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Patronage and Public-Sector Wages in 1896

Werner Troesken

The Journal of Economic History, 1999, vol. 59, issue 2, 424-446

Abstract: Few systematic studies of the effects of patronage on public-sector employees' wages and working conditions exist. Exploiting a sample of nearly 90,000 workers, this article provides systematic evidence: Where patronage was widespread, state and local employees earned 40 percent more per hour; worked 16 to 17 percent fewer hours; and earned 22 percent more per week than comparable private-sector workers. Public-sector wage premia varied; low-skilled workers, and workers in Baltimore and New York, enjoyed relatively large wage premia. Wages were less dispersed in the public sector than in the private, suggesting that pay scales reflected politics, not marginal products.

Date: 1999
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