Note: This story was updated in June, 2019.
Are you among the richest people in America? Are you among the poorest? Or are you somewhere in the middle?
An examination of income data from the U.S. Census Bureau can give you a good sense of where you stand with the rest of America and can offer some unique insights into the well-being of your fellow citizens.
In this article, we’ll offer a breakdown of where Americans lie on the income scale, and also take a look at some recent trends regarding wages.
Table of Contents
- Incomes Are Rising For Most People
- Income Distribution
- How to Raise Your Income in 2019
Incomes Are Rising For Most People
The U.S. Census Bureau releases new data on incomes in America each September, based on the previous year’s figures. The latest figures, representing 2017, show that the median annual income of all families is $61,372, a 1.7% increase from 2016.
But the gains were not even across all ethnic groups. Incomes rose 2.6% among white people and 3.3% among Hispanics, but fell 2.2.% among Asians and was basically flat for black people.
The household income is one way for the government to measure how well we’re doing economically and track trends based on averages.
This increase in household income is mainly due to working longer hours, even though wages remained relatively the same, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute. This means the average American worker is working harder than ever to pay for necessities as it relates to their job, including childcare and commuting.
The U.S. Census Bureau breaks down income data by population segment, including age, race and even geographic location.
This kind of data helps the government understand who is benefiting most from possible income gains and who may be left behind.
First, let’s take a look at the percentage of people in each income bracket:
|Income Quintile (Mean income)||Population Percentage|
|Quintile 1 – $13,258||3.1%|
|Quintile 2 – $35,400||8.2%|
|Quintile 3 – $61,564||14.3%|
|Quintile 4 – $99,029||23.0%|
|Quintile 5 – $221,845||51.5%|
|Top 5% ($385,289)||22.3%|
Average Income By Race
Census Bureau data shows that there are meaningful disparities in income between people of various races and ethnic backgrounds.
|Race/Ethnic Group||Median Income|
Average Income for Households
It’s been widely reported that women earn less than men. The most recent census data puts this in stark relief. Here’s a look at incomes by gender, broken down by household type.
|Gender/Household Type||Median Income|
|All family households||$77,713|
|All women with earnings||$31,610|
|All men with earnings||$44,408|
Average Income By Age
Are you earning as much as those in your age group? Here’s a look at median incomes based on age. As you can see, those in the 45-54 age group are earning the most, before seeing incomes dip around retirement age.
|Age range||Median Income|
|Under 65 Years||69,628|
Median Income By Geographic Location
It’s clear that incomes vary across the country. Some locations have relatively high incomes due to a large base of employers, while other parts of the country see people earning less. Generally speaking, you’ll earn more in the Northeast and out West than you will elsewhere, but incomes will vary widely even within regions. (Costs of living also adjust.) Are you earning a competitive wage, based on where you live?
How to Raise Your Income in 2019
While 2017 proved to be up for household incomes, will the trend continue? And if so, will you get a pay raise? Much of that is up to your employer, but there are things you can do to increase your income and overall net worth.
Take some time to set goals to increase your income, pay off debt, create a budget and a plan to lessen your spending.
Remember, it’s not about how much you make, it’s about how much you keep. True wealth isn’t necessarily about having millions in the bank, it’s about having enough to be comfortable and to have the freedom to do the things you love.
Set a Budget and Have Specific Goals
Look through the last three months of your income, bills and other spending. Figure out how much your monthly budget needs to be so you can save extra money. Make it a point to shave off a percentage of your monthly spending.
Start with a small amount, such as 5 to 10 percent. Whatever you don’t spend, put it towards your debt. If you don’t have debt, put that extra money into savings.
Automate your paycheck so that a portion of it goes straight into your savings account. If you’re an employee, you can ask your HR manager if you can split your paycheck so a portion of it goes directly into your savings.
Or maybe the most important thing is to get rid of debt first. If that’s the case, how much more do you need to put into your debt each month in order to get rid of it? How many months will that take you?
Time for a Side Hustle
If money is tight and you can’t afford to put in extra money to pay off your debt quickly, a side hustle may be in order. Based on your debt, how much extra money do you need each month?
Set a number for how much extra income you need to make. Having a concrete number always works better than just generally saying you’d like to “increase your income” or “make more money.”
Then write down all the things you can do in order to bring in that kind of money.
For example, can you tutor or perhaps get a babysitting job from Care.com? Can you pick up extra hours at your job? Make a column for how you can earn extra income, such as listing a room on Airbnb and calculate how much you could make.
Ways to Earn Side Gig Income
Based on a recent survey about top financial goals for 2018, the Well Kept Wallet community expressed interest in earning extra income this year as one of their goals.
Some of the best ways to do this is through side gigs from the share economy, technology and apps.
There are so many ways to earn extra money from home. You literally have no more excuses!
Look for a New Job
Did you know it’s actually recommended that you switch jobs every three years? Thanks to more Millennials dominating the workforce, job hopping may be seen as a good thing, and it’s one of the best ways to make a significant jump in pay.
According to Fast Company, “Workers who stay with a company longer than two years are said to get paid 50% less, and job hoppers are believed to have a higher learning curve, be higher performers, and even to be more loyal, because they care about making a good impression in the short amount of time they know they’ll stay with each employer.”
Start your search on LinkedIn or Indeed, and set your preferences for recruiters to reach out to you if an opportunity is a good fit. Update your resume and make sure your LinkedIn profile is professional, with details of successful projects for each position you held.
As the saying goes, looking for a job is a job in itself, so schedule blocks of time into your calendar to get this done on a regular basis. Set a goal, even if it’s to send your resume out to one new company a day.
Taxes & Gifts
If you know you’re getting a tax return this year, put that money to good use and get rid of as much debt as you can.
If you don’t have debt, put that money into a high yield savings account (rather than putting it in an account that won’t earn any interest, like the ones from big banks). We recommend the online savings account from CIT Bank, or put that money into your IRA account. You’re allowed to contribute up to $6,000 for the year.
Any extra gifts or money you receive during the year should also be put towards your debt.
Whether you identify with the upper, middle or lower income class, one thing is universal among all classes — which is — be smart about your money.
Understand your spending habits, create a budget and make it a goal to increase your income, pay off your debt and save more money.
Does your income match up with data on who’s earning what across America? Are you underpaid or overpaid? Let us know in the comments.