Posted by: mulrickillion | November 15, 2011

Stop, Drop, and Roll: The Privileged Economic Position of Firefighters

By Brian Strow, Library of Economics and Liberty, Nov 7, 2011 —

"Average firefighter pay is even higher than police officer pay in cities and states that mandate parity."

Firefighters are popular. The annual Harris-Interactive Poll of Prestigious Occupations routinely ranks firefighters as the most prestigious occupation in the country.1 This year, when Ohio’s public-sector unions wished to protest limits on collective-bargaining powers for government employees, they used firefighters, rather than teachers, in their advertisements.2 They did so not only because of the prestige associated with firefighting, but also because Ohio’s firefighters are more likely to be registered as Republicans than as Democrats. Even Republicans have trouble not advocating more pay for Republicans. Firefighters are known, in part, for their bravery. But they also tend to be smart—after all, they have parlayed their across-the-board popularity into above-market compensation under the guise of public safety.

Many cities across the country subscribe to the concept of "public safety pay parity." From Atlanta to Dallas to New York City and San Francisco (and many cities in between), firefighters have effectively lobbied city and state governments to pay them the same as police officers. But the labor markets for firefighters and police officers are no more alike than the labor markets for engineering professors and history professors. Colleges that would mandate equal pay for history and engineering professors would end up with history professors from top-ranked schools but would have trouble filling the engineering positions. Though both groups are professors, teaching history and teaching engineering attract two very different groups of people with different opportunity costs. Engineers have much better opportunities outside of academia. . . .

Brian Strow, Stop, Drop, and Roll: The Privileged Economic Position of Firefighters | Library of Economics and Liberty

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