Change Indicator

Income - Median earnings for population (age 25 and over) by educational attainment in Pennsylvania

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Why This Indicator Matters

Median income is the income amount that divides a population into two equal groups, in which half have income above that amount and half have income below that amount.[1] Median income is a more accurate depiction of a population’s economic summary than average income because it is not affected by outlier households with extremely high or low incomes. Calculations of median income provide information about the financial resources available to households and are associated with employment, education, and health.[2] Research findings suggest that children who grow up in low-income households fair worse than their middle- and high-income peers in regard to several life outcomes.[3] Such outcomes include academic achievement, educational attainment, behavioral and cognitive development, and mental and physical health.

Educational attainment refers to the highest degree or level of education completed by an individual.[4] The educational attainment achieved by the general population has gradually increased over the past decade, improving the quality of the American workforce, and allowing the United States to remain competitive within the global market.[5] Despite these increases, however, many Americans remain unable to achieve a high education level because of their low-income status. This is largely due to educational attainment having a positive correlation with average earnings, suggesting that those with higher degree levels typically earn higher wages. Children born into low-attaining, low-earning families simply lack the economic and social resources that those born into high-attaining, high-earning families use to achieve postsecondary education, perpetuating their socioeconomic status.[6] Gaps in educational attainment by family income are believed to play a significant role in accounting for income inequality and socioeconomic mobility, characterized as one’s ability to move from one social or economic class to another.[7] This is particularly evident when measuring median earning by educational attainment level.

[1] United States Census Bureau. (2021). Median Household Income.

[2] Live Stories. (2018). Economic Competitiveness, Median Household Income.

[3] Cooper, K. & Stewart, K. (2013). Does Money Affect Children’s Outcomes? Joseph Rowntree Foundation.’s-outcomes

[4] United States Census Bureau. (2021). About Educational Attainment.

[5] United States Department of Commerce. (2021). Spotlight on U.S. Educational Attainment.

[6] Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis (TCI). (2014). Unequal Opportunities: Fewer Resources, Worse Outcomes for Students in Schools with Concentrated Poverty.

[7] Chingos, M. & Dynarski, S. (2015). How can we Track Trends in Educational Attainment by Parental Income? Hint: Not with the Current Population Survey. Brookings Institution.

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Definition and Source



Median earnings (in 2007 inflation-adjusted dollars) by highest educational level completed for population 25 years and over with earnings.

Data Source

(2005 - 2013) U.S Bureau of the Census, American Community Survey, 3-year estimates (B20004)

(2014 - current) U.S. Bureau of the Census, American Community Survey, 1-year estimates (B20004)


(2005 - 2013) The six smallest counties are not included in the ACS – Cameron, Forest, Fulton, Montour, Potter, and Sullivan.  Data used for those counties are small area (PUMA) figures.

(2014 - current) Single year estimates should not be compared to prior 3-year estimates. The 27 smallest counties are not included in the ACS - Bedford, Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Fulton, Greene, Huntingdon, Jefferson, Juniata, McKean, Mifflin, Montour, Perry, Pike, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Venango, Warren, Wayne and Wyoming.  Data used for those counties are small area (PUMA) figures.

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau did not release 2020 1-year estimates.

Last Updated

September 2023