The OPIA Blog

The myth of low paying government jobs

According to a recent column by Boston Globe’s conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby, federal civil servant employees’ salary is rising and holding a comparative advantage vs. private sector employees.

The figures are quite astonishing, actually. The federal civil servants enjoyed an average annual salary of $79,197, whereas the private employee was earned $49,935. The numbers are even more stark when taking into account the benefit packages: $119,982 for federal civilian vs. $59,909 for private employees. It should also be noted that these figures came from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis but the study that compared federal civilian employee salaries vs. private sector employee salaries was done by the Cato Institute, a right-leaning think tank.

These statistics are not misleading in of themselves, but they don’t illustrate the whole story. They do not, for example, take into account types of profession or geographic region. The statistics are essentially raw data that lumps compensation together into one pool. The Cato Institute is not necessarily distorting data, but it is leaving out some essential information for the reader. For the reader who might want to accurately compare a lawyer in private practice in Montana vs. a lawyer in Washington, D.C the study, unfortunately, falls short.