Jesse Rothstein, associate professor of public policy and economics at the University of California at Berkeley, explained the salary statistics and difference between the private and public sectors.

“Government workers tend to make more than the average private-sector worker. But there aren’t very many unskilled government workers,” Rothstein said. There are, however, a great number of private-sector minimum wage jobs, which brings down its overall average wage. Also, comparisons between both sectors are usually averages of the entire sector and don’t typically examine the difference between equivalent positions.

State CIOs make considerably less than private-sector CIOs, but does this mean state CIOs are underpaid? It’s hard to say, Rothstein said. “In theory, people should be paid their marginal profit.” In other words, people’s pay should commensurate what their labor generates. “There’s no inherent value in labor. It’s what someone is willing to pay you,” he said. And as with many jobs, CIO salaries are negotiated based on the applicant’s experience and state’s budget. Working conditions also determine who ends up where, Rothstein said. While a dearth of incentives and unfavorable working conditions in the public sector may turn off a lot of talent, it may also attract those with better intentions, Rothstein said.

Colin Wood  |  Staff Writer

Colin has been writing for Government Technology since 2010. He lives in Seattle with his wife and their dog. He can be reached at cwood@govtech.com