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Letter: Study bends facts on public sector pay

Published: Sunday, June 30, 2013 9:04 a.m. CDT

To the Editor:

On July 11, 2011, the Illinois Policy Institute published a report entitled “Out of Sync: Government and Private Employee Compensation in Illinois,” which purportedly showed that government employees earn more than private-sector employees doing essentially the same work. Herbert Rubin and I wrote a critique of that report that the Daily Chronicle published on Aug. 3, 2011.

Our criticism of the IPI study was that it compared compensation in the public and private sectors without adjusting for differences in the mix of jobs and job qualifications (education, skill, years of experience) between the two sectors.

Studies that adjust for these differences – such as those conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, the National Institute on Retirement Security, the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, the Center for Retirement Research, and the Congressional Research Service – consistently find, contrary to the findings of the IPI study, that government employees, on average, receive less, not more, in total compensation (salaries + benefits + pensions) than employees doing comparable work in the private sector. The difference in compensation grows as the education, skill, and experience required to do the job increases.

In a column his week (“Working for state pays well for some,” page A5, June 26), Scott Reeder wrote, “In a recent study conducted by my colleagues at the Illinois Policy Institute, salaries for a variety of state jobs were compared with those in the private sector. On average, people holding blue-collar jobs are paid far more working for the state of Illinois than they would if they were working for a private business doing the same job. Putting it bluntly – going to work for the state can be a pretty good deal, particularly if you don’t have a lot of education.“

Reeder wrote this despite the fact I had sent him and others at IPI copies of the Rubin/Suchner letter and a follow-up report I prepared for State Rep. Robert Pritchard explicating the problem with the IPI study and reviewing the research that demonstrates the opposite of the what the IPI concludes.

Their propaganda is statistically wrong.

At this point, the only thing one can conclude is that Reeder and the policy institute have an agenda to paint Illinois public employees as overcompensated relative to the private sector and are willing to distort the facts to advance that agenda. 

Robert Suchner


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