Future of Work

How Americans make and spend their money

Shoppers walk through the King of Prussia Mall, United States' largest retail shopping space, in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, U.S., December 8, 2018.  REUTERS/Mark Makela - RC154E642930

There is a clear link between college degrees and income. Image: REUTERS/Mark Makela

Jeff Desjardins
Founder and editor, Visual Capitalist
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Future of Work

Months ago, we showed you a set of data visualizations that highlighted how people make and spend their money based on income groups.

Today’s post follows a similar theme, and it visualizes differences based on education levels.

Below, we’ll tackle the breakdowns of several educational groupings, ranging from high school dropouts to those in the highest education bracket, which is defined as having achieved a master’s, professional, or doctorate degree.

Income and spending, by education

The data visualizations in today’s post come to us from Engaging Data and they use Sankey diagrams to display data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that shows income and expenditure differences between varying levels of education in America.

The four charts below will show data from the following categories:

1. Less than high school graduateLess than high school graduate

2. High school graduate

3. Bachelor’s degree

4. Master’s, professional, or doctorate degree

It should be noted that the educational level listed pertains to the person the BLS defines as the primary household member. Further, people in households can be at different ages and at different stages in their career – for example, someone with a Master’s degree could be 72 years old and collecting pension payments, and this impacts the data.

Less than High School Graduate – $28,245 in spending (98.5% of total income)

These contain an average of 2.2 people (0.7 income earners, 0.6 children, and 0.5 seniors)

Image: Visual Capitalist

The average household in this category brings in $17,979 of salary income, as well as an additional $7,503 from social security programs.

Almost all money (98.5%) is spent, and on average these households are actually pulling money from savings (or taking out loans) to make ends meet. The biggest expenditure categories include: housing (23.5%), foot at home (12.3%), household expenses (8.4%), and gas/insurance (8.2%).

High School Graduate – $35,036 in spending (87.3% of total income)

These contain an average of 2.3 people (1.0 income earners, 0.6 children, and 0.4 seniors)

Image: Visual Capitalist

The average household here brings in $29,330 of salary, as well as $9,008 from social security.

These households spend 87.3% of their income, while putting $3,113 (7.8%) away in savings each year. The biggest expenditure categories include housing (21.7% of spending), food at home (10.1%), gas/insurance (10.0%), and vehicles (7.7%).

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Bachelor’s Degree – $63,373 in spending (68.6% of total income)

These contain an average of 2.5 people (1.5 income earners, 0.6 children, and 0.4 seniors)

Image: Visual Capitalist

Households with at least one person with a Bachelor’s degree earn $81,629 per year in salary, as well as nearly $11,000 stemming from a combination of social security, dividends, property, and other income.

Roughly 68.6% of income is spent, with 16.6% going to savings. Top expenditures include housing (22.4%), gas/insurance (8.8%), household expenses (7.9%), and food at home (7.6%).

Graduate Degree – $83,593 in spending (62.9% of total income)

These contain an average of 2.6 people (1.5 income earners, 0.6 children, and 0.4 seniors)

Image: Visual Capitalist

Finally, in the most educated category available, the average amount of salary coming into households is $116,018, with roughly an additional $17,000 coming in from other sources such as social security, dividends, property, and other income.

Here, 62.9% of income gets spent, and 17.3% gets put towards savings. The most significant expenditure categories are housing (23.3%), household expenses (8.4%), gas and insurance (7.2%), and food at home (6.9%).

A changing role for education?

For now, there is a clear link between certain types of college degrees and higher salaries.

However, as total student debt continues to hit record highs of $1.5 trillion and as more remote educational options proliferate online, it will be interesting to see how these charts are impacted in the coming years.

By the year 2030, do you think education will still have the same strength of correlation with income levels?

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Future of WorkInequality
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