Bloomberg News: DC Wealthiest US Metropolitan Area

Photo by PoPville flickr user philliefan99

Every afternoon when we look at rental options, I and others are often struck by how expensive prices have become. A reader sends in a link to a story from Bloomberg news perhaps explaining in part the reason:

“Federal employees whose compensation averages more than $126,000 and the nation’s greatest concentration of lawyers helped Washington edge out San Jose as the wealthiest U.S. metropolitan area, government data show.

The U.S. capital has swapped top spots with Silicon Valley, according to recent Census Bureau figures, with the typical household in the Washington metro area earning $84,523 last year. The national median income for 2010 was $50,046.”

42 Comment

  • A bloated defense budget will do that.

  • I think a median score would be much better here than the average. A lot of really, really high-earners in there.

  • What feds are averaging $126k?
    And how do I become one of those feds vs. one of the feds constantly wondering how I pay for the leftover doctor’s office bills for what my insurance doesn’t cover while looking for a second job?

    It’s reports such as this that add ammo to the GOP’s arsenal of hatered against federal employees. I don’t know ANY feds who earn that much yet “average” compensation is $126k? Does this count military or doctors or lawyers or engineers? They already want to cut our pay, this will just help their side even though plenty of us work very hard to barely get by.

    • I assume by average they are saying 50% are above that mark and 50% are below that mark…

      Give or take a few thousand.

      • no that’s what median means. average can be skewed depending on the lower or upper values.


          me·di·an   /ˈmidiən/ Show Spelled[mee-dee-uhn] Show IPA
          1.noting or pertaining to a plane dividing something into two equal parts, especially one dividing an animal into right and left halves.

          2.situated in or pertaining to the middle; medial.

        • Average can be used to describe both median and mean. Since median is used in other places in the quote, I’m assuming these are medians.

    • I’m wondering the same thing. They must be including all benefits in that salary. 126K is about an upper step GS 15 salary. A bit like being at the type of the salary pyramid.

    • How to become one of the Feds earning over $126K – During first year on the job behave yourself then ride out the rest of your career with annual step and grade increases.

    • I think they key word here is compensation – that includes benefits, which are huge for feds. My “compensation” is quite higher than my salary.

      • As a fed, I don’t think the benefits are great. First, anyone under 40 or so is never going to get the pension part of it. Trust me.
        Secondly, health care? It fucking sucks. I’ve had three different kinds and always end up paying for BASIC services. For example…with BCBS I needed 366 days between “girl doctor” tests, so if a couple of weeks earlier was more convenient, NOPE had to pay out of pocket (which is different than once per calendar year). It’s always stupid shit that ultimately impact women more.

        I don’t get maternity leave. I don’t get actual vacation because I can’t afford it. Sure I get leave days, but you have to fight for them among your whole office.

        Now don’t get me wrong, I like what I do…but these assholes that glorify federal service are a group I totally don’t get.

        PS: yes, you too can be a GS15 by constantly applying for new work. Or simply spend 20 years in the military and get your job converted to a civilian job, take your pension AND pay while avoiding paying in to the benefits programs for civilians. That seems easier!

        • 1. Why don’t you think you’ll get your pension? If they “reform” the pension system like they did in the 80s, they’ll probably have a grandfather clause.

          2. Maybe you’re choosing the wrong plans? I had Blue cross basic (cost is going down a little next year- woo hoo!) and got a MRI done plus some other tests, paid very little for them- 75 bucks total. Obviously more than I’d pay in Canada or the UK, but not too bad, especially compared to other plans I’ve had outside the gov’t.

          3. Yes, the lack of maternity leave is a bit puzzling.

          4. You have to fight for leave days in your office? Yuck. Maybe switch offices? I’ve never had a problem taking leave in the two fed offices I’ve worked in.

        • I’ve never understood why people sing the praises of government benefits. I’ve worked for the government and for the private sector, and my private sector benefits are actually a little better. For example, the government agency I used to work for wouldn’t have reimbursed tuition for my entire Master’s program.

  • I love how in the private sector, everyone talks about average salary, but when talking about a federal employee, its always the entire compensation package adding the employee expenses for healthcare, retirement, metro benefits and SOME studies even add in the employer paid payroll taxes!

    Its always intended to artificially bloat the number to cause outrage about how “lazy” federal employees are overpaid.

    Well, all you free marketeers… if at THIS pay level, all the federal government can attract are the lazy, why do you propose that we lower compensation? hmmm…?

    • Agree. Really skews the numbers when in the same article they use total compensation figures for public sector jobs and just salary for private sector. And I doubt most people pick up on that and think that US govt workers somehow make around the same as big firm attorneys.

  • As a federal attorney making well below “the median” I call serious BULLSHIT. Show me a federal attorney making $126K and I’ll show you an attorney nearing retirement.

  • I am poor, poor, poor by these numbers. Gimme free money.

    • The article pushed to the end the counterbalance of DC’s residents who do not earn attorney/lobbyist/Fed salaries:

      “In the District of Columbia, almost 11 percent of the city’s population qualifies as “very poor,” meaning they make less than half the poverty rate, or about $11,025 a year for a family of four and $5,415 for a single person.”

  • I wish news outlets would attempt to explain the federal salary numbers when they release them. I assume the reason why these numbers are so high is because all of the agency headquarters are in the DC area. Aside from the administrative assistants, agency headquarters tend to be are full of high-level people and attorneys. For example, my office (agency headquarters) is full of GS-15s and SES people, all of whom make well over 100k. That is a lot of money, but for the most part, these people have decades of experience and work far more than 40 hours a week….and could probably make more in the private sector.

  • <——– bringing down the average since '97!

    • Me too!

      (Man, someday–or when my boss gets her second master’s degree and moves on, and I get her job [fingers crossed]–I might actually manage to make HALF the area’s median income!)

  • Comparing compensation in the first paragraph with income in the second. Yay!

  • Guys…relax. The federal number is a total compensation number with overhead thrown in.

    Overhead is typically ~35% of ones salary so the actual salary number is in the ~94K a year. Not exactly a ground breaking salary considering the person earning it usually has a masters degree and more than a decades worth of experience. Oh, and they live in the 2nd or 3rd most expensive place in the nation.

    I am not saying every fed deserves their salary but again, like the USA Today article some months past that got the tea baggers spinning, the devil is in the details.

    • Most Feds are probably drastically underpaid compared to what they would make in the private sector. You tend to get higher numbers because a lot of the lower level positions are done by contractors.

      • Most feds could never cut it in the private sector. The contractors are brought in to actually DO the work that incompetent feds can’t.

        • thank you for providing facts.

          • I know several federal employees from various agencies. Each and every one has enough stories to suggest that at least 50% of federal government workers are overpaid, underworked leeches sucking money out of the government and the work ethic out of the other 50% in their agencies. I don’t have a problem with a large government. I have a problem with a large, ineffective government. If the losers were fired, and people that worked hard were brought in, we would be SHOCKED at how much got done and how well it was done. The culture of DC-located federal employees is “Ima get mine”, not “How may I serve my government and country?”.

          • I work for the feds and generally agree with this analysis.

        • Contractors don’t do anything we couldn’t do if we weren’t doing the jobs of three people because the GOP doesn’t want to see the federal workforce grow.

          Contractors take their cut, costing you more in the long run.

          • If it weren’t for federal contractors, the government would collapse in upon itself, like the black hole that it is.

  • According to 126K is the pay rate for a GS-14 step 7 (if you include locality pay).

  • The Fed compensation is a political football, but the underlying point should be the relatively large stable of reasonably well compensated employees (most well beneath the $126K figure in income), who in combination with other stable international NGO workforces, form a sizeable middle class, with a smaller but significant number of genuinely high earners pulling up the median. There’s less drag in this region than, say, some Rust Belt cities.

  • It’s not really fair to simply compare wages without including a comparison of educational attainment as well. Smart, well-educated people from all over the country move here because the DC area has a greater number and concentration of higher-paying, interesting jobs requiring a college/graduate degree than in most other areas.

  • Typically (at least when lazily done), average compensation figures for Feds includes the pension payments to retirees. i.e. it’s total payments to federal employees current and retired / total current federal employment.

    It’s a quirk of how federal payroll data is presented. Shame on Bloomberg for reporting that number – because, as several people here have pointed out, that number is consistent w/ GS-14 and 15 pay (even GS-13s w/ the full value of benefits barely gets you there). A little bit of skeptical thought about your calculation will go a long way. Shame on them.

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