February 15, 2000
It is common knowledge that some occupations pay better than others. No one is surprised to find that doctors and other health-diagnosing professionals earn roughly twice as much as the average for all occupations. But what if jobs with similar duties and responsibilities in distinct occupations are compared?
When such "generic leveling" is carried out, the list of the five occupations in which the biggest wage premiums exist changes—sometimes in surprising ways. The health-diagnosing occupations are still on the list, but in fourth place rather than first.
Likewise, postsecondary teachers are on both lists, but after generic leveling they are joined by their colleagues teaching at other levels of education. Two other occupations—motor vehicle operators and sales, commodities excluding retail—reach the top five after leveling despite being well down on the unadjusted list.
The 10 generic leveling factors used in this study are knowledge, supervisory controls, guidelines, complexity, scope and effects, personal contacts, purpose of contacts, physical demands, work environment, and supervisory duties. A wage premium for an occupation describes the percentage difference between that occupation’s wage rate and the rate for the average occupation.
The data upon which this analysis is based are products of the National Compensation Survey. Find out more in, "Using the National Compensation Survey to Predict Wage Rates" (PDF 79K), by Brooks Pierce, Compensation and Working Conditions, Winter 1999.