Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Data Sniping: Salaries of Cook County administrative assistants

In today's post, I start a new series, which will appear on this blog whenever I find some interesting data. This series is called Data Sniping. Data Sniping posts share interesting data with the readers, while pondering the implications in the data. After all, what's theorizing worth without some data?

This post presents some data on the salaries of employees who work for Cook County (Chicago). I found the data on the Windy Citizen about a month ago; Cook County Commisioner, Tony Peraica made the data available here. The present data are for 2007 salaries: even though it isn't what people get paid today, it's still interesting. The data have names, date of hire, job title and annual salary for over 25,000 Cook County employees.

As that's a lot of data, I decided to focus this first segment of Data Sniping on the salaries of Cook County administrative assistants. I do not mean to pick on administrative assistants. Administrative assistant is just a common occupation. Therefore, it's relatively easy to compare salaries to other industries, and to relate to our own experience.

Cook County employs five different levels of Administrative Assistant, which the data set creatively calls Admin Assistant I through Admin Assistant V.

How much does the county spend on administrative assistants? In 2007, Cook County employed 1,751 administrative assistants, who were paid a total of $85,148,617 in salary. That's an average salary of $48,628. The median salary is $48,910.

Compared to other employers, administrative assistants who work for Cook County do quite well. According to, an executive secretary or administrative assistant who has worked for at least 20 years can, on average, expect a salary of $42,680. An administrative assistant who has 5 to 9 years of experience can expect $36,716. Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data gives similar numbers to (a median salary of $40,030)

From the data, there seems to be a significant pay bump to working for Cook County. Maybe it is a cost of living adjustment. Maybe they're extra special administrative assistants, with loads of other duties. Or, maybe that's what we get for paying taxes.

For now, I leave it to the readers. What do you think? Why do Cook County Administrative Assistants get paid so much? Is it too much? Not enough?


  1. I think we can blame their higher salaries on a trickle down effect. Every time the higher ups give themselves a raise they have to pass that down the line to keep the troops happy.

    Plus the fact that they are all bureaucrats means that they do not have to worry about costs like a normal business does, their salaries come from an unening source: our tax dollars.

  2. How do you make assessments based on YOUR opinion of what people do?? and job titles..why dont you question what the comissioners Peraica, Suffriden or Claypool. What committees are they on???what do they REALLY do all day???

  3. and stop selectively choosing posts..if you are real then put up all sides of the story

  4. The only assessment I used about people was what the column in the data set ( said they did (Admin Assistant I through IV).

    I stopped short of stating opinions in the above post. Actually, I stated one opinion: I think $48,000 is a lot more than $36,000. But, I didn't say how I feel about that.

    Here's how I feel, so you know exactly what MY my opinion is: Maybe that's great. Maybe that's not great. It really depends on why administrative assitants for the county are paid more.

    If they're producing really great administrative help and they're just being paid for being really great, I applaud paying the county for paying them what they're worth.

    I left lots of reasons open for why we'd expect Cook County administrative assistants to make more. I'm not judging, but the fact is, they make more than other people with the same job title (check out the links to the Bureau of Labor statistics and

    As for investigating what everyone in the world of Chicago politics makes, I'm not going to do that. The point of the post was to point out what information is available at It's an interesting data set to say the least.

    But you're right... If my post makes you think that administrative assistants are overpaid, you've got to wonder what everyone else in the government is getting paid.

  5. he present data are for 2007 salaries: even though it isn't what people get paid today, it's still interesting. The data have names, date of hire, job title and annual salary for over 25,000 Cook County employees.

    University Online


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