Says who? Well … federal employees, silly. In fact, as The Daily Caller’s Michelle Fields discovers when interviewing these federal employees, they believe they are underpaid in comparison to the market, and call the opposite argument a “myth”:
So what dastardly conservative think tank came out with this “myth”? None other than the Congressional Budget Office, which produces official analysis on budgetary matters for the House and Senate. Only those employees with doctorates did worse than the private sector; otherwise, federal employees did much better on both wages and benefits:
Differences in wages between federal employees and similar private-sector employees in the 2005-2010 period varied widely depending on the employees’ level of education.
- Federal civilian workers with no more than a high school education earned about 21 percent more, on average, than similar workers in the private sector.
- Workers whose highest level of education was a bachelor’s degree earned roughly the same hourly wages, on average, in both the federal government and the private sector.
- Federal workers with a professional degree or doctorate earned about 23 percent less, on average, than their private-sector counterparts.
Overall, the federal government paid 2 percent more in total wages than it would have if average wages had been comparable with those in the private sector, after accounting for certain observable characteristics of workers.
The cost of providing benefits—including health insurance, retirement benefits, and paid vacation—differed more for federal and private-sector employees than wages did, but measuring benefits was also more uncertain.
- Average benefits for federal workers with no more than a high school diploma were 72 percent higher than for their private-sector counterparts.
- Average benefits for federal workers whose education ended in a bachelor’s degree were 46 percent higher than for similar workers in the private sector.
- Workers with a professional degree or doctorate received roughly the same level of average benefits in both sectors.
Be sure to check out the chart on that page as well, which makes the comparison more clear. And here’s the more comprehensive look:
This analysis integrated Current Population Survey data from 2005 through 2010 with data on a wide range of employee benefits to compare the cost of those benefits for federal employees and for workers in the private sector who have certain similar observable characteristics. In that comparison, we found that the average cost of benefits was about 72 percent higher for federal employees than for their private-sector counterparts among workers with no more than a high school education, was about 46 percent higher in the federal sector among workers with a bachelor’s degree, and was about the same in the two sectors among workers with a professional degree or Ph.D. Overall, federal benefits were about 48 percent higher, on average, than the benefits received by measurably similar private-sector workers. The most important factor contributing to differences between the two sectors in the costs of benefits is the defined-benefit pension plan that is available to most federal employees. Such plans are becoming less common in the private sector.
Benefits accounted for about 39 percent of total compensation (the sum of wages and benefits) in the federal sector versus 30 percent of total compensation at large firms in the private sector. We found that the average of total compensation was about 36 percent higher for federal employees than for their private-sector counterparts among workers with no more than a high school education, was about 15 percent higher among workers with a bachelor’s degree, and was about 18 percent lower among workers with a professional degree or Ph.D. Overall, total compensation for federal employees was about 16 percent higher, on average, than total compensation for measurably similar workers in the private sector.
If federal work is “more complicated and difficult,” it’s certainly not more well-informed and analytical. And if it was true, then why didn’t these workers take jobs in the private sector instead?
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