No Perfect Way to Compare Private and Public Sector Pay, Study Finds

July 24, 2012

Recent studies aiming to compare federal and private sector pay have reached opposing conclusions based on differing data and methods used, according to a new watchdog report.

The Government Accountability Office analyzed six studies that measured the pay variations between feds and their private sector counterparts and concluded that each study's methods and data provides an inconclusive picture.

"The differences among the selected studies are such that comparing their results to help inform pay decisions is potentially problematic," GAO wrote. "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."

The report comes at a time when the House has voted several times to extend the current salary freeze and reject President Obama's recommendation of a 0.5 percent raise for federal employees. It examined six recent studies comparing federal and private sector pay. Those studies came from the Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Personnel Management's President's Pay Agent, the Project on Government Oversight, the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. 

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