College graduates see pay drop 7.6% in last six years, report says

The wages of recent college graduates have fallen over the last decade. Above, a student during graduation at Cal State University Northridge.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

More grim news for university grads: The starting salaries of those who have recently earned college diplomas have stagnated -- and even dropped -- over recent years, a report says.

Between 2000 and 2012, the wages of fresh college grads dropped 8.5%, a roughly $3,200 decline for full-time workers. In the last six years alone, their pay fell 7.6%, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute.

Last year, college grads earned an average $16.60 an hour -- about $34,500 a year.


“The wages of young graduates fared poorly even before the Great Recession began,” the report said. “They saw no growth over the entire period of general wage stagnation that began during the business cycle of 2000-2007.”

Women and men did not suffer equally. Between 2007 to 2012, females saw a 10.9% decline in wages while their male counterparts watched their pay drop 6.1%. But between 2000 to 2012, men were the worst hit, suffering a 9.4% decline while women saw their wages fall 6.6%.

The declines stand in sharp contrast to the late 1990s, when young college graduates enjoyed a 19.1% jump in pay “during that period of low unemployment and overall strong wage growth,” the report said.

“The stark difference between these two economic periods illustrates how the outcomes of young graduates vary considerably depending on whether the overall economy is experiencing low unemployment and strong wage growth or high unemployment and wage stagnation.”


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