A New Study Hints At A Big Problem With American Worker Salaries


We assume, naturally, that over time, as we accumulate experience in our field and more responsibility, we’ll get paid more. Directors get paid more than associates, VPs more than directors, and In-n-Out restaurant managers get paid more than all of us. And that’s kind of important for society as a whole; after all, families aren’t cheap. But a new study shows a distinct lack in salary growth.

Business Insider pulled data from the US Census’ yearly American Community Survey to look at the median salary of workers by age. “Median,” here, means the midpoint of a frequency distribution, so you’re just as likely to be above this as you are to be below it. And, at first, there’s a steady rise in wages from being employed full-time as an eighteen-year-old to about age 37. But what happens next is a little more worrying:

…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 $50,000 to $55,000. Full-time workers above the usual retirement age of 65, however, enjoyed higher median incomes than younger workers.

In other words, for nearly thirty years, namely most of their working lives, at the moment it looks like most Americans have zip, zero, nada salary movement. What you’re making in your late thirties is, by current conditions, roughly what you’ll be making twenty years from now. It’s not clear how long this plateau has been the case, but it would explain quite a bit about the economy, not least why so many Baby Boomers seem not to want to retire and why there’s all this handwringing about Millennials not having kids. Nobody’s making baby-having money.

Of course, this situation is unlikely to endure forever. The labor market is already close to full employment, and wage growth has been wiped out by inflation. Sooner or later, companies are going to start trying to poach each other’s workers, and that’s when salaries will start going up.

(via Business Insider)

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