June 20, 2008
What do word processors and typists, statistical assistants, pipelayers, chefs and head cooks, and real estate sales agents have in common?
When earnings for these occupations are arranged from lowest to highest, workers at the 10th percentile in each occupation earned very similar wages--about $9.71 per hour. But at higher percentiles the occupational wages are very different.
For example, the 90th percentile wage of word processors and typists is $20.83 per hour; this amount if roughly twice the 10th percentile wage. In comparison, the chefs and head cooks at the 90th percentile hourly wage of $29.20 earn almost 3 times that occupation’s 10th percentile wage, and real estate sales agents at the 90th percentile (with hourly wages of $53.61) earn more than 5 times the wages of real estate sales agents at the 10th percentile.
These data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics program. To learn more about occupational employment and earnings, see "Chart book: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2006," May 2008, Bulletin 2702. A percentile wage divides the workers in an occupation into two groups: those earning less, and those earning more. For example, a 10th percentile wage indicates that 10 percent workers earn less than the stated amount, and 90 percent earn more.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Occupations with different wage variations on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2008/jun/wk3/art05.htm (visited November 29, 2015).
Fifty years of looking at changes in peoples lives
Longitudinal surveys help us understand long-term changes, such as how events that happened when a person was in high school affect labor market success as an adult.