East vs. West- Why pay is better for archaeologists in the west.

Posted on December 12, 2011


It has been pretty well documented that pay is better for archaeologists in the Western United States vs. the Eastern United States (see here for another publication on it, p.36). Lots of people have made guesses as to why that is but no one has actually investigated it. I figured I would test out some of the assumptions such as more government land in the west leads to more work, fewer archaeology programs in the west mean less competition, etc. Here is the data for some of it: number of schools that have archaeology programs by state (full list here), population of state, and state size:

I used the averages of field technician pay gathered from the SAA article (again see here, p.36) not perfect (AK should be much higher) but it works well enough. I basically looked at population per archaeology degree program in a state. Population and land serves as a  a proxy from demand for archaeology. More people means more construction which leads to more archaeology to salvage before destruction. More land, like with people, means more areas to survey, excavate, etc. Programs serve as a proxy for the supply of archaeologists, more archaeologists means more competition for jobs and lower wages. The results were:

(edit-R were not given before) The R numbers .3 and .17 (square root of R2) indicate that there is no correlation between population, land, number schools, and pay (R close to 1 or -1 indicate high correlation. Those close to 0, none.) . Not shown here, I also ran the numbers for just population and just land and there is no correlation either. It does not look like these factors influence the pay divide seen in the US.

In my next post I will look at government land (most archaeology work occurs in relation to government land or projects) and I will try to chase down the number of graduates per school (it could be that number of schools is a poor proxy for available workers). Hopefully this will shed some light on this.