# Average, Median, Top 1%, and all United States Individual Income Percentiles in 2021

October 8th, 2022 by
PK

In this post are estimated United States Individual Income Brackets for 2021. Also, find the average, median, and top 1% of individual incomes in the United States.

Individual incomes are limited to Americans who worked (or wanted to work) in 2020. Incomes are earned between January and December 2020.

Don't miss our research on household incomes.

## Individual Income Benchmarks in 2021

The most important summary statistics for income – whether individual or household – are:

• Median income
• Average income
• Top 1% income

Note these statistics are for all workers in the United States. To limit data to "full time" workers using your choice of 30 or 40 hours (and up) per week, compare incomes in our individual income percentile calculator.

### What was the median individual income?

Median individual income in the United States was $44,225. It was up from$43,206 in 2020.

2020 numbers are not adjusted for inflation (and neither are the following questions and answers).

### What was the average individual income?

Average individual income in 2021 in the United States was $63,214.03, up from$62,518.13 in 2020.

### What is the top 1% individual income?

To be a top 1% earner in the United States in 2021, you had to make $357,552. Top 1% is down from$361,020.00 in 2020.

### Is median income the same as average income?

No, median and average income are not the same. They are both descriptions of the central tendency of a data set, but tell us different things:

• Median individual income means half of all individual workers made more, while half made less money in full-year 2020.
• Average individual income means we add up every worker's earnings in full-year 2020 then divide by the number of workers.

Median is the most important summary statistic for income data – it demarcates the point where half of workers make more money and half make less (ignoring the workers who make exactly the median, of course!).

## Selected United States Individual Income Percentiles for 2021 and 2020

Individual income is defined as all income earned assigned to one individual. Think:

• Wage income (for more, see the dedicated salary research post)
• Investment income
• Other income (see the list)

Unlike the above section, this section is adjusted for inflation (CPI). You can find the details here.

On massive caution: this data isn't longitudinal. The survey does not show you what a single individual earns year over year.

## 2021 Individual Income Percentiles for the United States

The following chart shows the change in every income percentile year over year.

As a warning, you can't compare the brackets directly. Changes are only suggestive – note that the workforce can grow or shrink and people can move between brackets (and into and out of the workforce).

## Methodology on 2021 United States Household Income Brackets

I source this data from the United States Census Bureau's Annual ASEC survey, released in September 2021. I use harmonized data from the University of Minnesota's Minnesota Population Center in R.

Sarah Flood, Miriam King, Renae Rodgers, Steven Ruggles, J. Robert Warren and Michael Westberry. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, Current Population Survey: Version 9.0 [dataset]. Minneapolis, MN: IPUMS, 2021. https://doi.org/10.18128/D030.V9.0

### What is your 'worker' screen?

Over the years – thanks to feedback (and complaints) from readers – I've improved the worker screen to include people in the workforce as well as people who want to find a job. Unlike with a monthly survey, we have to do some legwork because we want to see people who were in the workforce during all (or any) of 2020.

Here's how the screen works:

• At least age 16
• Labeled as 'in workforce'
• Report working 1 or more hours in a typical week
• Report 'want' or 'maybe want' a job

#### How does annual income and your workforce determination compare to the employment population ratio?

You can't compare them. The employment-population ratio is a snapshot of current working conditions taken monthly. This screen is attempting to show people who were in the workforce at some point in the year, so it will be be biased higher.

### Why don't these numbers match the Social Security Administration's earnings statistics?

These statistics contain more income types than the numbers from Social Security. The ASEC numbers are the gold standard estimates of income and poverty in the United States.

The Census Bureau creates the official poverty estimates for the United States. The numbers include all types of income (importantly: including investment income).

### How many samples are in the 2021 and 2020 data?

• 2021: 84,967 data points representing around 174,458,178 workers.
• 2020: 82,990 data-points representing an estimated 176,214,306 workers.

### Is individual income gross or net?

All income numbers in this post are gross income, or before tax.

### Can you compare this individual income data year over year?

As mentioned above, this data is not longitudinal. It is a different set of people answering the survey than last year, people move in and out of the workforce, and the workforce changes in size. There's no guarantee that a person is in exactly the same percentile two years in a row and each percent is a varying number of people depending on the year.

## Analysis of Individual Income Brackets in 2021

As with the other research, it's good fun putting these together – but I understand if this format is overwhelming. Please check out the income percentile calculator, an interactive tool presenting these numbers in (perhaps!) a more intuitive way.

As a bonus: you can also screen for typical hours worked a week!

See previous editions:

### PK

PK started DQYDJ in 2009 to research and discuss finance and investing and help answer financial questions. He's expanded DQYDJ to build visualizations, calculators, and interactive tools.

PK lives in New Hampshire with his wife, kids, and dog.

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