Planet Money
1:09 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Income For Young, Middle-Aged And Elderly Americans, In Two Graphs

Originally published on Tue October 23, 2012 8:20 am

We've done a bunch of posts about household income and spending in America, and we've often sliced things based on the familiar divisions of rich, middle class, and poor.

But there's another, useful variable to consider: Age.

The households of middle-aged people earn about $20,000 more each year, on average, than households of people in their late 20s and early 30s. And they earn roughly $30,000 more than people age 65 and over (note that this difference includes income from Social Security and retirement).

None of this is terribly surprising — income over the life cycle is a curve, and it peaks when people are in their late 40s and early 50s.

Still, it's useful to recall that when we talk about average household income for the nation as a whole, we're lumping in lots of disparate households. A 24-year-old who makes $27,000 a year is in a much different position than a 45-year-old making the same amount.

A few notes on the data:

* All numbers represent pre-tax income.

* Income earned through work includes both money people earned on their full-time job and freelance income.

* Government assistance and benefits includes unemployment compensation, food stamps and veterans' benefits, among other things.

* "Other" includes financial support from others as well as rental and property income.

* The data come the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here's the spreadsheet.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.