More East vs. West Archaeology Pay

Posted on December 19, 2011

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Last week I looked at why archaeologists in the Western half of the USA make more money then those on the Eastern half. I looked at some factors like size of states, population, number archaeology/anthropology programs available locally, etc. which had very low correlations with the pay patterns. What appears to explain what is seen the best is the % of government land each state has. Several suggestions have been made as to why this is and in this post I test something put forth by Brent Rowley-

Something that you also need to take into account is that Federal land management aencies (BLM, USFS, etc.) in the Mountain West not only contract out archaeological work but also do a ton of “in house” field work on the lands that they own. These projects include things like CRM work grazing permit renewals, construction of range improvements and recreation areas, wildland fire BAESRs (Burned Area Emergency Stabalization and Rehabilitation). The Feds hire a ton of field techs to do these in house projects. The wages of these field techs are not included in your numbers and they would drive up the average field tech wage even more as the numbers you have for the Mountain West seem fairly low compared to what people I know make even in the private sector. Most Federal field techs are hired on as GS-5s or GS-7s under the 0102 social science technician series rather than the 0193 archeology series (with starting wages of ~$15/hr for GS-5 and 18.50/hr for GS-7). I’ve heard Federal technician employment numbers in the West ranging from 400 to 1,000 per field season. I think it varies widely depending on the Federal budget and how bad the wildland fire season is.

One of the interesting trends that I have noticed over the last couple of years is that Federal land management agencies seem to be contracting even fewer projects and instead doing them in house because it is cheaper for the agencies. This is esspecially true for BAESR projects which started to be contracted out in the early 2000s after previously being done almost exclusively in house. I know I got word that BLM was doing a ton of hiring this fall for a few huge BAESR projects in several states. The office I work for also chose to do their BAESRs in house this year because it was way cheaper in this era of Federal budget cuts. This trend is great for Federal field techs like me but sucks for the private sector. Maybe it will at least cause private sector wages to be driven up even higher in the Mtn West.

Competition with federal departments for workers could be what drives up the wages of the private sector? To test this out I used the job statistics of temporary federal employees for  2007, same year as the wage data (data is from Fedscope). I took the R# of the number of temps (including 01020 social science jobs) against the private sector wages and the result was R = .51. Not a bad result which shows some correlation but not as high as that of % of government land and pay rates, R = .68 (higher R numbers mean greater correlation).

This means that this might contribute somewhat to why wages are higher in the west but not the explanation for why there is a correlation between government land and wages. More assumptions need to be tested to figure this out. The date I used is here-

State Avg. pay field tech ($ per hr) (2007) Federal temp. archeaology jobs (2007) Federal Temp. Social Science jobs (2007) Combined arch and SS (2007)
Alabama 11.91

0

0

0

Alaska 18

13

16

29

Arizona 13.17

19

23

42

Arkansas 11.89

0

1

1

California 14.44

15

61

76

Colorado 13.72

20

21

41

Connecticut

0

0

0

Delaware 13.61

0

1

1

Florida 11.57

2

13

15

Georgia 12.19

0

0

0

Hawaii

5

2

7

Idaho 13.39

9

8

17

Illinois 13.09

0

2

2

Indiana 11.62

0

0

0

Iowa 10.5

0

0

0

Kansas

0

1

1

Kentucky 11.89

0

1

1

Louisiana 12.22

0

6

6

Maine

0

0

0

Maryland 12.82

0

1

1

Massachusetts 10

2

1

3

Michigan 12

0

1

1

Minnesota 14.27

0

1

1

Mississippi 11.48

6

10

16

Missouri 12.4

0

3

3

Montana 13.23

1

8

9

Nebraska

3

18

21

Nevada 14.18

10

9

19

New Hampshire

0

1

1

New Jersey 11.88

0

0

0

New Mexico 13.25

19

25

44

New York 11.88

1

2

3

North Carolina 12.75

0

2

2

North Dakota 12.83

0

1

1

Ohio 11.32

0

5

5

Oklahoma 11.14

0

1

1

Oregon 13.47

7

31

38

Pennsylvania 11.62

5

5

10

Rhode Island

0

0

0

South Carolina 12.8

0

1

1

South Dakota 13.29

0

5

5

Tennessee 13.27

1

3

4

Texas 12.4

1

2

3

Utah 13.72

5

16

21

Vermont 10.52

0

1

1

Virginia 12.1

0

4

4

Washington 15.46

8

19

27

West Virginia 12.09

3

7

10

Wisconsin 12.75

0

1

1

Wyoming 12.8

4

9

13