State Payroll Database

Inspired by my experience as a former state employee, I am interested in research questions related to the extent to which states offer compensation that is competitive with the private sector and how successful states are in retaining highly-skilled employees.

The map to the left shows the states shaded in blue from which I collected state employee payroll data.

While some states post payroll data on budget transparency websites, many require Freedom of Information Act requests made to the data custodians in order to receive the data.

For most states, the dataset includes a ten-year panel of payroll for individual employees of each agency, totaling about 25 million panel observations, which includes about 94% of all state employees in the United States.

Attributes of Dataset

Variables available for all states, except where noted:

  • Name or other unique identifier

  • Amount of compensation or pay rate

  • Agency of employment

  • Job title (except for Oklahoma*, West Virginia and Virginia)

Additional variables available for certain states:

  • Union membership

  • Supervisory or managerial status

  • Date of hire and/or termination

  • Full or part time status

  • Age, sex, and/or ethnicity

  • Work location

  • Position number that corresponds with state personnel classification manual

  • Step/pay grade

  • Whether the position is classified or exempt/non-exempt for FMLA purposes

  • Fund from which salary is debited (general fund, cash fund, etc.)

*As of 8/1/22, a request was filed with Oklahoma Management and Enterprise Services to obtain job titles.

Use in Research

  • The panel structure of the dataset is used to calculate turnover and retention rates used in "Organizational Memory and Snap Back Performance in Public Agencies." In states whose panels begin on or before 2012, I identify individuals employed in state health departments in 2020 with at least eight years of experience. The goal is to measure whether agencies with high retention rates of long-term employees were better able to develop strategies to vaccinate their adult populations for COVID-19, presuming long-term employees possess organizational memory from previous crises.

  • In "The Impact of Street-Level Turnover on Environmental Agency Enforcement,” coauthored with Shannon Conley and Amanda Rutherford, the state payroll database is used to calculate turnover rates of street-level bureaucrats in state environmental protection agencies as a predictor of enforcement actions and inspections per year. The job title variable makes identification of street-level bureaucrats possible for analysis of their turnover and performance.