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19.07.2022

How Much Does the Average American Make? +9 FAQs About Salaries

by Milos Djordjevic

How much does the average American make? Learning the answer to this question can be extremely useful in helping you better define your financial situation compared to the rest of the country. 

This article will analyze all official surveys and reports on the matter, putting together an accurate and to-the-point representation of how much the average worker in the United States makes. 

We’ll tell you exactly how much the average American makes in an hour, a day, a month, a year, and during their entire lifetime. We’ll also talk about the highest- and lowest-paying jobs, the states with the highest average incomes, and more. 

Let’s dive in!

What Is the Average Salary in the US?

Before we begin, we have to clarify something. To better understand how much the average Joe makes, we shouldn’t be looking at an average of all salaries in the United States, because this value is too distorted by outliers. 

Instead, we should follow the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ lead and look at the median. The median is “the middle value in a list ordered from smallest to largest.” We’ll still mention averages in this article, but keep in mind that the median is a better indicator of how much the average American salary really is.

Let’s get into the numbers!

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly earnings for full-time workers were $1,037 in the first quarter of 2022, and the average weekly salary in the US is $1,028. We can take those values and estimate that the average annual salary will be $53,490, and the median yearly salary will be $53,560. 

That might sound like a lot, but according to American spending statistics, the average person spent $61,334 in 2020. That’s a difference of $7,844, or around two months’ worth of average monthly wages.

1. How Much Does the Average American Make a Year?

Let’s analyze the same BLS report from before. The data for the first quarter of 2022 allows us to calculate the expected sum the average American will earn by the end of the year, which stands at $53,560. That’s a base, generalized value that groups together full-time workers independent of age, sex, and ethnicity. 

Let’s dig a little deeper. For example, the report shows that gender inequality is still a significant issue in the United States. On average, women earn $189 less per week compared to men. Men always out-earned women in all occupation types and age spans mentioned in the report. 

We can also look at the average salary by age. Average total annual income is the highest for people aged 45 to 54 years older ($60,944) and the lowest for Americans aged 16 to 19 years old ($30,524).

2. How Much Does the Average American Make in a Month?

The average American worker aged 16 years or over makes $4,148 a month.

The monthly median salary for workers without a diploma, on the other hand, is only $2,680. Highschool graduates have it slightly better, making $3,308 a month on average. Generally, the better a degree workers have, the higher their median monthly income is.

3. How Much Does the Average American Make an Hour?

Now, let’s look at how much the average American makes an hour. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly earnings of all employees on private, nonfarm payrolls for March 2022 were $31.73. 

Leisure and hospitality is the lowest paying industry in the United States, with an average hourly rate of just $19.68. Even people working in retail, a notoriously low-paying industry, earn more than that on average ($22.89 per hour).

4. How Much Does the Average American Make in a Lifetime?

According to recent studies, Americans earn, on average, around $1.7 million during their careers. That sum, however, depends on numerous factors, the main ones being sex, education, and ethnicity. 

For example, these studies show that women need a Ph.D. to make as much as men with a bachelor’s degree. Males that attended college but didn’t graduate earn as much as women with a bachelor’s. At all levels of educational attainment, men earn 25% more than women. 

Now, let’s focus on ethnicity. The average lifetime earnings of African Americans are 23% lower than Whites. Latinos earn 34% less than Whites throughout their careers. Asians also tend to stay behind Whites in lifetime earnings, but Asian workers with graduate degrees break this trend and have higher lifetime earnings than Whites.

5. Which State Has the Highest Average Income?

Average income varies significantly across the United States, as many factors influence it. Let’s take a look at the states with the highest average income. 

The state with the highest average annual income is the District of Columbia, at $88,702. Second place goes to Massachusett, where workers earn $81,123. Connecticut has the third-highest average yearly income, at $80,530. No other state manages to break the $80,000 threshold. 

The average annual income in DC is 40% higher than the average U.S.  yearly income per person of $53,490.

6. What Percent of Americans Make Over 100K?

How many people in America earn a six-figure salary?

In 2021, precisely 28,756,346 Americans, or around 16.5% of the workforce, earned $100,000 or more yearly.

In comparison, only 0.2% of American workers, or around 330,689 people, earn a seven-figure salary, or $1 million or more every year.

7. What Are the Highest Paying Jobs in the US?

According to the BLS, the nine highest-paying jobs in America are all in medicine, and all share the same median annual pay. 

Anesthesiologists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, orthodontists, physicians, ophthalmologists, psychiatrists, general internal medicine physicians, other surgeons, obstetricians, gynecologists, and family medicine physicians receive a median annual wage of $208,000. That’s more or less $17,300 every month, around 78% more than the average salary in the U.S. per month in 2022.

Airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers are the second highest-paying jobs in the United States, earning $202,180 per year on average. Nurse anesthetists are the third highest-paying occupation at $195,610 per year.

8. What Are the Lowest Paying Jobs in the US?

Unskilled laborers generally hold the lowest-paying occupations in the United States, and get paid the minimum wage to do back-breaking tasks such as working late into the night cleaning dishes or preparing food. 

Laundry and dry-cleaning jobs are the lowest-paid occupations in America, with a median wage of only $22,464 per year, or $432 per week. That’s less than half of the average wage in the US. 

Combined food preparation and serving workers are the second lowest-paid. These are your run-of-the-mill fast-food employees, and their median annual wage comes at a measly $22,672. Dishwashers are the third lowest-paid workers in the US, with a median salary of $22,932. 

No other job in the United States pays less than $23,000 on average, apart from these three types of occupations.

9. What Is a Good Average Salary in the US?

We’ve seen the lowest- and highest-paying jobs in the US. Now, let’s focus on finding a comfy middle ground.

According to the BLS, the average salary in America is $53,490 per year or $1,028 per week. If you want your salary to be better-than-average, you have to outmatch that sum. 

However, let’s say you want to be in the top 25% of earners in the country. In that case, you’ll need to make around $89,452 every year. If that sounds like a lot, just know that the top 1% of American workers earn $357,552 yearly. 

Now that’s a lot of money.

Bottom Line

What can we learn from looking at the average incomes in America? First of all, let’s face the elephant in the room: income inequality is real, and it’s a huge problem. 

It’s not only about the gender gap—Latinos, African-Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and many other ethnicities make way less money than Whites for the same jobs, and all studies show this. 

It’s all good and well to earn more than the average American salary, but it’s time to put aside greed and prejudices and face the real issue. What can we do to make income fair for everyone?

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