Government Employees Earn Almost Double The Average American

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Thomas Phippen Acting Editor-In-Chief
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There’s a reason government jobs are so sought after: The average government salary is nearly double the average American worker’s.

The average government salary in 2016 was $83,072, according to a report on federal salaries from the Office of Personnel Management released in July.

By comparison, the average wage index for the U.S. in 2015, the most recent available calculation, was $48,098, according to the Social Security Administration.

Unsurprisingly, federal employees in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding metropolitan areas of Maryland and Virginia, where the managers and top-level agency executives work, had the highest average salaries.

One big reason for the disparity between the average government salary and the average private sector worker’s pay is the need to incentivize experts from jumping from an agency to one of the businesses the agency regulates. The Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, has the highest average agency-wide salary at $177,488.

Federal workers are also generally older, more educated, and more experienced than most workers in the private sector, according to a 2012 Congressional Budget Office study. The CBO also found that government employees make slightly more than their counterparts in the private sector on average.

The disparity depends greatly on the employee’s level of education. Federal non-military workers with no education after high school earned 21 percent more than the average non-government worker. Employees with bachelors and masters degrees earned about the same amount in the government as in private enterprises. Government employees with a professional degree or doctorate, however, earned about 23 percent less than private sector counterparts.

While the federal workforce is hardly representative of the entire U.S., the gap disparity between average salaries has been growing for some time. In 2001, the average government worker made 1.39 times what non-government employees made, but that ratio grew to 1.58 by the middle of 2016, according to BLS data compiled by Bloomberg News.

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