Confirmed by the CBO: Federal workers receive more compensation than private workers

posted at 6:45 pm on January 31, 2012 by Tina Korbe

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office released a report that confirmed what conservative labor analysts James Sherk and Jason Richwine have known (and written about) for some time: Federal government employees receive more in total compensation than their private-sector counterparts. Specifically, the CBO report found the following:

  • Federal civilian employees with no more than a high school education averaged 36 percent higher total compensation than similar private-sector employees.
  • Federal workers whose education culminated in a bachelor’s degree averaged 15 percent higher total compensation than their private-sector counterparts.
  • Federal employees with a professional degree or doctorate received 18 percent lower total compensation than their private-sector counterparts, on average.
  • Overall, the federal government paid 16 percent more in total compensation.

In other words, the federal compensation system is unfair at both ends of the spectrum. Bringing public-sector pay more in line with private-sector compensation would make the system fairer for all concerned — including for the minority of federal workers who are underpaid.

So far, little action has been taken on the issue of federal worker pay because liberal critics preferred to dismiss the facts. Sherk and Richwine recount a few of the many criticisms they received for their research, which followed the example of 30 years’ worth of academic literature:

For example, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry described our work as “a misinformation campaign.” The National Federation of Federal Employees called it “lies.” “Scapegoating” was the preferred term of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.

Colleen Kelley of the National Treasury Employees Union said that Heritage and AEI put forth “self-serving, self-created data.” ThinkProgress declared that our work was “littered with errors.” Economic Policy Institute President Lawrence Mishel said that the idea that federal workers are overpaid is “a conservative myth.”

Perhaps this CBO confirmation will lead to a reconsideration of their research — and to action that would save taxpayer money.


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