Ideally, the first salary you earn is the lowest you will earn for the rest of your career. As the amount of experience you have increases, you become more likely to receive raises and earn higher salaries, but that initial number is important because it establishes a baseline for the minimum about that you will be paid. This is why starting salaries matter: those who start out with lower salaries than their peers tend to have a difficult time catching up later down the road.
A recent study gathered the median salaries each generation made in the United States in 2016 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, then adjusted the numbers to account for true cost of living. It was found that millennials, who the Bureau defines as people born between 1982 and 2000, earn the highest salaries in 10 select states (plus Washington, DC) — so if you're starting out in your career and considering making a move, a job in one of these locations could be a wise bet!
1. Massachusetts: $80,307
2. Minnesota: $77,090
3. North Dakota: $76,836
4. Washington, DC: $75,220
5. Maryland: $74,737
6. New Hampshire: $73,941
7. Wyoming: $73,345
8. Alaska: $72,374
9. New Jersey: $72,150
10. Virginia: $71,397
The lowest salaries were paid in Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, and New Mexico, where the median salary was $51,893 — more than $28,000 less than what was earned in Massachusetts, the state where Millennials earned the highest salaries.
One surprising find was the salary similarity between the West Coast and the South. The one exception to this was Washington, where the $70.4K salary was higher than that of California’s by $7,000.
According to a Pew Research Center analysis, Millennials currently make up the largest generation participating in the U.S. labor force. In 2017, 56 million Millennials were working or looking for work, followed by 53 million Gen Xers and 41 million Baby Boomers.
Unfortunately, those who graduated during or after 2008 are receiving lower salaries than those who graduated before 2008. One factor negatively impacting Millennial wages is the Great Recession of 2008. Underemployment rates have reached their highest highs since the ‘90s despite Millennials receiving a higher rate of college education than previous generations. This makes finding places where Millennials are earning higher salaries all the more important since it means they are more likely to receive higher salaries over their lifetimes.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets anthology.