IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The Public Pay Gap in Britain: Small Differences That (Don’t?) Matter

  • Postel-Vinay, Fabien
  • Turon, Hélène

The existing literature on inequality between private and public sectors focuses on cross-section differences in earnings levels. A more general way of looking at inequality between sectors is to recognize that forward-looking agents will care about income and job mobility too. We show that these are substantially different between the two sectors. Using data from the BHPS, we estimate a model of income and employment dynamics over seven years. We allow for unobserved heterogeneity in the propensity to be unemployed or employed in either job sector and in terms of the income process. We then combine the results into lifetime values of jobs in either sector and carry out a cross-section comparative analysis of these values. We have four main findings. First focusing on cross-sector differences in terms of the income process only, we detect a positive average public premium both in income flows and in the present discounted sum of future income flows. Second, we argue that income inequality is lower but more persistent in the public sector, as most of the observed relative cross-sectional income compression in the public sector is due to a lower variance of the transitory component of income. Third, when taking job mobility into account, the lifetime public premium is essentially zero for workers that we categorize as "high-employability" individuals, suggesting that the UK labor market is sufficiently mobile to ensure a rapid allocation of workers into their "natural" sector. Fourth, we find some evidence of job queuing for public sector jobs among "low-employability" workers.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: CEPR Discussion Papers are free to download for our researchers, subscribers and members. If you fall into one of these categories but have trouble downloading our papers, please contact us at

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5296.

in new window

Date of creation: Oct 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5296
Contact details of provider: Postal: Centre for Economic Policy Research, 77 Bastwick Street, London EC1V 3PZ.
Phone: 44 - 20 - 7183 8801
Fax: 44 - 20 - 7183 8820

Order Information: Email:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Andrew Clark & Fabien Postel-Vinay, 2009. "Job security and job protection," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(2), pages 207-239, April.
  2. Michael P. Keane & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 1995. "The career decisions of young men," Working Papers 559, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  3. Flinn, Christopher J, 2002. "Labour Market Structure and Inequality: A Comparison of Italy and the U.S," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(3), pages 611-45, July.
  4. Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1991. "Changes in the Structure of Wages in the Public and Private Sectors," NBER Working Papers 3667, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Stewart, Mark, 2006. "The Inter-related Dynamics of Unemployment and Low-Wage Employment," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 741, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  6. George J. Borjas, 2002. "The Wage Structure and the Sorting of Workers into the Public Sector," NBER Working Papers 9313, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Heckman, James & Singer, Burton, 1984. "A Method for Minimizing the Impact of Distributional Assumptions in Econometric Models for Duration Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(2), pages 271-320, March.
  8. Jappelli, Tullio & Pistaferri, Luigi, 2005. "Intertemporal choice and consumption mobility," CFS Working Paper Series 2005/28, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  9. Moulton, Brent R, 1990. "A Reexamination of the Federal-Private Wage Differential in the United States," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(2), pages 270-93, April.
  10. Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier & Parker, Jonathan A, 2000. "Consumption Over the Life-Cycle," CEPR Discussion Papers 2345, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Richard Blundell & Luigi Pistaferri & Ian Preston, 2004. "Consumption inequality and partial insurance," IFS Working Papers W04/28, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  12. Cappellari, Lorenzo, 2002. "Earnings dynamics and uncertainty in Italy: how do they differ between the private and public sectors?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 477-496, September.
  13. Moshe Buchinsky & Jennifer Hunt, 1999. "Wage Mobility In The United States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(3), pages 351-368, August.
  14. Zvi Eckstein & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 1999. "Why Youths Drop Out of High School: The Impact of Preferences, Opportunities, and Abilities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(6), pages 1295-1340, November.
  15. Peter Arcidiacono & John Bailey Jones, 2003. "Finite Mixture Distributions, Sequential Likelihood and the EM Algorithm," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(3), pages 933-946, 05.
  16. Richard Blundell & Ian Preston, 1998. "Consumption Inequality and Income Uncertainty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(2), pages 603-640.
  17. Disney, Richard F & Gosling, Amanda, 2003. "A New Method for Estimating Public Sector Pay Premia: Evidence from Britain in the 1990's," CEPR Discussion Papers 3787, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  18. Stephen Nickell & Glenda Quintini, 2002. "The Consequences of The Decline in Public Sector Pay in Britain: A Little Bit of Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(477), pages F107-F118, February.
  19. Audra J. Bowlus & Jean-Marc Robin, 2004. "Twenty Years of Rising Inequality in U.S. Lifetime Labour Income Values," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 71, pages 709-742, 07.
  20. Mueller, Richard E., 1998. "Public-private sector wage differentials in Canada: evidence from quantile regressions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 229-235, August.
  21. Bender, Keith A, 1998. " The Central Government-Private Sector Wage Differential," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(2), pages 177-220, April.
  22. 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.
  23. Peter Gottschalk, 1997. "Inequality, Income Growth, and Mobility: The Basic Facts," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 21-40, Spring.
  24. Dustmann, Christian & van Soest, Arthur, 1998. "Public and private sector wages of male workers in Germany," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(8), pages 1417-1441, September.
  25. van Ophem, Hans, 1993. "A Modified Switching Regression Model for Earnings Differentials between the Public and Private Sectors in the Netherlands," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 75(2), pages 215-24, May.
  26. Richard Disney & Amanda Gosling, 1998. "Does it pay to work in the public sector?," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 19(4), pages 347-374, November.
  27. Shorrocks, A F, 1976. "Income Mobility and the Markov Assumption," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 86(343), pages 566-78, September.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5296. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

The email address of this maintainer does not seem to be valid anymore. Please ask to update the entry or send us the correct address

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.