East vs. West- Why pay is better for archaeologists in the west II (government land)

Posted on December 13, 2011


Yesterday, I wrote about how archaeologists in the Western United States make better pay then those in the Eastern United States. I also looked at land size, number of archaeology programs available, and population of states to see if there was any correlation between these factors and pay; there wasn’t. Moving on to the next explanation- government land. As I mention in the other post, most archaeology, because of the laws in the US, take place on either government land or government funded projects (this application means that archaeology happens a lot more then one would think), and so it would make sense that more government land would equate more archaeology = more work = demand = higher pay. So I tested this out with this data-

State Avg. pay field tech ($ per hr) SAA % land owned by government sq. km. of gov. land
Alabama 11.91 7.10%                     3,110.42
Alaska 18 95.80%                 709,564.73
Arizona 13.17 56.80%                   33,433.99
Arkansas 11.89 17.30%                   11,665.04
California 14.44 52.10%                     3,897.20
Colorado 13.72 43.30%                   11,631.61
Connecticut 6.20%                        111.14
Delaware 13.61 7.40%                        374.50
Florida 11.57 29.20%                     4,534.44
Georgia 12.19 9.70%                     2,909.53
Hawaii 19.00%                     1,053.58
Idaho 13.39 70.40%                   30,175.38
Illinois 13.09 4.10%                        491.87
Indiana 11.62 4.50%                        464.48
Iowa 10.5 2.80%                        578.80
Kansas 1.90%                     1,006.52
Kentucky 11.89 11.80%                     2,023.60
Louisiana 12.22 10.70%                     4,024.09
Maine 5.70%                     1,518.71
Maryland 12.82 7.60%                        213.77
Massachusetts 10 6.30%                          91.37
Michigan 12 28.10%                     3,445.10
Minnesota 14.27 23.50%                     6,056.80
Mississippi 11.48 10.90%                     3,310.56
Missouri 12.4 11.20%                     3,996.47
Montana 13.23 37.50%                   70,683.37
Nebraska 2.80%                     5,574.73
Nevada 14.18 87.80%                 124,872.69
New Hampshire 18.00%                     1,393.62
New Jersey 11.88 18.30%                        585.90
New Mexico 13.25 47.40%                   49,661.07
New York 11.88 37.10%                     1,417.73
North Carolina 12.75 14.60%                     1,416.88
North Dakota 12.83 9.10%                     8,128.44
Ohio 11.32 4.20%                        296.95
Oklahoma 11.14 4.60%                     4,090.47
Oregon 13.47 60.40%                   23,179.03
Pennsylvania 11.62 16.10%                        778.67
Rhode Island 1.50%                          13.53
South Carolina 12.8 11.80%                     4,600.94
South Dakota 13.29 8.90%                     8,746.09
Tennessee 13.27 14.10%                     2,150.28
Texas 12.4 4.20%                     1,779.88
Utah 13.72 75.20%                   39,997.37
Vermont 10.52 15.80%                     3,785.27
Virginia 12.1 17.10%                     1,753.57
Washington 15.46 41.90%                     9,026.74
West Virginia 12.09 16.50%                   10,289.69
Wisconsin 12.75 17.80%                     3,576.84
Wyoming 12.8 55.90%                   46,860.57

I looked at the percent of government land (both state and federal) and the total amount of land in each state to see if it correlates with pay rates. The results are better than before-

The R^2 numbers are much better than before, in the .4 range, and gives R values of .677 and .656 (before I said R^2 = high correlation which is technically not true, R = correlation and R^2 = the value of linear regression with the data which one could interpret as the value of the data as a predictor of correlation, roughly the same in this case- though I am sure a statistician would disagree and prefer I use something else). R values of .6, close to .7, is actually not that bad of a correlation between pay and government land. .9 results or higher would be preferred but considering the data is not perfect this is probably a pretty good result.

Of huge importance – I changed the results for Alaska to $18 as $14 is very low for this state (this was due to a un-heard-of  $11 job posting). Most of my data puts the low end at $16-18 and the high end at $20-24 per hr in Alaska for field techs. Readjusting this number heavily influences the results for a positive correlation.  I re-ran the numbers from the last post with this adjustment and the results we mostly the same, no correlation, except for schools per land which brought back a result of R-.633 and R2-.4.

This is close to the results for the % of government land but it should be noted that there is overlap between states with lots of land and few archaeology programs and states with a high percentage of government owned land. Given that % of government land has a higher correlation this is most likely the culprit.

Correlation does not equal causation and it does not rule out other factors. Chris Dore has mentioned permits to work on government land as a possible reasons-

I take a bit more of an economic perspective on the issue. In the West, the ability to work in a supervisory position on all but private land is tied to obtaining a permit from the appropriate agency. In the West the permits tend, particularly in some areas, to require experience in geographically small areas and can be difficult to obtain. Additionally, permits are tied to individuals, not directly to firms.

In the East, it is generally fairly easy for archaeologists to move around and work in different areas. Thus, in the East archaeologists are more interchangeable. They are more of a commodity. Economically, with commodities, price converges on cost. In the West, archaeologists aren’t as interchangeable. If a company wants to work in a certain area, they must employ a permitable person. Getting this permitable person comes at a premium which companies are willing to pay. Overall this results in higher salaries and, I think, explains the salary differences between East and West.

This could be the case, it would possibly correlate with % of government land too, but I will need to check this out. So for now, I would be cautiously optimistic and say that a high percentage of government presence correlates to better pay for archaeologists.