobs

If your employer is unsympathetic then you’ll need to take a look at the employment market and decide if there is anything else worth applying for. 

Changing jobs is a big step but it can be very rewarding and certainly boost your wage.

It’s even possible to find the same job paying more at a different company. 

Just make sure you have the best possible resume before applying.

Summing Up

If you’re looking at what is the average American wage then you’re probably thinking that you’re underpaid.

The above statistics will give you a good idea of where you fit on the scale and whether you should be taking further action. 

If that’s the case, you’ll want to follow the guidelines above and secure a better wage, improving your life quality.

It is possible to earn above average!


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