U.S. wages and salaries - Statistics & Facts

For the vast amount of Americans without significant investments enabling them to live from dividends and capital gains, wages and salaries dictate what they can and cannot afford. Given the strong influence wages and salaries can have on the quality of life of most ordinary Americans, they are rightly seen as a key economic indicator and are often an essential topic of any political agenda.

Wages & Inflation

In May 2020, the highest earning profession in the United States is anesthesiology with a median annual pay of 271,440 U.S. dollars. For those without the educational background or skills to access such jobs, increases in wage levels are often all the more important. However, wages and salaries do not live in economic isolation. Their relationship with inflation dictates whether or not increases in wages and salaries do in fact amount to increases in consumption power. As such, real wages, or wages adjusted for inflation, are a more telling measure. Although not extraordinary, average real wages in the United States from 2000 to 2020 show that real incomes have increased slowly since the turn of the century.

Social Impacts

The United States is a complex economy in regards to diverse geographies, education levels, socio-economic backgrounds, and individual skills. This diversity is reflected in the diversity of compensation received by different people around the country. Perhaps as a reflection of experience, among American males, those aged between 45 and 54 have the highest weekly income of any age group. Although younger generations such as millennials have expressed concerns about their position in the economic system, income differences between generations appears to be reasonably uncontentious in political terms.

Of a much greater concern for many members of the general public is the degree of inequality among both genders and ethnic groups in regards to full-time wages and salaries. In 2021, the highest earning cohort was Asian men who on average earned 1,453 U.S. dollars per week. In contrast, Asian women earned 1,141 dollars per week. Equally as problematic are the apparent wage and salary inequalities between ethnicities, reflecting structural socio-economics issues or at the extreme racism in American society. For example, the average Hispanic woman earned a mere 718 dollars per week.


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