Visualizing The Shifting Income Distribution Of American Jobs

Tyler Durden's picture

When we talk about the money that the “average” American worker makes, we are usually referencing a “median” or “mean” income statistic. While this number can be useful in many different contexts, Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins notes that it can also be extremely limiting. The reality is that there’s a very wide range of incomes out there, even within a particular type of industry. Some people can barely make ends meet, and others make millions of dollars more.

To view income distribution through a wider lens, data visualization expert Nathan Yau has created an interactive chart that breaks down millions of data points into just 50 dots per industry. The dots are visualized on a scale from $0 to $200k+ and binned in $5,000 increments. Data is also adjusted for inflation.


Here’s a snapshot showing what income distribution looked like 57 years ago for a variety of broad industries:

Generally speaking, many of the ranges are on the lower side of things and tend to have data points clustered around the “middle” of each distribution.


Fast forward to 2014, and nearly every income bracket has expanded out.

In many of these professions, workers are now making more money – this is good news for the economy.

The downside? There are two problems: (1) Higher inequality, and (2) Many of the new jobs created recently are on the lower end of the income spectrum.

As you can see, top earning lawyers, engineers, or managers are able to climb up towards the tops of their brackets. A lucky few are able to make $200k+, which is far more than the vast majority of the workforce.

However, workers in other industries like food preparation or healthcare support are not so lucky. Unfortunately, in these sectors, making a middle-class income is very difficult – and many people are bringing in less than $25k per year. Yet, it is in these types of sectors that we’ve seen the majority of “new jobs” appear over recent years.

It makes it difficult for society to solve the income inequality problem when this is the case.


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skinwalker's picture

Sad thing is, even if you make 200k per year it would take you 350,000 years to catch up to warren buffet. Longer than the human race has existed.

Zer0head's picture

a pissed off looking Donald - right now watching Superbowl

Hoi Polloi's picture

This is my child, he said. I wash a dead man's brains out of his hair. That is my job.

HRH Feant's picture
HRH Feant (not verified) Hoi Polloi Feb 5, 2017 9:46 PM

Jeezus that is some sick shit!

W.M. Worry's picture

Cormac McCarthy. "The Road"  



The Merovingian's picture

First, we kill all the lawyers.

a Smudge by any other name's picture

Naw. I wanna hear the classic ZH scorn and derision for the working poor. Plus we have to hear MDB tell us again how he too makes money by sitting on his ass in front of a computer.

Hoi Polloi's picture

You know your classics, my friend :)

techpriest's picture

To get that wealthy it takes a very different form of thinking.

Basically, if everyone in the USA gives you 3 bucks, you are a billionaire.

In China, if you get everyone to give you 4 yuan (~65 cents), you are a US billionare.

There are ways to make such things happen, but again, they require very different thinking than trading time for money with an employer.

halcyon's picture

Almost all US citizens could afford the $3USD.

China has c. 200 million middle-class. The rest would fight to death to give away 65 cents.

So yes, something else needs to happen...


Uzda Farce's picture
Uzda Farce (not verified) techpriest Feb 6, 2017 1:41 PM

Next level of "different thinking" involves buying politicians, controlling regulations, and bankrupting the competition. Being able to print the money also helps.

halcyon's picture

Remove the right bracket and parasites for the most part disappear. The swamp dries up.

The further the right bracket moves the right, the higher the likelihood for a revolution.


NMA's picture

And thats before taxes take half of what you make.... (which he ofcourse promotes as "fair") 

vesna's picture

Hm, high paid immigrants?

hooligan2009's picture

adjust for inflation and subtract one from the other to reveal a dot-plot of the change

then compare it on the same basis for tax collected

you then have the cost to the work force of globalization including techno developments

the compare that for each country in major trading blocs like nafta and you see the impact of dumbass politiciams v smart mecantilists

I Write Code's picture

Meaningless dots.  I don't even know what they think is in the "computer and mathematical", should be higher even in 2014 even though it was still depressed then, but none of it matters, the real difference is the non-earned income of the 0.01%.

canisdirus's picture

It depends on the market. Only a small fraction live in the markets with the extremely high incomes. If you're in a second-tier city or worse, this looks pretty accurate.

illuminatus's picture

The vast majority of us are reduced to being debt slaves. KISS

AtATrESICI's picture

Fake ass paper...It buys less and less as we all know.

HRH Feant's picture
HRH Feant (not verified) Feb 5, 2017 9:47 PM

I notice how lawyers stayed at the top. Fucking assholes. I hate lawyers. Especially after the asshole in WA state used a bogus argument to throw the current CIC under the bus.

Wahooo's picture

Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, all lawyers.
Any surprise our nation serves lawyers?

venturen's picture

If you make the win

O C Sure's picture

"It makes it difficult for society to solve the income inequality problem when this is the case."

Best start to solving any problem is to identify its cause. It appears that the poor choices that "society" has made are reaping what they have sown.

Sid Davis's picture

Look at a pre civil war Southern Plantation for an example of what income distribution slavery produces.  The master and his family had most of the wealth, there was a small middle class of overseers, and most of the inhabitants of the plantation lived in poverty as slaves.  A skewed distribution of income and wealth is what slavery produces.

If you arrived from Mars not having been previously indoctrinated into a preconceived notion, and saw an entire country with a skewed distribution of income and wealth, the only logical conclusion you could reach is that the country did not enjoy freedom, but had a legal structure that produced slavery, i.e., one tha produced poverty for the many and wealth for the few.

What should you expect in a free society?  The logical conclusion is that you should have a normal (bell curve) distribution of income and wealth with the person in the middle enjoying an average income and having an average amount of wealth.  Another way to say this is that there would be a large middle class, and only few at the extremes of large wealth and of abject poverty.  Free markets allow the free flow of capital and labor where it is most valued, and this means that competition can sort out the distribution of wealth where it sould naturally flow, into a bell curve distritution.

Anyone who thinks the USA is still a free country is simply suffering a delusion, because the evidence to the contrary is in the skewed distribution of wealth and the shrinkage of the middle class.  If we want to return to freedom we need to eliminate all but the most primary actions of government which means eliminating 90% of all government, federal, state and local. This means also eliminating all the laws that give the few advantage in the economy.  Since those in power enjoy a favored position as our master, it is unlikely they will give us freedom, so the probable future is either increased poverty for the majority, or civil war / revloution, hopefully one driven by the desire for freedom instead of for just a change in masters.