The Truth about Public Employees in California: They are Neither Overpaid nor Overcompensated

On average, California’s public sector workers are more highly educated. Of full-time workers, 55% hold a four-year college degree in the public sector compared to 35% in the private sector. Educational attainment is the single most important predictor of earnings—thus it plays a vital role in this analysis. On average, California state and local governments pay college-educated labor less than private employers. The earnings differential is greatest for professional employees, lawyers and doctors. On the other hand, the public sector appears to set a floor on compensation. The earnings of those with a high school degree or less is higher in state and local government than it is for similar workers in the private sector. There are other significant personnel differences between the public and private sector workforces. The age (median) of a typical worker in state and local government is 44 compared to 40 in the private sector. Furthermore, the state and local government workforce has more women (55%) compared to the private sector (40%).