The ultra-wealthy typically receive fairly little of their income as wages. Larry Page, Sergei Brin, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, and Mark Zuckerberg all receive or received no more than $1 per year, though all have substantial income from stock ownership. Unsurprisingly, it is fairly difficult to find an actual number for average salaries including all non-salary income, but my question is this:

If you include all stock options/grants, real estate gifts, other payment in securities, all other non-salary income and finally all salaries, what is the average individual income in the United States?

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    I don’t think Steve Jobs has any income at all.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 6:04
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    If you think about it, "income" means ... what you pay the IRS! The sense of your question is they "hide" income, by taking a $1 "salary", and the rest comes as some sort of other profit share, stock or whatever. The good thing from the point of view of your question is that the IRS "doesn't care" about such tricks :) So, the actual amount reported to the IRS is the answer you're looking for. The details well explained in BenM's answer.
    – Fattie
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 13:16
  • @Fattie I get what you mean, but hopefully nobody is paying all of their income to the IRS...
    – CactusCake
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 14:19
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    I don't think that this is a question relevant to personal finance & money. But it might be a good question for economics.stackexchange.com
    – Philipp
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 15:25
  • I think you need to specify exactly what you're asking for. Do you mean the average over everyone, or just average over people who earn income, or report it to the IRS? Are Social Security benefits included? And so on...
    – jamesqf
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 19:30

2 Answers 2


The IRS publishes statistics on the actual numbers claimed on tax returns.

The most recent summary report on individual tax returns is from 2015. In that report, it is shown that there were 149,938,000 individual returns filed for 2015. The total income claimed was $10,360,403,000,000. This number is before any of the above-the-line deductions.

Doing the division, you end up with an average total income of $69,098 on all the tax returns filed.

Married Filing Jointly returns are counted as 1, not 2, in the number above. To get the average personal income, we must note that there were 54,210,000 joint returns filed. Counting those as 2, the average personal income of taxpayers in 2015 was $50,749.

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    Was there something you saw that made it seem ambiguous? To me it seemed simply the total number of returns filed, wondering if I missed something.
    – Hart CO
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 13:50
  • @HartCO You are right. I have removed the ambiguity.
    – Ben Miller
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 14:00
  • +1 I bet it's a close enough approximation of average household income, but thinking maybe MFS should be combined into one household (in some cases), and not sure how students who work but live with parents should get counted. Those probably contribute to some of the difference between IRS figures and Census Bureau figures.
    – Hart CO
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 14:07
  • @HartCO “Household” isn’t the best word here, so I removed it and calculated the average personal income.
    – Ben Miller
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 14:14
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    Yeah gets complicated in either case, counting MFJ as two means a lot of people are attributed income who do not actually earn any.
    – Hart CO
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 14:25

The US Census Bureau is tasked with collecting this data:

The Census Bureau reports income from several major household surveys and programs. Each differs from the others in some way, such as the length and detail of its questionnaire, the number of households included (sample size), and the methodology used

The linked webpage links to various data tables, and publications related to income.

  • link-only answers are discouraged Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 21:09

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