Unbalanced Approach: Government Workers Work Less and Earn More

Analysis of government versus private sector pay and work hours suggests bureaucrats get more money for less work.

Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute and Jason Richwine of the Heritage Foundation have recently taken a look at two issues related to public sector pay, compensation and hours worked. What they find is that government workers work about one month less in a given year and earn more than comparably skilled workers in the private sector.

A summary of their findings on compensation were published by the Washington Post last month. Biggs and Richwine were responding to claims that public sector employees earn 35 percent less than their private sector counterparts. However, these comparisons are badly misleading.

All five outside studies reviewed this year by the Government Accountability Office found that federal pay is equal to or higher than those of comparable private-sector workers. This is consistent with three decades of academic research. According to our analysis of Census Bureau data last year, the typical private-sector worker who shifts to a federal job receives a salary increase, while federal workers who leave for the private sector tend to get a salary cut.

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