Americans Drastically Underestimate Difference between CEO Pay and Worker Salaries

Saturday, October 31, 2015
(photo: J Pat Carter, AP)

Asked about the difference between salaries of CEOs and average workers, Americans show an overly optimistic view of wage disparity.


A survey asked how much respondents thought CEOs earned versus what the average factory worked made. The median response, cited in Les Leopold’s “Runaway Inequality: An Activist’s Guide to Economic Justice,” was $900,000 annually for top executives and $25,000 for factory workers. That’s a wage ratio of 36 to 1.


The survey respondents were way off. The actual ratio in 2013 was 829 to 1. That number comes from the average salary for a CEO of a large corporation of nearly $30 million a year, Leopold, director of The Labor Institute, wrote in AlterNet.


The survey also asked people what they think CEOs and workers should be paid. For CEOs, it was $200,000 and for workers it was $30,000, giving a wage gap of 7 to 1.


“Let’s pause for a moment to consider how jarring this result is,” Leopold wrote. “The actual wage gap between a CEO and the average unskilled worker is about 830 to 1. Yet Americans believe it should be only 7 to 1.”


More than 1,500 Americans were included in the International Social Survey Programme: Social Inequality IV-ISSP 2009, the data from which was cited in Leopold’s book.

“Perhaps the biggest reason we are so misinformed is that it is not in the interests of our political parties for us to see the truth,” Leopold wrote. “Neither political party has addressed rising inequality in a meaningful way.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

As Bad as You Think Inequality Is, It’s Worse! (by Les Leopold, AlterNet)

The Pay Gap Between CEOs and Workers is Much Worse than You Realize (by Roberto A. Ferdman, Washington Post)

In 5 Years, Average CEO Income has Increased 54%; Average Worker 0% (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Most Americans Clueless about Gap between CEO Pay and Employee Pay (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Income Gulf between CEOs and Workers 11 Times Greater than in 1965 (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


Leave a comment