Where’s Upton Sinclair When You Need Him?
October 23, 2011 Fun Facts

Steve Malanga reports:

Steve Malanga at the Manhattan Institute’s, Oct. 21:

[T]he Bureau of Labor Statistics released 2010 rates of injury and illness in the American work force, and once again state and local government workers on average missed far more days from illness and injury per worker than workers in the private sector. . . .

Some of these higher rates might be attributable to more dangerous jobs in the public sector, especially public safety jobs. And indeed, the BLS’ detailed tables do show much higher injury and absentee rates for workers engaged in “justice, public order and safety activities.” But even construction workers working for local government have a much higher rate of injury and illness (9.5 cases per 100 workers) than private construction workers (4.0 per 100 workers). So do public school education workers, who record 4.9 injuries and illnesses per 100 workers, compared to just 2.2 per 100 among private education workers.

Of course, in some places, public sector workers enjoy more generous sick time and richer disability benefits than private workers, which may explain some of the difference. Incentives matter, including those that pay you not to work.

Most folks will read the above paragraph as indicative of abuses or “overpay” in the public sector. That may or may not be true. But what totally fascinates me is that the riskiness of government jobs is twice that of private sector jobs in certain sectors. Maybe they are in fact doing much different work , it could be. But since when was “digging into the data” and controlling for confounding factors a popular thing to do? For example, I rarely ever see anyone discussing gender wage gaps after making controls for occupational choice, job tenure, job experience and labor market discontinuities. So, now, when it comes to risk data, folks are going to want to invoke controls? I’m impressed with the progress – so either let’s see it used every time I see some “gap” discussed, or simply let the raw data speak for itself.

I’ll not hold my breath waiting for folks to condemn the “lack of social justice in government jobs that puts people in harms way much more often than in the private sector.”

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