Study shows feds paid more than Hill staffers

Federal employees may be paid less than their counterparts in the private sector, but they make more than staffers in congressional offices, according to a new report. The study, conducted every two years by the Congressional Management Foundation, examines the factors affecting pay for congressional staffers. The foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps congressional offices improve their management practices. In 2000, the average salary for federal workers, $51,000, was 20 percent more than the average congressional staff salary of $42,314. Ten years ago, federal workers only took home 7 percent more than legislative staffers. For congressional staffers based in the Washington area, the difference is even more pronounced at 39 percent. Legislative staffers in Washington take home on average $46,598 annually, while federal workers in the area earn an average annual salary of $64,615. "[Congressional staffers] are basically at the bottom of the federal pay totem pole," said Rick Shapiro, executive director of the foundation. A spokesperson for the Office of Personnel Management said comparing the salaries of legislative staffers and federal workers would be hard to do because there is no formal congressional pay scale like the General Schedule that governs federal employees. "We were not comparing positions by title, we were comparing people on the basis of educational backgrounds, and basically looking at the overall work description," Shapiro said. Legislative salaries are set at the discretion of members of Congress, who are given flat annual budgets and are limited in the number of people they can have on staff. "That doesn't mean that a member of Congress can't say 'I'm not going to buy that new computer system' and give it out in salaries," Shapiro said. "The only good option they have for paying their people better is to hire fewer people and use some of the money from the positions that they downsize from. It's not an easy decision to say we can do without one more legislative assistant." Age and experience are factors in the divide as well, Shapiro said. Congressional staffers tend to be more educated and executive branch employees are generally more experienced. "But those personal demographics have not changed. What has changed is salaries," Shapiro said. "People are not getting more and more experienced in the executive branch and less experienced in the congressional offices." The key, said Shapiro, is that federal employees' salaries are at least in theory supposed to be tied to the growth of salaries in the private sector, whereas legislative salaries are often simply pegged to inflation rates. "What [members of Congress] have tended to do is say 'Let's look at the rate of inflation, and if it's 2.3 percent, let's pass on 2.3 percent,'" Shapiro said. The table below shows the pay disparity between congressional staffers and federal workers.
Year
Congressional staffers Federal workers Percent gap
2000 $42,314 $51,000 20%
1998 $39,132 $46,056 18%
1996 $36,728 $42,610 16%
1994 $35,510 $39,590 12%
1992 $33,388 $35,772 7%
1990 $29,542 $31,565 7%
Source: Congressional Management Foundation

The table below shows the pay disparity between Washington, D.C.-based congressional staffers and federal workers.

Year
Congressional staffers (DC) Federal workers (DC) Percent gap
2000 $46,598 $64,615 39%
1998 $42,558 $58,170 37%
1996 $40,112 $53,539 33%
1994 $38,807 $49,243 27%
1992 $36,618 $44,758 22%
1990 $32,297 $39,472 22%
Source: Congressional Management Foundation
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.