Earnings by Age Group in Benton County

by Pat O'Connor

February 15, 2019

\The influence of Oregon State University stands out prominently in Benton County. It is a large university in a relatively small county. As a result, students attending OSU, some of whom also work, have a large impact on economic data in Benton County. Average wages in the county are a good example. Although our data can’t separate workers who attend OSU from other workers in the county, we can look at earnings by age group to get a rough proxy of earnings of college-aged workers in Benton County and look at the earnings of older workers in the county as well.    
Looking across all age groups, Benton County’s average monthly earnings were nearly 2 percent higher than Oregon’s during the third quarter of 2017. However, it varied significantly by age group.
Younger workers in Benton County consistently have lower earnings compared with Oregon. The most glaring difference being workers in their late teens and early 20s. Benton County workers ages 19 to 21 had average monthly earnings nearly 18 percent below the statewide average for workers in that age group. It is important to note that average monthly earnings do not take in to account the number of hours a worker works. If an age group has a large share of workers with part-time jobs that work limited hours, that can play a large part in explaining the lower average monthly earnings. That is certainly the case in Benton County where a large share of the county’s residents in their late teens and early to mid-20s are enrolled as students at Oregon State University.

The county’s earnings gap extends into the early prime working years; Benton County workers ages 25 to 34 earn about 4 percent less than the statewide average for workers in that age group. Older Benton County workers in their prime working years, ages 35 to 44 and 45 to 54, have average earnings 1.7 percent and 2.9 percent above the statewide average, respectively. Benton County has a larger share of young workers (ages 25 and younger) and older workers (age 55 and older) compared with Oregon. As a result Benton County has a smaller share of its workforce in the prime working years. The county has 62.2 percent of its workforce in the prime working years (ages 25 to 54) compared with 64.9 percent statewide.  

Benton County’s workers who work past the prime working years have earnings that are higher than Oregon’s average. In 2017, Benton County workers age 55 to 64 earned 9.3 percent more than the statewide average in that age group. Workers ages 65 and older had earnings 11.7 percent the statewide average. Older workers comprise a larger share of Benton County’s workforce compared with Oregon. Workers age 55 and older comprised 24.7 percent of Benton County’s workforce in the third quarter of 2017. Workers age 55 and older made up 23 percent of the workforce statewide.

Looking Back 20 Years

Jumping back 20 years and looking at average earnings in the third quarter of 1997, Benton County’s average monthly earnings were nearly 11 percent higher than Oregon’s average earnings. This is significantly higher than in 2017, when Benton County’s average monthly earnings were only 1.9 percent higher than Oregon’s average.
Like the 2017 figures, the average earnings of younger workers (age 24 and younger) in Benton County lagged behind the statewide average for young workers back in 1997. Workers age 24 and younger in Benton County accounted for 16.2 percent of the county’s workforce; that compared with 16.5 percent statewide.
       
Benton County workers in their prime working years (age 25 to 54) earned more than Oregon workers in the same age group in the third quarter of 1997. Benton County workers ages 25 to 34 had average earnings 9.8 percent higher than the statewide average in that age group. Benton county workers ages 35 to 44 had average earnings 12.2 percent higher than Oregon’s average. For workers ages 45 to 54, Benton County’s average earnings were 7.6 percent higher than the state. One difference we see with Benton County compared with 2017 is that Benton County edged out the state in having a higher share of its workforce in the prime working years, ages 25 to 54. Workers ages 25 to 54 comprised 72.9 percent of Benton County’s workforce in 1997; 72.4 percent of Oregon’s workforce was in that age group.

Older workers in Benton County in 1997 earned more than the statewide average. Benton County workers ages 55 to 64 had average earnings that were 17.3 percent higher than the statewide average. Benton county workers ages 65 and older had average earnings 22.3 percent above the statewide average for workers in that age group.


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