No, the Average College Grad Wasn’t Making $100,000 in the 1980s
On Monday, a TikTok video showing a startling decline in the average income of young college graduates since the 1980s went viral. In the video, a young woman compares the supposed average salaries of recent college grads in 1982 and 2022. She claims that “the average college grad in 2022 is making $55,260,” while “in 1982, the average college grad was making $102,200” in today’s dollars. She adds, “This sentiment being held by boomers of, ‘Oh, well, they’re just expecting too much,’ I just don’t think they know what numbers they’re talking about.”
However, her claims are simply wrong. Not only does the average college graduate today earn more than their 1980s counterparts, but they’re also graduating into the most robust labor market in decades.
It’s not clear where exactly the young woman sourced her claims about relative college graduate salaries from, though Jeremy Horpedahl, an economics professor at the University of Central Arkansas, suggested on Twitter that it could have come from a 2007 table published by the National Center for Education Statistics.
According to the table, the average recent college graduate in May 1981 earned $15,200 per year—which is just over $51,000 in 2023 dollars. However, the video states that the average recent college graduate actually made $33,700 per year, which she claims amounts to over $100,000 in today’s dollars. Her error, it seems, may have come from misreading the table, which lists $33,700 as
Article from Reason.com