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U.S. Workers Say Their Wages Rose Over Past Five Years

U.S. Workers Say Their Wages Rose Over Past Five Years

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Almost five years since the onset of the global financial crisis, a majority of American workers say they are making a lot (28%) or a little (30%) more money than they were five years ago. Another 28% say they are making less money, including 18% who say "a lot" less. Fourteen percent of workers say they are making the same amount of money as five years ago.

Earnings in America Now Compared With Five Years Ago, August 2013

These results come from Gallup's Aug. 7-11, 2013, Work and Education poll. While a majority of those in the workforce (58%) say they are making at least a little more than they did five years ago -- which might be considered an achievement, given the economic climate over that time span -- the findings also suggest the last five years could hardly be characterized as flush times for a large swath of America. Forty-two percent of workers say they make less or the same amount of money as in 2008. The definition of what constitutes "a lot more/less" or "a little more/less" was left to the respondent's interpretation.

Young Most Likely to Say They Are Making More Now

Young adult workers, who are beginning their careers, are the most likely -- 55% -- to say they are making a lot more money than they were five years ago, and almost a quarter (23%) are earning a little more than before. Even when employed adults currently aged 18 to 22 -- who have no real income history to compare their current living standards with -- are excluded, 51% of 23- to 29-year-olds say they are making a lot more and 22% are making a little more. By comparison, 28% of 30- to 49-year-olds, 13% of 50- to 64-year-olds, and 9% of those aged 65 or older say they are making a lot more than they were five years ago. However, a majority of 30- to 49-year-olds (59%) and a plurality of 50- to 64-year-old workers (45%) say they are now earning more.

Making More Money Now Than Five Years Ago, by Age Group

Bottom Line

The collapse or near-collapse of several major Wall Street firms in September 2008 brought about one of the greatest financial crises in U.S. history. Five years hence, a majority of workers say they are making more money now. Still, 42% saw their earnings stagnate or decline over the past five years.

Young Americans are far more likely to say they have made big monetary gains over the last five years. This may largely be a function of their youth -- many young workers are settling into new careers and the salaries that come with those jobs. Research also shows that the recession has had particularly deleterious effects on older Americans, in that they may face a more difficult time re-entering the labor market after being laid off, which probably is partially contributing to why older workers are less likely to have seen their earnings go up.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 7-11, 2013, with a random sample of 1,039 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, who are employed full or part time.

For results based on the total sample of employed adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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