by | Jul 18, 2022 | Surveys

Last Updated: July 19, 2022

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Key Takeaways:

  • 54.7% of U.S. adults have not had their salary or wage match the rate of inflation
  • Men are 33.3% more likely than women to have their salary keep up with inflation
  • Mid-career adults aged 45-54 are the least likely to have their salary match inflation (65.6% responding “No”)
  • Gen-Z respondents aged 18-24 are the most likely to have their salary match inflation (43.8% responding “No”)
  • The Midwest region is the least likely to have their salary match inflation (59.3% responding “No”)
  • North Carolina is the state least likely to have their salary match inflation (68.6% “No”)
  • New York is the state most likely to have their salary match inflation (44.9% “No”)

Figure 1. Source: Google Data Studio*NOTE: “Unemployed” includes retired and disabled individuals.

Everyday Americans are finding it more and more difficult to put food on their table. No wonder why, given that the consumer price index (CPI) currently sits at a four-decade high of 9.1% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the month of June. Other harbingers of recessions have also arisen lately, with the U.S. Treasuries yield curve inverting as recently as July 5th—this is an economic event that has preceded every recession since 1955. 

Amid the economic downturn, average American workers and families are being left out in the cold. According to a new nationwide survey, published today by Sophisticated Investor, a majority of American adults (54.7%) have not had their salaries or hourly wages keep up with rising inflation levels. 

Every demographic group reports that their earnings have not matched the CPI. With Americans of all ages, genders, and incomes feeling the negative effects of inflation, it is critical that we unpack the findings of this landmark national survey.

July 2022 Survey: Over Half of American Workforce Is Falling Behind on Inflation

Sophisticated Investor recently published the results of a nationwide survey that found that 54.7% of U.S. workers’ salaries or wages haven’t matched the rate of inflation. The question was put as follows:

Has your salary or hourly wage kept up with inflation?

The survey recruited 3,002 respondents weighted by age and gender, each of whom are citizens residing in the continental United States and aged 18 or older. 

The responses shown above (Fig. 1) demonstrate that a majority of U.S. workers have seen their effective income reduced by falling behind inflation. These data build on a mounting body of evidence indicating that Americans are experiencing an affordability crisis in which basic staples such as food and housing are becoming unattainable to the working class.  

Salaries vs. Inflation by Age Group

Figure 2. Source: Google Data Studio

Survey results, as depicted above (Fig. 2), indicate that age differences are apparent in the data but not highly prevalent. In general, older respondents were found to be more likely to report not having had their salaries match inflation. 

Specifically, respondents aged 45 to 54 were the more likely to report having their salaries outmatched, with nearly two-thirds of adults in this age bracket responding “No” (65.6%). By contrast, the least likely were Gen Z adults aged 18 to 24, of whom only 43.8% responded “No”. 

Salaries vs. Inflation by Gender 

There were no meaningful distinctions between genders in the survey responses regarding those who responded “No.” However, women were 9.5% more likely to report being unemployed. 

Further, men were found to be 33.3% more likely to have their salaries keep up with inflation compared to women. This is because 12% of women responded “Yes” whereas 16% of men provided the same response. 

Figure 3. Source: Google Data Studio

It may be the case that sexist systemic barriers or gender-based discrimination is at play with respect to why women are less likely to have their salaries match inflation. This is particularly concerning given that rising inflation has already been shown to hit women more acutely than men.

Previously, Sophisticated Investor ran a survey on inflation sentiment that indicated that women feel the effects of inflation differently than women in a way that puts them worse off. Women, for instance, reportedly feel the impact of inflation on groceries and rising food prices far more than men do. 

Salaries vs. Inflation by Region

No significant geographical differences exist in terms of survey responses across the regions of the United States. There were, however, significant disparities between certain states. Below, we’ve listed the top and bottom two states for those that responded “No”: 

Highest “No” Rate

  • North Carolina: 68.6%
  • Ohio: 67.9%

Lowest “No” Rate

  • Florida: 49.3%
  • New York: 44.9%


We did not detect any political or social attributes that may have caused certain states to respond in a particular way on average. Indeed, the states named above represent a relatively diverse array of social and political leanings. 

Instead of political fault lines, it’s more likely that survey responses were generated by the respondents’ lived experience and personal financial situation.

Survey Methodology

The survey was conducted over a 72-hour period between July 11th and July 13th, 2022, with a sample size of 3,002 adults. Respondents resided in the United States, were at least 18 years of age, and were users of Google’s AdMob Network. 

Our survey methods made use of convenience sampling and including a weighted and nationally representative sample of both genders. 

Study Details and RMSE Score

  • Audience: Users of the AdMob Network and Google Surveys
  • Method: Convenience
  • Age: 18+
  • Gender: All genders
  • Location: United States
  • Language: English
  • Frequency: Once

Root mean square error (RMSE) is a weighted average of the difference between the predicted population sample (CPS) and the actual sample (Google). The lower the RMSE score, the smaller the total sample bias. 

Discussion and Conclusions

The present survey corroborates prior data from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta that found that real U.S. wage growth has lagged behind the CPI since the onset of the pandemic. 

In the figure below (Fig. 4), sourced from the EPI, all nonfarm employees in the U.S. saw an average nominal wage growth of 5.1% in June 2022. In other words, U.S. inflation outpaced the average nominal wage growth in the country by 44% in relative terms. This figure aligns perfectly with the conclusions of the present survey, which found that only 45.3% of Americans report having their salary or wage match inflation.

Figure 4. Source: Economic Policy Institute

Although data from the Atlanta Federal Reserve branch indicates that the average wage growth in June 2022 is 6.7%, it must be noted that this data is unweighted. After adjusting for job characteristics across all economic sectors, the number reduces to around 5.1% in real terms.

We conclude that the survey’s findings bear interesting results regarding age and inflation. The findings indicate that more senior workers, aged 45 to 54, are those most negatively impacted by inflation. More research should be undertaken to ascertain why this phenomenon may be present in the data. It may be that more senior employees may have already reached the top of their earning potential and are less likely to seek or ask for a promotion or raise. 

Lastly, the findings of this survey determined that women are less likely than men to have their salaries keep pace with inflation. This may be explained by the fact that women are less likely to ask and receive a raise (indeed, 60% of women have never asked for one) and may experience gender-based discrimination in the promotion process. 

Want Inflation Protection in Your Retirement Portfolio? 

Amid runaway inflation, precious metals and real assets have proven to be reliable stores of wealth. While the S&P 500 Index is down nearly 20% on the year, gold and silver have remained relatively stable. In fact, some precious metals, such as palladium, have even earned a return on the year so far. 

If you’re interested in diversifying your portfolio to combat our once-in-a-generation inflation levels, consider opening a free self-directed IRA from one of America’s most trusted providers. With a self-directed retirement account, you can invest in precious metals, physical assets, and even real estate, all within a tax-advantaged environment.  

Full Survey Report

For a more detailed look at the data included in this article, view the full survey report on Google Data Studio. 


Liam Hunt

Liam Hunt, M.A., is a financial writer covering global markets, monetary policy, retirement savings, and millennial investing. His commentary and analysis have been featured in the New York Post, Reader's Digest, Fox Business, and Forbes.