Compensation Packages

By Patrick L. Warren

When deciding amongst job offers, a job seeker must often compare them along a number of important dimensions: wage, working conditions, opportunities for advancement, insurance benefits, retirement packages, vacation and family leave, just to name few. For parsimony, we often consider only one or two of these dimensions simultaneously in our formal models. And data limitations often lead to similar simplification in empirical work on employment systems. Today, I want to highlight a few sources of data on non-wage elements of compensation, which may not be familiar to everyone. These list is not exhaustive, but I hope will be useful.

1. The National Compensation Survey is the go-to source of data on the details of compensation. It contains info about wages, and a variety of benefits. Access to the microdata is limited by the Bureau of Labor Statistics through the On-Site Visiting Researcher Program. The data are at the employer level, and the level of detail vary a lot over time.

2. In order to maintain their tax-advantaged status, all firms must file a detailed description of their retirement plans, including both provisions and participation, with the Department of Labor. These filings, known as form 5500, are publically available through the DoL website, back to 1999. These data are more detailed than the NCS data, and they are NOT anonymized, so they are easier to match with other datasets, but they are messy, and they only deal with one aspect of compensation. A private firm, Brightscope, has put a pretty wrapper on these data, so it might be an easier way to start exploring them.

3. The Maternity Leave Resource Center has a convenience sample of family leave policies at the firm level.

4. The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has two very nice components, the Household Component and the Insurance Component, each of which contains information on employer-based medical insurance coverage. As with the NCS access to some of the microdata, especially from the employer-based insurance component, requires the use of a Census Bureau data center. But there is some microdata available publically, too.

I'd love to hear about other data sources you know. Please email me at patrick.lee.warren at gmail  or tweet them to us at @SIOEcon, and I'll update this list.