The financial well-being of Millennials is complicated. The individual earnings for young workers have remained mostly flat over the past 50 years. But this belies a notably large gap in earnings between Millennials who have a college education and those who don’t. Similarly, the household income trends for young adults markedly diverge by education. As far as household wealth, Millennials appear to have accumulated slightly less than older generations had at the same age.
Millennials with a bachelor’s degree or more and a full-time job had median annual earnings valued at $56,000 in 2018, roughly equal to those of college-educated Generation X workers in 2001. But for Millennials with some college or less, annual earnings were lower than their counterparts in prior generations. For example, Millennial workers with some college education reported making $36,000, lower than the $38,900 early Baby Boomer workers made at the same age in 1982. The pattern is similar for those young adults who never attended college.
Millennials in 2018 had a median household income of roughly $71,400, similar to that of Gen X young adults ($70,700) in 2001. (This analysis is in 2017 dollars and is adjusted for household size. Additionally, household income includes the earnings of the young adult, as well as the income of anyone else living in the household.)
The growing gap by education is even more apparent when looking at annual household income. For households headed by Millennials ages 25 to 37 in 2018, the median adjusted household income was about $105,300 for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, roughly $56,000 greater than that of households headed by high school graduates. The median household income difference by education for prior generations ranged from $41,200 for late Boomers to $19,700 for the Silent Generation when they were young.