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Compensation for State and Local Government Workers

Author

Listed:
  • Maury Gittleman
  • Brooks Pierce

Abstract

Are state and local government workers overcompensated? In this paper, we step back from the highly charged rhetoric and address this question with the two primary data sources for looking at compensation of state and local government workers: the Current Population Survey conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Employer Costs for Employee Compensation microdata collected as part of the National Compensation Survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In both data sets, the workers being hired in the public sector have higher skill levels than those in the private sector, so the challenge is to compare across sectors in a way that adjusts suitably for this difference. After controlling for skill differences and incorporating employer costs for benefits packages, we find that, on average, public sector workers in state government have compensation costs 3-10 percent greater than those for workers in the private sector, while in local government the gap is 10-19 percent. We caution that this finding is somewhat dependent on the chosen sample and specification, that averages can obscure broader differences in distributions, and that a host of worker and job attributes are not available to us in these data. Nonetheless, the data suggest that public sector workers, especially local government ones, on average, receive greater remuneration than observably similar private sector workers. Overturning this result would require, we think, strong arguments for particular model specifications, or different data.

Suggested Citation

  • Maury Gittleman & Brooks Pierce, 2012. "Compensation for State and Local Government Workers," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(1), pages 217-242, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:26:y:2012:i:1:p:217-42
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.26.1.217
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Jeffrey Thompson & John Schmitt, 2010. "The Wage Penalty for State and Local Government Employees in New England," Working Papers wp233, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    2. Fortin, Nicole & Lemieux, Thomas & Firpo, Sergio, 2011. "Decomposition Methods in Economics," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    3. Barry T. Hirsch & Edward J. Schumacher, 2004. "Match Bias in Wage Gap Estimates Due to Earnings Imputation," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(3), pages 689-722, July.
    4. Maury Gittleman & Brooks Pierce, 2011. "Inter-Industry Wage Differentials Job Content and Unobserved Ability," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 64(2), pages 356-374, January.
    5. Gregory, Robert G. & Borland, Jeff, 1999. "Recent developments in public sector labor markets," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 53, pages 3573-3630 Elsevier.
    6. Dale Belman & John S. Heywood, 2004. "Public wage differentials and the treatment of occupational differences," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(1), pages 135-152.
    7. James M. Poterba & Kim S. Rueben, 1994. "The Distribution of Public Sector Wage Premia: New Evidence Using Quantile Regression Methods," NBER Working Papers 4734, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    9. Kenneth R. Troske, 1999. "Evidence On The Employer Size-Wage Premium From Worker-Establishment Matched Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(1), pages 15-26, February.
    10. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
    11. Jaeger, David A, 1997. "Reconciling the Old and New Census Bureau Education Questions: Recommendations for Researchers," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 15(3), pages 300-309, July.
    12. Gyourko, Joseph & Tracy, Joseph, 1988. "An Analysis of Public- and Private-Sector Wages Allowing for Endogenous Choices of Both Government and Union Status," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(2), pages 229-253, April.
    13. Michael Podgursky & Ruttaya Tongrut, 2006. "(Mis-)Measuring the Relative Pay of Public School Teachers," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 1(4), pages 425-440, September.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Morikawa, Masayuki, 2016. "A comparison of the wage structure between the public and private sectors in Japan," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 73-90.
    2. Jason L. Kopelman & Harvey S. Rosen, 2014. "Are Public Sector Jobs Recession-Proof? Were They Ever?," NBER Working Papers 20692, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Maury Gittleman & Kristen Monaco & Nicole Nestoriak, 2017. "The Requirements of Jobs: Evidence from a Nationally Representative Survey," NBER Chapters,in: Education, Skills, and Technical Change: Implications for Future US GDP Growth National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Hirsch, Barry, 2013. "An Anatomy of Public Sector Unions," IZA Discussion Papers 7313, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Maury Gittleman & Brooks Pierce, 2015. "Pay for Performance and Compensation Inequality: Evidence from the ECEC," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 68(1), pages 28-52, January.
    6. Andrew Chamberlain, 2015. "Are State Workers Overpaid? Survey Evidence from Liquor Privatization in Washington State," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 36(4), pages 347-388, December.
    7. Jason L. Kopelman & Harvey S. Rosen, 2014. "Are Public Sector Jobs Recession-Proof? Were They Ever?," Working Papers 240, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
    8. Hirsch, Barry & Manzella, Julia, 2014. "Who Cares – and Does It Matter? Measuring Wage Penalties for Caring Work," IZA Discussion Papers 8388, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Rebecca Diamond, 2017. "Housing Supply Elasticity and Rent Extraction by State and Local Governments," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 9(1), pages 74-111, February.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J45 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Public Sector Labor Markets
    • H75 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Government: Health, Education, and Welfare

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