The American Worker: How Occupations & Earnings Have Changed

April 20, 2015 Employment & Wages

Explore changes in employment, occupations, and earnings between 1990 and 2013 for men and women of different education levels.

There has been tremendous focus in recent years on the plight of the typical American worker. With discussion among policymakers and the media around the impacts of globalization, technology, and other forces of change on the labor market, there are endless anecdotes describing the changing nature of work in the United States. In this Hamilton Project interactive, you can examine the changes in employment, occupations, and earnings of America’s workers between 1990 and 2013.

These comparisons across groups of working-age adults (men and women age 30–45) are based on data from the 1990 Census and the 2013 American Community Survey. There are eight groups, defined by sex and education level. The graph on the left shows how the five most common occupational categories have changed for each group; mousing over each category will show how median earnings have changed for workers in that group within that occupation category. The table in the upper right shows how a group’s likelihood of employment has changed over time, as well as the change in the share of working-age men or women with that level of education. The graph at the bottom right shows the change in annual earnings for each worker group at three levels: the 25th percentile—the point at which one-quarter earn less and three-quarters earn more—the median or 50th percentile—where half earn less and half earn more—and the 75th percentile—where three-quarters earn less and one-quarter earn more.

These charts use data from the 1990 United States Census and the 2013 American Community Survey.