Millennials are now the largest generation in the American labor force, accounting for well over half of all workers in the US. And with three different generations now in the workplace, employers have to consider pay differences between people of all ages. Our new map reveals how the difference in pay between Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers differs dramatically based on geographic location.
We gathered the data from the American Community Survey (ACS) through the US Census Bureau, made available for researchers at IPUMS-USA. We stack ranked each generation from youngest to oldest, comparing median income levels for Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers in every state across the country. This approach lets you easily see which areas tend to produce high-earning jobs for different generations, and which states are comparatively worse off.
Our map highlights a few different trends worth discussing in detail. First off, as you might expect, millennials make less money than their older counterparts in every single state, even California where they predominate in the high-paying tech sector. By and large Gen Xers also lag behind Baby Boomers, but not by nearly as much. For example, in Pennsylvania the median income for Millennials is $38K compared to $53K for Gen Xers and $54K for Baby Boomers. The one exception proving the rule on our map is Washington DC, where Gen Xers pull in $15K more than Baby Boomers. After all, Washington DC isn’t a state and instead should be seen as an urban area where middle-aged people are usually in positions of power.
Taking a broader regional perspective also sheds light on the gap between Millennials and older workers. Compare how Millennials are compensated in the Deep South compared with the Northeast. Young people earn $30k in states like Alabama and Mississippi compared to $46K in Massachusetts or $38K in New Hampshire. That’s a substantial difference even after accounting for living expenses—remember, the amount of money you make early in a career usually determines wages later on. In other words, that $8,000 gap between New Hampshire and Alabama no doubt grows as workers age. But here’s the rub: salary growth usually stagnates by the time people turn 35. That’s why there is a such a steep climb between Millennials and Gen Xers, but comparably less of a climb to Baby Boomers, regardless of which state you look at.
Want to put these salary figures in context and learn more about the true cost of living in different parts of the country? Check out our tool to see all of the different factors you need to consider.
Data: Table 1.1