NC Budget and Tax Center

Now we know how much North Carolina CEOs are paid compared to their employees

If you’ve wondered why wages for most working people remain stagnant during a period of record stock market values and corporate profits, a recent article in the Winston-Salem Journal provides some insight. The gap between what CEOs rake in and what the typical workers in their companies are paid has exploded since the 1970s, and new data shows how much of their companies’ success is being captured by corporate leaders.

Thanks to a relatively unheralded provision in the Dodd-Frank Act, corporations are now required to report how much more CEOs at individual companies are paid compared to their typical employee. This requirement sheds important light into the often murky waters of CEO compensation, and what emerges from the gloom is often shocking.

“Even though corporations have received criticism for multi-million-dollar executive payouts from rank-and-file employees, worker advocates and some shareholders, the compensation levels typically boiled the pot for just a few days….

“Analysts and economists say the new CEO pay ratio has the potential to make the issue more of a paycheck and dinner table conversation, or it could just provide another throw-up-your-hands, what-can-you-do round of frustration.”

Pay at our countries’ largest companies has not always been this lopsided. According to analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, the pay gap between CEOs and workers was 20-to-1 in 1960, rose to 89-to-1 by the late 1990s, and surged to 271-to-1 by 2016.

With many CEOs at the helm of companies based in North Carolina receiving hundreds, and in some cases more than a thousand, times what their typical workers receive, it’s small wonder that many working families can’t make ends meet. Hopefully, this newfound transparency will raise awareness of just how unbalanced compensation has become and will incite political and business leaders to take real action to ensure that everyone shares in the benefits of economic growth and quarterly profits.

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