No one Approach to Comparison of Federal v. Private-Sector Pay is Conclusive, according to recent GAO report
While several studies have compared the pay of federal and non-federal employees, no one approach is definitive, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released this week.
“Simply put, the differences among the selected studies are such that comparing their results to help inform pay decisions is potentially problematic,” the report said. “Given the different approaches of the selected studies, their findings should not be taken in isolation as the answer to how federal pay and total compensation compares with other sectors.”
GAO looked at six different pay comparisons, finding that the opposing conclusions drawn by the studies are attributable to the various methodologies utilized by the studies’ authors.
For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) both use a “human capital” approach that focuses on attributes such as occupation and level of work. Studies by the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Congressional Budget Office employ a methodology that includes consideration of factors such as education and job experience, as well as occupation, locality and size of employer, while the Cato Institute uses an approach that focuses on trends in pay over time.
“The studies’ differing conclusions on the overall pay disparity between federal and private or nonfederal workers were affected by their basic approaches… Within each approach, conclusions differed due to studies’ specific methodologies,” GAO wrote.
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