Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are the demographic consisting of individuals born between 1981 and 1996. While many millennials are just now becoming part of the workforce, others have been part of it for 20+ years. Just as with other demographics -- such as baby boomers, Generation X and Generation Z -- the average income of millennials varies by state. We'll look at the best and worst states for different earning percentiles among millennials. We will also see where millennials tend to earn the most, and learn some other interesting facts about millennial jobs and income.
What Is The Median Millennial Income?
The median income for all workers in the United States is $37,848. However, for millennial workers, this number dips to $27,003. There are individuals earning less than this, as well as just as many earning more.
Furthermore, the median income for workers varies by state, industry, and by job experience, which we’ll touch on in greater detail in the slides to come. As millennials age, the median income is likely to increase, with workers in this demographic gaining experience.
What Does The Millennial One Percent Earn?
Earning in the top one percent of all millennials is easier said than done, with this number reaching as high as $275,910 in the state of Minnesota and $271,010 in Wyoming. Even at the bottom end of the scale, you’ll still need to earn $104,809.00 in South Carolina, $110,144.00 in Kansas and $110,350.00 in Maine to earn more than 99 percent of other millennials.
The good thing for millennials is that there are plenty of career and income-growing years ahead of them.
Top Five Millennial One-Percent States
Depending on where you live, becoming a one-percenter of the millennial generation can be a challenge (especially if you're early in your career). The top five millennial one-percent states include Minnesota at $275,910, Wyoming at $271,010, New York at $250,100, District of Columbia at $240,000, and Connecticut at $238,107.
This is more than twice as much as the states making up the bottom five, which is often a reflection of population and cost of living.
Bottom Five Millennial One-Percent States
Even if you live in one of the states where it doesn’t take as much income to become a one-percenter, you still need to earn a solid living. The bottom five states include South Carolina at $104,809, Kansas at $110,144, Maine at $110,350, Idaho at $116,690, and Nevada at $120,120.
If you live in South Carolina and earn $104,809, for example, this is more than 90 percent of millennials earn in Minnesota, but far from the top one percent.
Top Five Millennial 10-Percent States
If you’re in the 10th income percentile, it means that 90 percent of millennials in your state earn more. Here is a list of the five highest millennial incomes in the 10th percentile: District of Columbia at $10,000, South Dakota at $8,000, North Dakota at $8,000, Minnesota at $7,118, and Colorado at $7,008.
Many of the millennials in this category benefit from the fact that they live in a state with a low cost of living, such as the Dakotas.
Bottom Five Millennial 10-Percent States
As noted above, if you’re in the 10th income percentile, it means that 90 percent of millennials in your state earn more than you. Here is a list of the five lowest millennial incomes in the 10th percentile: Vermont at $3,000, West Virginia at $3,000, Louisiana at $3,100, Georgia at $3,400, and Arizona at $3,602.
These workers are among the lowest-earning among all millennials. However, since many of these states have a low cost of living, it's a little easier to make ends meet.
Top Five Millennial 50-Percent States
Many millennials are sitting in the 50th percentile of earners in their demographic and state. These people earn more than 50 percent and less than 50 percent. The highest-earning millennials in this category reside in District of Columbia at $48,006, Colorado at $34,001, Alaska at $33,507, Virginia at $32,000, and Massachusetts at $32,010.
Since many of these states have higher costs of living, millennials in this income percentile have a harder time making ends meet.
Bottom Five Millennial 50-Percent States
On the other end of the 50th percentile spectrum, these are the bottom five median income states for millennials in this category.
Mississippi comes in around $22,504, New Mexico at $23,250, West Virginia at $24,000, Maine at $24,000, and Michigan at $24,008. Millennials who live in these states may not earn as much as others in the 50th percentile, but the cost of living is not nearly as steep, so their money goes further.
Where Do Millennials Earn The Most Money?
In the previous slides, we discussed the states where millennials earn the most money, with one-percenters in Minnesota leading the way at $275,910. According to a recent study by Acorns, millennials make the most money in these cities: San Jose, California; San Francisco, California; Washington, D.C.; Boston, Massachusetts; Seattle, Washington; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and New York, New York.
The thing you’ll notice here is that all of these cities are known for having a high cost of living, which means your money doesn’t go nearly as far.
Where Do Millennials Earn The Least Money?
The Balance outlines the states where millennials earn the least amount of money, naming New Mexico, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, and Arkansas. These are many reasons why millennials earn less in some states than others, such as the cost of living, types of jobs that are available, and the number of residents with a college degree.
However, even in states where millennials tend to earn less, there is still potential to move toward the top of the demographic’s median earnings.
Millennial Income vs. Other Demographics
Generally speaking, older Americans tend to earn more than younger Americans. Depending on the state, there is often a large gap between the income of millennials and baby boomers. For example, the older generation in Alaska earns approximately 65 percent more than millennials.
Even in Iowa, which has the smallest gap, older residents earn roughly 25 percent more than millennials. This income gap has the potential to slowly disappear as a growing number of baby boomers retires.
Cost Of Living Impact On Millennial Income
Just because a person earns more money doesn’t necessarily mean they have access to a greater disposable income. This is often the result of a high cost of living. For example, a millennial living in New York City will typically earn more than someone living in a rural state, such as West Virginia or Wyoming.
However, with the cost of living being much higher -- including everything from housing to transportation -- both individuals may end up with the same amount of money at the end of the month.
Millennials Covet These Jobs
Millennials aren’t chasing after the same types of jobs as those before them. They’re coveting certain types of positions, with these among the most wanted: software engineer, data analyst, data scientist, business analyst, administrative assistant, product manager, financial analyst, graphic designer, software developer, and project manager.
Not only do these roles best fit what millennials are seeking in a career path, but many of these professions are high paying and readily available to qualified individuals.
Top-Paying Millennial Jobs
Some millennial jobs pay more than others, and those who land these positions have the opportunity to move toward the top one percent of income earners. Some of the top-paying millennial jobs include designers, paralegals, legal assistants, computer support specialists, registered nurses, web developers, loan officers, accountants, auditors, occupational therapists, computer programmers, and physical therapists.
As industries evolve, some of these roles will begin paying more, while others move to the bottom of the list.
Many Millennials Enjoy Unconventional Jobs
Millennials are different than the older generation in many ways. For example, many members of this generation are more interested in unconventional jobs, such as nurse midwife, production assistant, producer, makeup artist, fitness instructor, and social media manager.
While these may not be conventional jobs by baby boomer standards, they’re popular among millennials who don’t want to follow the “same old, same old” career path. And it doesn’t hurt that these jobs have the potential to pay higher than average.
Millennials Are Driving The Gig Economy
The gig economy is H-O-T hot, and the millennial generation is a driving force behind its growth. For example, a study by PWC notes that nearly half of HR professionals believe that 20 percent of their workforce will be contractors by 2022.
There are many benefits of the gig economy, including no income cap, job flexibility, and the opportunity to serve a variety of clients as opposed to working for a defined employer. With more opportunities available than ever before, millennials will continue to push the gig economy forward.
Millennials Want More Than A Competitive Salary
There was a time when money meant everything. Employees were looking for the highest-paying job, even if it didn’t suit them in other areas. Millennials are taking a different approach, with these workers heavily weighing other benefits, such as access to high quality and affordable health insurance, a sound retirement plan, and work-life balance.
Money is still important, but millennials are more likely than other generations to work for less if they’re getting more by way of benefits.
Many Millennials Struggle To Find Work
With unemployment rates low, it’s easy to believe that there are plenty of jobs for millennials and others. However, this doesn’t hold true across the board. The Great Recession affected all Americans, with many millennials taking a hit during a time when they should have been growing.
With a high unemployment rate during and after the Great Recession, many millennials got off on the wrong foot in the working world, which still affects them today.
Working Millennial Women: A Growing Trend
More millennial women are working today than ever before, with this passage from a recent CNBC article saying it all:
"In 2017, 78 percent of women in millennial households worked at least 50 weeks over the course of the year; in 2000, 72 percent did. And the median earnings of women working full time for a full year (in households headed by people ages 22 to 37) rose from $37,100 in 2000 to $39,000 in 2017."
Millennial Households Are Earning More Than Ever
According to a Pew Research Center analysis, millennial households are earning more money than ever before. The median adjusted income in a household headed by a millennial was $69,000. The study goes on to note that this “is a higher figure than for nearly every other year on record, apart from around 2000, when households headed by people ages 22 to 37 earned about the same amount.”
It’s not as high as the median adjusted income of baby boomers ($77,600), for instance, but it’s also not far off.