How does the total compensation of the average U.S. federal government employee compare to that of the average U.S. individual income earner who works full-time, year-round?
To find out, we've taken the average cash incomes earned by each and added the average benefits that each receives through their employer as reported by the Congressional Budget Office in 2012. They found that:
On average for workers at all education levels, benefits for federal employees cost about $20 per hour worked, whereas benefits for private-sector employees cost $14, CBO estimates. Thus, benefits for federal workers cost 48 percent more per hour worked, on average, than benefits for private sector workers with similar attributes. Benefits also constituted a larger share of compensation for federal workers, accounting for 39 percent of the cost of total compensation, compared with 30 percent in the private sector.
We next visualized those numbers, in which we reveal the average total compensation of U.S. federal government employees and individual Americans who work in full time jobs all year long:
We find that while the average U.S. federal government employee makes $14,632 more in direct cash income than their private sector counterpart, at $74,436 versus $59,804, the extremely generous benefits with which they are also compensated boosts their real income margin by $26,632 over the average private sector income earner, putting their total compensation at $114,436 versus $87,804.
Keeping in mind that the average income of Americans in the private sector is considerably elevated by some very highly paid individuals such as CEOs, very specialized medical professionals, sports stars and entertainment moguls, the total compensation of U.S. federal government employees puts them all in a league of their own. And that's not even including their extreme job security.
Asbury Park Press. Federal Employees, 2011. [Online Database]. Accessed 28 June 2013
Congressional Budget Office. Comparing the Compensation of Federal and Private-Sector Employees. [PDF Document]. January 2012
Previously on Political Calculations
- The Smiths Go to Washington - we look at the distribution of income for U.S. federal government employees in 2008.
- The Smiths Go to Washington, Part 2 - we revisit the Smiths who work for Washington D.C. to see what they made in 2011.
- What's Your Income Percentile? - our model of the distribution of income in the United States for 2011.
- A "Relatively Modest" Income - what President Barack Obama said of the incomes earned by the employees of the federal government.
- The Distribution of Federal Employee Salaries - we adjust our 2008 data on the distribution of income for U.S. federal government employees for inflation to make it apply for 2009.
- The Distribution of Income for U.S. Federal Government Employees (2011 Edition) - in which we reveal just where U.S. federal government workers fit among all full-time, year-round income earners in the U.S.