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Young Americans’ salaries haven’t increased in over 25 years

For the last 25 years, young Americans haven’t been able to get a raise — not even with a college degree.

Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York show that in 2016 the average annual wage of a recent college graduate with a bachelor’s degree was $43,000, and for like-aged people with a high school diploma, the annual wage was $26,000. In 1990, those figures were $42,847 and $31,160, respectively.


The stock market has been booming since Donald Trump took office, but in the White House and on Capitol Hill, wage-lifting government intervention remains a Democratic pipe dream. A still-hazy $1 trillion infrastructure plan from the Trump administration has yet to get off the ground, and Trump’s promises of consistent 4 percent annual GDP growth have been pooh-poohed by economists. The lack of wage growth of recent college graduates reflects the relatively slow pace of economic growth since the Great Recession hit.

The stagnant wages of young people in America fit into a broader pattern of intergenerational inequality. Researchers at Stanford University released findings in December that said children born in the 1940s had a 90 percent chance of earning more than their parents’ generation, while kids born in the 1980s only have a 50 percent chance of doing so.

Though across-the-board wage-boosting stimulus doesn’t appear to be coming anytime soon, earlier this year millions of workers got a raise as new local minimum-wage laws went into effect in 19 states. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2014 show that workers under 25 make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce making the federal minimum wage or less.

Only 18 percent of workers earning minimum wage or less have at least a college degree, but young people across the country (regardless of educational attainment) think it’s time the lowest earners got a raise, too. Pew survey data from last August showed that Americans aged 18-29 supported raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by a margin of 51 percent to 47 percent.