Economic Snapshot | Education

New college grads losing ground on wages

New college grads losing ground on wages

As college students head back to the classroom this semester, a harsh reality confronts them — the rewards for the time, energy, and money that young people put into college are less than they were a decade ago.  Since 2000, America’s young college graduates have seen wages, adjusted for inflation, deteriorate.  This lack of wage growth may be particularly surprising to those used to reading about the vast unfilled need for college graduates, which if true would lead to increases in their earnings.  The chart below tracks the average inflation-adjusted hourly wage for young college graduates with no advanced degree from 1979 to 2010. 

After gains in the 1980s and particularly in the 1990s, hourly wages for young college-educated men in 2000 were $22.75, but that dropped by almost a full dollar to $21.77 by 2010.  For young college-educated women, hourly wages fell from $19.38 to $18.43 over the same period.  Now, with unemployment expected to remain above 8% well into 2014, it will likely be many years before young college graduates — or any workers — see substantial wage growth.

See related work on Income and wages | Education | Wages, Incomes, and Wealth

See more work by Heidi Shierholz