Where Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials make the most – and least – money in the U.S.

Baby Boomers tend to make the more money than younger generations in the U.S., given their additional years of experience – but where do Boomers, Millennials and Generation X each earn the most within their own age groups?

The answer varies widely from one state to the next. Alaska offers the best pay for Baby Boomers (with a median salary of $76,500), while Millennials and Generation Xers are paid the highest salaries in Massachusetts, with median pay of $46,000 and $67,000, respectively, according to an analysis of 2016 Census salary data by Business Insider.

For Baby Boomers, Connecticut is the second-highest paying state ($70,000), followed by Massachusetts and New Jersey, which both had median pay of $68,800 for people who were aged 52 to 70 in 2016.

The money Millennials make varies by state, according to 2016 U.S. Census data. At $46,000 a year, Millennials in Massachusetts have the highest median income in the country

Boomers make the least money in Arkansas, where the median is $43,900, followed by West Virginia and Mississippi (both $45,000) and Florida ($47,600).

In all but four states – West Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa – Generation X workers also made more than their younger counterparts.

After topping out in Massachusetts, the next best-paying state for Generation X was New Jersey ($65,050) followed by Connecticut and Maryland, which tied with a median income of $65,000.

Arkansas was the worst state for people who were age 36-51 in 2016, paying a median of $40,200, followed by Mississippi ($40,860) and Florida ($43,000).

The state with the second-best paying jobs for Millennials (age 20-35 in 2016) is Connecticut ($44,000), followed by Maryland ($43,000) and New Jersey and New York (both at $42,000). 

There was a five-way tie for the states that pay Millennials the least, with Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi and New Mexico all bottoming out at a median pay of $30,000.

The largest pay gap between generations was in Alaska, where Baby Boomers made 91 percent more than their youngest counterparts. The smallest gap was in Washington D.C., where Baby Boomers make a median of $75,000, or 25 percent more than Millennials ($60,000) – but Generation Xers make the most at $75,000.  

The money people of Generation X earn varies by state, according to 2016 U.S. Census data. People of Generation X living in Massachusetts make a median income of $67,000 – more money than their cohorts in all other states

Overall, the northeastern states tended to pay the most, but also have higher cost of living, while the southern states had the lowest salaries in every age range. 

As the youngest generation for which data was evaluated, Millennials have the least experience in the workforce, so it may not be surprising that they make the least money – however they also make less than their parents did at their age, according to a report issued earlier this year by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

The net worth of an average family headed by someone born in the 1980s remained 34 percent below expectations in 2016, the most recent year for which data was available.

The economic downturn that began in 2008 is largely responsible for those circumstances, and debt from education and credit cards have only compounded the problem, the report said. It was families led by people born in the 1980s who were worst off in terms of wealth accumulation nearly a decade after the recession. 

Baby Boomers consistently made more than their younger counterparts, with Alaska paying people age 52-70 more than any other state

Unlike all other generational groups, the typical 1980s family actually fell further behind from 2010-2016 – which was otherwise ‘a period of rapidly rising asset values that buoyed the wealth of all older cohorts,’ the study said.

Lower pay early on in their careers could make it harder for the younger generation to bounce back from ongoing pain from the recession.

Despite financial obstacles, Millennials retain an inherent optimism, with 53 percent saying that they believe they will one day millionaires, according to a separate report by TD Ameritrade. 

Perhaps the optimism is due to Millennials graduating in record numbers – with the overall college completion rates rising nearly 4 percent in 2017, according to another study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

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