Category Archives: Compensation

Prices and Wages by Decade

Source: University of Missouri Library, 2018

Links to U. S. government documents listing retail prices for typical consumer purchases, and wages for common occupations.

All data is for the United States unless specifically indicated.

This guide points to government publications listing retail prices for common items or “necessities of life.” Prices for foods, articles of clothing, household items, appliances, hardware, fuel and other physical goods fall within the domain of this guide.  We included prices for other types of common expenditures as well: transportation, cars, homes, rent, utilities, and school tuition for example.  Here you will also find typical wages, salaries, hours and earnings for workers dating back to the 1700s.  Again, we point to official government publications almost exclusively.

More Than a Paycheck

Source: Dennis Campbell, John Case, Bill Fotsch, Harvard Business Review, January-February 2018

….Tomorrow’s blue-collar jobs will be largely in services.

That means the good jobs of the future are going to look rather different from those of the past. What we mean by “good” is well understood: The jobs provide a decent living. But we’ve come to realize that a decent living in the new economy entails more than a generous wage; it involves sharing the company’s success with employees. It’s also about more than money: People want to learn new skills and to understand how their work contributes to that success. Those insights have generally taken hold in high-end, knowledge-work settings. But a healthy free-enterprise society must offer promising employment opportunities for all its citizens, not just the well educated and highly skilled—and that means figuring out how to make blue-collar jobs more engaging as well as better paid. Otherwise the toxic combination of anger, demoralization, and cynicism that we already see among many Americans will spread.

So what should blue-collar jobs in the 21st century look like? Let’s begin by considering compensation. Arguably, we’ve already figured out that we ought to change the way we pay—even if relatively few companies are doing so yet. But as we’ll see, no benefits of progress on compensation will be fully realized or sustained unless we also make blue-collar jobs more engaging. In this respect, much remains to be done…..

Measuring Up: How BLS Data Would Inflate Earnings for Career Training Graduates

Source: Ben Barrett and Sophie Nguyen, New American Foundation, February 2018

From the summary:
On January 29, the U.S. Department of Education released a blueprint for how it plans to revise the gainful employment (GE) regulations, which the Obama administration put in place in 2014. Most notably, the Department’s proposed rule would eliminate all sanctions for career-oriented programs that leave students with large debt but without the training to land a well-paying job after graduation. Preserving only a modified version of the current disclosure requirements, the regulations could be further weakened if for-profit colleges get their way during the second round of negotiations. Instead of disclosing or holding career-oriented college programs accountable for the amount of debt that graduates borrow relative to the amount they earn a few years after completing, as the current rules do, for-profit college leaders and lobbyists have called for substituting actual students’ earnings with local estimates derived from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While the Department’s proposal to strike any consequence from the GE regulations may seem brazen in comparison, attempting to use BLS data in place of actual graduates’ earnings would have nearly the same impact as no accountability at all. Unfortunately, using BLS estimates instead of real earnings data would not only tell prospective students very little about the quality of the program that they are considering, it will actively mislead them. More troubling still, this approach would prevent the government from holding individual colleges accountable. 

To illustrate just how misleading it would be to use BLS data for the purpose of measuring program outcomes, we compared national and local BLS earnings with actual earnings from graduates of specific career-training programs. We found that, on average, the median annual earnings for graduates of all programs subject to the gainful employment regulations were $27,494. But if local BLS estimates were used instead, the median annual earnings would rise to an average of $49,341—an increase of $21,847, or nearly 80 percent…..

CEO Pay Ratio Survey

Source: Equilar, February 2018
(subscription required)

From the press release:
Equilar has conducted an anonymous survey of 356 public companies to identify the CEO Pay Ratio they plan to report in their 2018 proxy statements. Overall, the survey found that the median was 140:1 among this group of companies.

In 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) passed a ruling that required public companies to report the ratio of compensation for their CEO in comparison to that of a median employee.

Key findings from the survey included:
• The median CEO pay ratio across all 356 submitting companies was 140:1. At the 25th percentile, the ratio was 72:1, and was 246:1 at the 75th percentile. The average was 241:1.
• Median employee compensation for all companies in the survey was $60,000.
• The median CEO pay ratio was larger in direct correlation to company revenue, totaling 47:1 for companies below $1 billion in revenue and 263:1 for companies above $15 billion in revenue.
• Similarly, companies with the greatest number of employees had the largest ratio (318:1) and the smallest median employee compensation ($46,000). The smallest companies, with fewer than 2,310 employees, had the lowest ratio (45:1) and highest median pay ($85,580). Equilar split companies by employee size into five equal quintiles for this particular analysis.
• Ratios by industry sector varied much more widely:
• “Consumer discretionary” companies, which include retail and hospitality, had the highest ratio with a median 350:1.
• Energy companies had the lowest ratio at 72:1.
• Median employee pay at the 48 consumer discretionary companies that responded to the survey was $21,840 vs. $107,887 for the 30 energy companies that responded.

Do Unions Increase Labor Shares? Evidence from US Industry-Level Data

Source: Andrew T. Young, Hernando Zuleta, Eastern Economic Journal, Online First, December 9, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We explore the relationship between union membership rates and labor shares using panel data on 35 industries, spanning the entire US economy, for the years 1983–2005. For the full sample, a standard deviation increase in union membership rates is associated with an increase in an industry’s labor share of about 10%. Starting from the mean labor share in our sample (0.614), this effect amounts to about 6 percentage points. However, the effect is weaker and not statistically significant for manufacturing industries. We control for the capital-to-output ratio in all of our estimations, and the results are consistent with an elasticity of substitution between capital and labor that is less than unity. As such, the positive union effect on labor share is consistent with either the right-to-manage or the efficiency bargaining model of unions.

The Resurgence of Universal Basic Income

Source: Kody Carmody, Econ Focus, Third Quarter, 2017

Concerns about the effects of automation have brought an old policy proposal back into the limelight. …. Today, a new set of techno-optimists argue that coming advances in automation and artificial intelligence will finally fulfill Keynes’ prediction, replacing most human labor. Even if machines don’t cause widespread unemployment, they have caused and surely will continue to cause substantial labor market shocks in specific industries. These concerns have breathed new life into the discussion over a policy now called universal basic income, or UBI.

Many variations have been proposed, but UBI generally refers to regular cash payments that would go to individuals regardless of work status or income (that’s the “universal”) and would cover some minimum standard of living (that’s the “basic”). ….

At the same time, questions remain about how it could be done and its effects…..

Labor Market Concentration

Source: José Azar, Ioana Marinescu, Marshall I. Steinbaum, National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Working Paper No. 24147, December 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
A product market is concentrated when a few firms dominate the market. Similarly, a labor market is concentrated when a few firms dominate hiring in the market. Using data from the leading employment website, we calculate labor market concentration for over 8,000 geographic-occupational labor markets in the US. Based on the DOJ-FTC horizontal merger guidelines, the average market is highly concentrated. Using a panel IV regression, we show that going from the 25th percentile to the 75th percentile in concentration is associated with a 15-25% decline in posted wages, suggesting that concentration increases labor market power.

Progress toward Pay Equity in State Governments?

Source: Gregory B. Lewis, Jonathan Boyd and Rahul Pathak, Public Administration review, Early View, December 28, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Are state governments fulfilling their responsibilities to be model employers of women and minorities? Using U.S. Census Bureau data on individual employees from 1980 to 2015, this article looks at how much progress state governments have made toward eliminating racial and gender pay differences. It examines whether differences in education, age/experience, citizenship, English ability, hours worked, and occupation explain the pay differences. Patterns and explanations vary substantially by group, but state governments are doing a better job than private firms of closing pay gaps on almost every measure.

Commentary: Asking the Right Question on Performance Pay—and Getting a Surprising Answer

Source: Kate Walsh, Public Administration Review, Volume 77, Issue 6, November/December 2017
(subscription required)

The idea of paying effective teachers more than less effective teachers has been hotly debated for more than two decades, ever since it became possible to estimate an individual teacher’s effect on student learning. A new study by Michael Jones and Michael T. Hartney, “Show Who the Money? Teacher Sorting Patterns and Performance Pay across U.S. School Districts,” tackles a promising benefit of performance pay long asserted by proponents but largely unexamined by researchers: whether performance pay improves district recruitment efforts.

Most research on performance pay has focused on its purported benefit as a motivator, hypothesizing that higher pay motivates teachers to work harder and become more effective—a notion that troubles me because it suggests that many teachers are not already working as hard as they can. The recruitment question pursued by Jones and Hartney seems more to the point, as is the use of performance pay as a strategic retention tool. Higher pay targeted to great teachers should encourage them to stay in the classroom while nudging less effective teachers who do not qualify for higher pay to consider other careers.

Show Who the Money? Teacher Sorting Patterns and Performance Pay across U.S. School Districts
Source: Michael Jones and Michael T. Hartney, Public Administration Review, Volume 77, Issue 6, November/December 2017
(subscription required)

Analyzing the Labor Market Outcomes of Occupational Licensing

Source: Maury Gittleman, Mark A. Klee, Morris Kleiner, Industrial Relations, Volume 57, Issue 1, January 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Recent assessments of occupational licensing have shown varying effects of the institution on labor-market outcomes. This study revisits the relationship between occupational licensing and labor-market outcomes by analyzing a new topical module to the Survey of Income and Program Participation. Relative to previously available data, the topical module offers more detailed information on occupational licensing attainment, with larger sample sizes and access to richer sets of person-level characteristics. We find that those with a license earn higher pay, are more likely to be employed, and have a higher probability of employer-sponsored health insurance offers.