Upvoted for interesting modeling and reasoning. But I think it’s missing at least a few key elements around diversity of employee skills and motivations. There’s no reason to believe that ability and motivation are particularly correlated (in some conceptions, they may be anti-correlated). So we need to think of these jobs as having a MIX of people who just got the best job/career they could (lawyers with no serious option at better than $61K/yr) and people who are foregoing a more financially lucrative option in order to feel good (and/or signal to their friends/family). Also missing is the ability to fire/replace a sub-marginal employee. In a high-paying, competitive job, there are lots of candidates ready to step in if someone isn’t pulling (more than) their weight. In a low-paying job, it’s less likely that the replacement is significantly better.
I have a few close friends who’ve found work in nonprofits (paid work—accounting and CRM aspects of development), and it seems consistent that the pay is on the low end of the normal range for the type of work, and that the quality of management and knowledge worker is a bit low as well (with notable exceptions—some are higher-quality than industry; maybe I should just say more variable). I have a friend who founded a nonprofit, and this does NOT apply—he does employ people, but is hands-on enough to keep quality high and focused on impact.
I think it’s also missing a bunch of complexity in value of benefits and job-protection value from some lower-direct-salary jobs. A public defender is a government job. I have no idea if it’s true, but my perception is that it’s a far more secure job, with a much better pension after a shorter time, than a private-sector associate position. I also suspect your perception of the universal hatred of Facebook is … quite skewed. It’s just not true. Many people dislike many aspects of facebook, but still spend many hours on it and love it for it’s ability to connect them with near and distant family and friends. Many techies really appreciate FB’s contributions to open-source, and give a lot of credit to FB employees for their skill in running such a large system. I know a bunch of FB employees (tech, not content side, so my views are skewed too), and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate what they do.
All very valid points. To be sure, my model is only valid when there is good reason to expect competence and motivation to correlate and when firing is relatively difficult. My only (possible?) disagreement is that I think “lawyers with no serious option at better than $61K/yr” wouldn’t generally become public defenders unless they also happen to be very motivated by the position itself, because other law positions paying $61k have a lower workload, stress, etc.
It’s true that government jobs tend to be more secure, but I don’t think this fully explains the low salaries of public defenders (though this is just an intuition).