June 03, 2003
How much are earnings within an occupation affected by location? For the most part, not very much.
The local wage decile of an occupation exactly matched its national ranking about 35 percent of the time. About 70 percent of the time, local and national ranks were within a single decile of each other.
Relative earnings were especially uniform in occupations with very high or very low earnings. For example, engineering managers matched their high national earnings rank in 99.7 percent of locations studied while dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers were in the same low rank in 98.7 percent of locations.
Other occupations with very consistent relative wages were chief executives, which matched in 99.5 percent of locations studied; combined food preparation and serving workers, 98.2 percent; pharmacists, 97.9 percent; nuclear engineers, 97.1 percent; dishwashers, 96.9 percent; cashiers, except gaming, 96.7 percent; waiters and waitresses, 96.7 percent; and fast food cooks and counter attendants (cafeteria, food concession, and coffee shop), both 94.4 percent.
These data are based on estimates of occupational earnings produced by the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics program. Occupations were ranked by decile for the nation as a whole and for approximately 390 locations—the top earning 10 percent of occupations were in the first decile and the lowest earning 10 percent were in the tenth decile. The occupations’ local decile ranks were compared to their national decile ranks. Find out more in "Whereabouts and wealth: A study of local earnings and how they vary" by Alan Lacey and Olivia Crosby, Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Spring 2003.