How Americans Make and Spend Their Money, by Education Level
Connect with us

Personal Finance

How Americans Make and Spend Their Money, by Education Level



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 graduate
  2. High school graduate
  3. Bachelor’s degree
  4. Master’s, professional, or doctorate degree
    1. 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)
      Less than High School Graduate

      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)
      High School Graduate

      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%).

      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)
      Bachelor's Degree

      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)
      Graduate Degree

      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?

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist
Click for Comments

Personal Finance

How Do Americans Spend Their Money, By Generation?

This interactive graphic shows a breakdown of how average Americans spend their money, and how expenses vary across generations.



Annual Expenditure in the U.S. by Generation

How Americans Spend Their Money, By Generation

In 2021, the average American spent just over $60,000 a year. But where does all their money go? Unsurprisingly, spending habits vary wildly depending on age.

This graphic by Preethi Lodha uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to show how average Americans spend their money, and how annual expenses vary across generations.

A Generational Breakdown of Overall Spending

Overall in 2021, Gen X (anyone born from 1965 to 1980) spent the most money of any U.S. generation, with an average annual expenditure of $83,357.

GenerationBirth Year RangeAverage Annual Expenditure (2021)
Silent1945 or earlier$44,683
Boomers1946 to 1964$62,203
Generation X1965 to 1980$83,357
Millennials1981 to 1996$69,061
Generation Z1997 or later$41,636

Gen X has been nicknamed the “sandwich generation” because many members of this age group are financially supporting both their aging parents as well as children of their own.

The second biggest spenders are Millennials with an average annual expenditure of $69,061. Just like Gen X, this generation’s top three spending categories are housing, healthcare, and personal insurance.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, members of Generation Z are the lowest spenders with an average of $41,636. per year. Their spending habits are expected to ramp up, especially considering that in 2022 the oldest Gen Zers are just 25 and still early in their careers.

Similarities Across Generations

While spending habits vary depending on the age group, there are some categories that remain fairly consistent across the board.

One of the most consistent spending categories is housing—it’s by the far the biggest expense for all age groups, accounting for more than 30% of total annual spending for every generation.

GenerationAverage Spend on Housing (2021)% of Total Spend
Silent (1945 or earlier)$16,65637.3%
Boomers (1946 to 1964)$21,27334.2%
Generation X (1965 to 1980)$26,38531.7%
Millennials (1981 to 1996)$24,05234.8%
Generation Z (1997 or later)$15,44937.1%

Another spending category that’s surprisingly consistent across every generation is entertainment. All generations spent more than 4% of their total expenditures on entertainment, but none dedicated more than 5.6%.

GenerationAverage Spend on Entertainment (2021)% of Total Spend
Silent (1945 or earlier)$2,0274.5%
Boomers (1946 to 1964)$3,4765.6%
Generation X (1965 to 1980)$4,6945.6%
Millennials (1981 to 1996)$3,4575.0%
Generation Z (1997 or later)$1,6934.1%

Gen Zers spent the least on entertainment, which could boil down to the types of entertainment this generation typically enjoys. For instance, a study found that 51% of respondents aged 13-19 watch videos on Instagram on a weekly basis, while only 15% watch cable TV.

Differences Across Generations

One category that varies the most between generations and relative needs is spending on healthcare.

As the table below shows, the Silent Generation spent an average of $7,053 on healthcare, or 15.8% of their total average spend. Comparatively, Gen Z only spent $1,354 on average, or 3.3% of their total average spend.

GenerationAverage Spend on Healthcare (2021)% of Total Spend
Silent (1945 or earlier)$7,05315.8%
Boomers (1946 to 1964)$6,59410.6%
Generation X (1965 to 1980)$5,5506.7%
Millennials (1981 to 1996)$4,0265.8%
Generation Z (1997 or later)$1,3543.3%

However, while the younger generations typically spend less on healthcare, they’re also less likely to be insured—so those who do get sick could be left with a hefty bill.

Continue Reading

Personal Finance

Mapped: The Salary You Need to Buy a Home in 50 U.S. Cities

Is owning a home still realistic? This map lays out the salary you’d need to buy a home in 50 different U.S. metro areas.



This is the Salary You Need to Buy a Home in 50 U.S. Cities

Depending on where you live, owning a home may seem like a far off dream or it could be fairly realistic. In New York City, for example, a person needs to be making at least six figures to buy a home, but in Cleveland you could do it with just over $45,000 a year.

This visual, using data from Home Sweet Home, maps out the annual salary you’d need for home ownership in 50 different U.S. cities.

Note: The map above refers to entire metro areas and uses Q1 2022 data on median home prices. The necessary salary was calculated by the source, looking at the base cost of principal, interest, property tax, and homeowner’s insurance.

Home Ownership Across the U.S.

San Jose is by far the most expensive city when it comes to purchasing a home. A person would need to earn over $330,000 annually to pay off the mortgage at a monthly rate of $7,718.

Here’s a closer look at the numbers:

RankMetro AreaMedian Home PriceSalary Needed
#1San Jose$1,875,000$330,758
#2San Francisco$1,380,000$249,685
#3San Diego$905,000$166,828
#4Los Angeles$792,500$149,127
#7New York City$578,100$129,459
#10Washington, D.C.$553,000$110,327
#12Riverside/San Bernardino$560,000$106,192
#15Salt Lake City$556,900$100,970
#18Las Vegas$461,100$84,116
#31San Antonio$321,100$70,901
#36Kansas City$287,400$60,507
#38Virginia Beach$289,900$59,245
#39New Orleans$281,100$57,853
#46St Louis$216,700$48,988
#49Oklahoma City$198,200$45,299

Perhaps surprisingly, Boston residents need slightly higher earnings than New Yorkers to buy a home. The same is also true in Seattle and Los Angeles. Meanwhile, some of the cheapest cities to start buying up real estate in are Oklahoma City and Cleveland.

As of April, the rate of home ownership in the U.S. is 65%. This number represents the share of homes that are occupied by the owner, rather than rented out or vacant.

The American Dream Home

As of the time of this data (Q1 2022), the national yearly fixed mortgage rate sat at 4% and median home price at $368,200. This put the salary needed to buy a home at almost $76,000⁠—the median national household income falls almost $9,000 below that.

But what kind of homes are people looking to purchase? Depending on where you live the type of home and square footage you can get will be very different.

In New York City, for example, there are fairly few stand-alone, single-family houses in the traditional sense⁠—only around 4,000 are ever on the market. People in the Big Apple tend to buy condominiums or multi-family units.

Additionally, if you’re looking for luxury, not even seven figures will get you much in the big cities. In Miami, a million dollars will only buy you 833 square feet of prime real estate.

One thing is for sure: the typical American dream home of the big house with a yard and white picket fence is more attainable in smaller metro areas with ample suburbs.

Buying vs. Renting

The U.S. median household income is $67,500, meaning that today the typical family could only afford a home in about 15 of the 50 metro areas highlighted above, including New Orleans, Buffalo, and Indianapolis.

With the income gap widening in the U.S., the rental market remains a more attractive option for many, especially as prices are finally tapering off. The national median rent price was down nearly 3% from June to July for two-bedroom apartments.

At the end of the day, buying a home can be an important investment and may provide a sense of security, but it will be much easier to do in certain types of cities.

Continue Reading