Although the salary you're paid on a job should never be the only criterion you consider when applying for or accepting, a position, it does play a large role in the decision-making process. It can also be an indicator of the United States' general economic forecast. Several government agencies, including the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, regularly track salary numbers from coast to coast and issue reports detailing the average salaries that workers bring in each year.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average salary for all Americans was $51,017 in 2012, down very slightly from 2011's mean of $51,100. That is still 8.7 percent below the average salary in 2007.
Women Catching Up
Women made 77 percent of what men make on average across the country in 2012. That was unchanged from 2011, but up substantially from 1960, when women made only 61 percent of what men made.
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Whether your place of residence lies within a principal city -- defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as a state's largest city -- or outside of a principal city plays a role in your money-making potential. Those who live inside principal cities have a reported salary average of $44,852. In contrast, those who live outside of such cities but still within metropolitan areas -- defined by the census as population-dense, economically related communities -- bring in an annual average of $56,582. The average drops considerably for those who live in rural areas outside of metropolitan areas, where the average is $40,135.
Differences by Race
White workers earned an annual average of $57,000 in 2012; African-Americans, $33,300; Asian-Americans, $68,600; and Hispanics, $39,000.
For the third year in a row, the percentage of Americans living at or below the poverty level -- those individuals earning $11,720 or less -- has remained at a high of 15 percent. That translates to 46.5 million Americans, according to the Census Bureau.