Federal employees on average make 3 percent more than private sector employees with comparable levels of education, CBO has said in a report that basically repeats the conclusions of a similar study five years ago that found a 2 percent average advantage.
As in the earlier study, CBO concluded that the greatest advantage lies with employees with no more than a high school education, who it said are ahead of their counterparts by 34 percent. It found those with some college were 22 percent ahead and those with a bachelor’s degree were 5 percent ahead, while those with a master’s degree were 7 percent behind and those with a professional degree or doctorate were 24 percent behind.
CBO’s findings may be viewed by political leaders as something of a tie-breaker between other studies that contradict each other. The Federal Salary Council, an advisory board (which includes labor representatives) that produces the numbers used each year in the GS locality pay process, has found an average “pay gap” in favor of the private sector of about 34 percent in recent years. However, studies by other groups such as the conservative Heritage Foundation have found a gap in the opposite direction around that range or more.
The differences largely lie in the methods of comparisons used, with advocates of each asserting that theirs is the best–and sometimes questioning the motives of the others. A GAO report issued about the time of the prior CBO report refused to take sides.
The CBO report did not recommend changes in federal pay levels, saying that question was beyond the scope of the study. However, the conclusions are sure to be used by those who assert that federal employees are overpaid, or at least against arguments that they are underpaid.