Income vs Inflation College Degree

It is amazing to me that I cannot find easily on the web a simple chart which lays out the Income vs Inflation in the US for people with college degrees- to determine if income levels have been rising to match the inflation levels. I had to build this chart myself!

What I found is that in general incomes have been rising so we earn more every year, even taking into account inflation. Yes in a few specific instances inflation rose slightly more than incomes did - but this was not the typical situation in the past 20 years. This chart features only people with college degrees (bachelor degrees only). So it doesn't even include people with higher degrees.

This chart indicates that as a whole salaries are keeping up with inflation on average, which is a good thing. It's unfair to look at this and say "salaries didn't increase". These are *average* salaries. A given person who starts out should always start out at a starting salary. As they get more experienced, they move up within that salary range and make more money. At the same time, brand new workers are coming in and taking those "beginning salary" positions. So this report is about the entire system, including a new set of brand new workers every year.

Part of the averaging issue involves how ranges are reported. Inflation is often a year over year number. Salary ranges are often an "average in this year" number. But people get raises at random times in a given year, and inflation can jump or reduce at odd times. So all of these are estimates by their nature, and you have to look at multi year trends.

Year Inflation College Degree $ change % change Amt Over Inflation
1990 5.39 $39,240
1991 4.25 $40,910 $1,670 4.08 -0.17
1992 3.03 $41,360 $450 1.09 -1.94
1993 2.96 $42,760 $1,400 3.27 0.31
1994 2.61 $43,660 $900 2.06 -0.55
1995 2.81 $45,270 $1,610 3.56 0.75
1996 2.93 $45,850 $580 1.26 -1.67
1997 2.34 $48,620 $2,770 5.70 3.36
1998 1.55 $51,410 $2,790 5.43 3.88
1999 2.19 $52,990 $1,580 2.98 0.79
2000 3.38 $56,330 $3,340 5.93 2.55
2001 2.83 $55,930 $(400) -0.72 -3.55
2002 1.59 $56,080 $150 0.27 -1.32
2003 2.27 $56,500 $420 0.74 -1.53
2004 2.68 $57,220 $720 1.26 -1.42
2005 3.39 $60,020 $2,800 4.67 1.28
2006 3.24 $60,910 $890 1.46 -1.78
2007 2.85 $62,090 $1,180 1.90 -0.95
2008 3.85 $65,800 $3,710 5.64 1.79


college income: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d09/tables/dt09_384.asp
inflation rates: http://www.miseryindex.us/irbyyear.asp


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