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[Excerpt] In recent years, there has been significant congressional interest in compensation of the federal workforce. The increased interest has been driven at least in part by the federal fiscal situation and in part by the state of the economy since the recession began in 2007. Issues related to the compensation of federal employees often center on the pay differential between federal workers and their private sector counterparts. For years, the annual President’s Pay Agent (PPA) study, which is covered in greater detail later in this report, has shown a large wage penalty for federal workers compared to private sector workers in similar occupations. A spate of recent studies, which use a different analytical approach and data sources, has partially contradicted the findings of the PPA study by concluding that at least some federal workers enjoy a wage premium over comparable private sector workers. These studies and accompanying reporting on the comparison of compensation of federal workers to private sector workers provide an indication of the disparate findings, which makes it difficult to determine how compensation of federal employees actually compares to that of workers in the private sector. This report attempts to clarify why the recent studies have arrived at different conclusions and examines limitations of the approaches employed in the different studies.


Suggested Citation
Bradley, D. H. (2012). Comparing compensation for federal and private-sector workers: An overview. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.