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Useful Stats: Age, Income, and Educational Attainment in 2022

September 27, 2023
By: Conor Gowder

The United States boasts the world’s largest economy and is home to many of the most prestigious, highly ranked universities across the globe, leading to a highly educated population. Overall, advanced education pays off in terms of personal earnings and national innovation. Factors like field of study, skills, and job demand can greatly affect earning potential.

For example, many engineering jobs require a bachelor’s degree, not a master's or doctorate, yet have the highest average starting salaries of any field.

The divide becomes even larger when looking at specialized fields of study. This divergence is particularly true for jobs in medicine and law, which have high entry requirements.

In the United States, average earnings increase alongside both age and educational attainment.

Workers with advanced degrees earn the most, while those with the  least amount of education earn the least. This difference in mean earnings widens with age and experience. For example, those aged 25 to 34 earn an average of $73,700 with a bachelor’s degree and $121,400 with a professional degree, while those aged 45 to 54 average $100,900 with a bachelor’s and $213,400 with a professional degree. These earnings represent a 37% increase for those with bachelor’s degrees and a 76% increase for those with professional degrees between age groups.

Yet without breaking down these age groups by degree, 25- to 34-year-olds earn an average of $60,860, and 45- to 54-year-olds average $82,280, a 35% difference. These differences in income show that average earning potential is skewed towards those with more advanced degrees.

In the age groups starting at 55, and especially past 65, average earnings begin to decrease across nearly all educational attainments. Various factors, such as the possibility of reduced working hours, transitioning to part-time or less demanding roles, or retirement, may contribute to this decline in average earnings.

However, it is important to remember that these trends are based on average earnings. Individuals past the typical retirement age choosing to continue to work may earn substantial incomes due to their expertise, experience, and high-demand skill sets.


Age, Education, and Poverty

The relationship between education and income holds on the other end of the wage spectrum, as well. The chart below shows the percentage of those below 100% of poverty by age group and educational attainment in 2022.  The overall rate of percentage below 100% of poverty for all age groups and all education levels is 11%. The rate is highest for people with no high school diploma at 21% and lowest for those with a 4-year degree or higher at 5%.

The rate of percentage below 100% of poverty is also higher for younger people, with the highest seen in 18- to 24-year-olds at 15%. However, this trend shifts when considering educational attainment, where 25- to 34-year-olds with no high school diploma have the highest rate at just over 30%.

Across all age groups, those without high school diplomas have the highest rate of under 100% of poverty.

Education data was broken down into those with no high school diploma, high school (no college), some college (less than a 4-year degree), 4-year degree or higher, and all. (See the CPS Poverty Tables Footnotes for more information.)

The chart above shows that the poverty rate is lower for people with higher levels of education across all age groups except for 18-to 24-year-olds, where the rate is the same (14%) for those with some college (no degree) and those with a 4-year degree or higher.

The graphic above shows the same age groups and educational attainments but for the percentage of those 200% below poverty. The trend is similar, with those having no high school diploma always having the highest rate, while consistently decreasing as educational attainment increases.

The data used in this article can be found here.

useful stats, income, education, trends