Options for Conducting a Pay Equity Study of Federal Pay and Classification Systems

GGD-85-37: Published: Mar 1, 1985. Publicly Released: Mar 1, 1985.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of various methodologies that could be used to study the pay equity issue at the federal level.

GAO found that economic analysis, which attempts to measure and explain existing wage differentials between men and women, could provide Congress with information on the extent to which factors such as educational level, experience, and occupation account for wage differentials by sex. However, further analysis would be needed to determine whether inequities exist and, if so, what actions would need to be taken to achieve pay equity. The type of analysis that is used extensively in studying pay equity is job content analysis, which seeks to measure the value of jobs to an employer and could provide a measure of the value of various federal jobs to the present grades or salaries for those jobs. GAO believes that both economic and job content studies have value for addressing the issues of pay equity and wage disparities by sex, and neither approach is sufficient by itself to explain the wage gap. The job content approach may fail to consider variables such as seniority, training, or union contracts; and skill, effort, and responsibility required may be ignored if only the characteristics of employees are considered. GAO determined that several organizations or groups may need to be involved in a study; therefore, a steering committee composed of representatives from affected groups could best direct this effort.

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