Category Archives: Income Inequality/Gap

Executive Paywatch 2019

Source: AFL-CIO, 2019

In 2018, CEOs of S&P 500 companies received, on average, $14.5 million in total compensation. The average S&P 500 company CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 287 to 1. The imbalance in our economy between the pay of CEOs and working people continues to be a problem.

Highest-Paid CEOs
CEO pay continues to outpace the pay of working people. In the past 10 years, CEO pay at S&P 500 companies increased more than $500,000 a year to an average of $14.5 million in 2018. Meanwhile, the average production and nonsupervisory worker saw a wage increase of $785 a year, earning on average just $39,888 in 2018.

Company Pay Ratios
Publicly traded companies are required to disclose the pay ratio between their chief executive and median employee. Company pay ratio data is important. It shows which companies are investing in their workforce to create high-wage jobs. The table below shows how companies pay their CEOs relative to their workforce.

Related:
CEOs made 287 times more money last year than their workers did
Source: Alexia Fernández Campbell, Vox, June 26, 2019

Companies have finally started reporting CEO-worker pay ratios. Now we know why they fought so hard to avoid it.

Unsurprisingly, the gap is obscene. The average chief executive of an S&P 500 company earned 287 times more than their median employee last year, according to an analysis of the new federal data released Tuesday by the AFL-CIO labor federation. America’s CEOs earned a staggering $14.5 million in 2018, on average, compared to the average $39,888 that rank-and-file workers made. And CEOs got a $500,000 bump compared to the previous year, while the average US worker barely got more than $1,000. ….

…. But there is another Reagan-era policy that has contributed to skyrocketing CEO pay: stock buybacks. Corporate executives have spent trillions of dollars buying back their company’s own stocks since the 1980s to temporarily boost its value. …. Over the past 15 years or so, firms have spent an estimated 94 percent of corporate profits on buybacks and dividends. That means companies are barely investing any of their profits in their companies, or workers. Which is why we end up with charts that look like this. ….

Has Higher Education Solved the Problem? Examining the Gender Wage Gap of Recent College Graduates Entering the Workplace

Source: Xueqing Fan, Michael Sturman, Compensation & Benefits Review, OnlineFirst, Published June 19, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
While there has been extensive historical evidence demonstrating the gender wage gap, gains made by women in terms of higher education may be reducing the gap among those recently entering the workforce. Education is a major determinant of wage, and women are often outpacing men now in terms of educational achievement. Thus, the question remains of whether these gains in education have reduced or even eliminated gender wage inequality. This study examines the gender wage difference among new graduates with the same education level using the most recent data from National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 cohort. Despite the hope that greater representation of women with higher degrees would reduce or eliminate the gender wage gap for new entrants to the labor market, our results show that newly graduated men with an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree still earn significantly higher wages than newly graduated women with a same degree. Thus, in what we argue is a highly conservative test for the presence of the gender wage gap, the evidence strongly suggests that the wage gap is a continued and pervasive problem in the modern workplace.

Local Labor Markets in Canada and the United States

Source: David Albouy, Alex Chernoff, Chandler Lutz, Casey Warman, Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 37 no. S2, July 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We examine US and Canadian local labor markets from 1990 to 2011 using comparable household and business data. Wage levels and inequality rise with city population in both countries, albeit less in Canada. Neither country saw wage levels converge despite contrasting migration patterns from/to high-wage areas. Local labor demand shifts raise nominal wages similarly, although in Canada they attract immigrant and highly skilled workers more while raising housing costs less. Chinese import competition had a weaker negative impact on manufacturing employment in Canada. These results are consistent with Canada’s more redistributive transfer system and larger, more educated immigrant workforce.

The One Percent Have Gotten $21 Trillion Richer Since 1989. The Bottom 50% Have Gotten Poorer.

Source: Eric Levitz, New York Magazine, June 16, 2019

….Thus, whether it is truly extreme or moderate to demand sweeping changes to American capitalism depends on the degree to which the existing system aligns with common-sense views of what a just or rational economic system should look like.

Happily, the Federal Reserve just released some data that makes the state of this alignment easier to gauge. In its new Distributive Financial Accounts data series, the central bank offers a granular picture of how American capitalism has been distributing the gains of economic growth over the past three decades. Matt Bruenig of the People’s Policy Project took the Fed’s data and calculated how much the respective net worth of America’s top one percent and its bottom 50 percent has changed since 1989.

He found that America’s superrich have grown about $21 trillion richer since Taylor Swift was born, while those in the bottom half of the wealth distribution have grown $900 billion poorer…..

State of the Union: Millennial Dilemma

Source: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, May 2019

The annual Poverty and Inequality Report provides a unified analysis that brings together evidence across such issues as poverty, employment, income inequality, health inequality, economic mobility, and educational access to allow for a comprehensive assessment of where the country stands. In this year’s issue, the country’s leading experts provide the latest evidence on how millennials are faring.

Contents include:

Executive Summary
David B. Grusky, Marybeth Mattingly, Charles Varner, and Stephanie Garlow
With each new generation, there’s inevitably much angst and hand-wringing, but never have we worried as much as we worry about millennials. We review the evidence on whether all that worrying is warranted.

Racial and Gender Identities
Sasha Shen Johfre and Aliya Saperstein
The usual stereotypes have it that millennials are embracing a more diverse and unconventional set of racial and gender identities. Are those stereotypes on the mark?

Student Debt
Susan Dynarski
Often tagged the “student debt generation,” millennials took out more student loans, took out larger student loans, and defaulted more frequently. Here’s a step-by-step accounting of how we let this happen.

Employment
Harry J. Holzer
Labor force activity has declined especially rapidly among young workers. The good news: We know how to take on this problem.

Criminal Justice
Bruce Western and Jessica Simes
The imprisonment rate has fallen especially rapidly among black men. Does this much-vaunted trend conceal as much as it reveals?

Education
Florencia Torche and Amy L. Johnson
The payoff to a college degree is as high for millennials as it’s ever been. But it’s partly because millennials who don’t go to college are getting hammered in the labor market.

Income and Earnings
Christine Percheski
When millennials entered the labor market during the Great Recession and its aftermath, there were uniformly gloomy predictions about their fate. Does the evidence bear out such gloomy predictions?

Social Mobility
Michael Hout
Millennials have a mobility problem. And it’s partly because the economy is no longer delivering a steady increase in high-status jobs.

Occupational Segregation
Kim A. Weeden
Are millennial women and men working side by side in the new economy? Or are their occupations just as gender-segregated as ever?

Poverty and the Safety Net
Marybeth Mattingly, Christopher Wimer, Sophie Collyer and Luke Aylward
Millennial poverty rates at age 30 are no higher than those of Gen Xers at the same age. But this stability hides a problem: Millennials are replacing a falloff in earnings with large increases in government assistance programs.

Housing
Darrick Hamilton and Christopher Famighetti
Housing reforms during the civil rights era helped to narrow the white-black homeownership gap. But those gains have now been completely lost … and the racial gap in young-adult homeownership is larger for millennials than for any generation in the past century.

Social Networks
Mario L. Small and Maleah Fekete
Millennials are not replacing face-to-face networks with online ones. Rather, they’re a generation that’s found a way to do it all, forging new online ties while also maintaining the usual face-to-face ones.

Health
Mark Duggan and Jackie Li
It might be thought that, for all their labor market woes, at least millennials now have health care and better health. How does this story fall short?

Policy
Sheldon Danziger
A comprehensive policy agenda that could help millennials … and other generations too.

The radical plan to change how Harvard teaches economics

Source: Dylan Matthews, Vox, May 22, 2019

Raj Chetty has an idea for introducing students to econ that could transform the field — and society…..

….Chetty has made his name as an empirical economist, working with a small army of colleagues and research assistants to try to get real-world findings with relevance to major political questions. And he’s focused on the roots and consequences of economic and racial inequality. He used huge amounts of IRS tax data to map inequality of opportunity in the US down to the neighborhood, and to show that black boys in particular enjoy less upward mobility than white boys.

Ec 1152 is an introduction to that kind of economics. There’s little discussion of supply and demand curves, of producer or consumer surplus, or other elementary concepts introduced in classes like Ec 10. There is no textbook, only a set of empirical papers. The material is relatively cutting-edge. Of the 12 papers students are required to read, 11 were released in 2010 or after. Half of the assigned papers were released in 2017 or 2018. Chetty co-authored a third of them.

And while most economics courses at Harvard require Ec 10 as a prerequisite, Ec 1152 does not. Freshmen can take it as their first economics course…..

….If this were just a pedagogical shift at Harvard, that would be one thing. But Chetty is aiming to make the course a model for other schools. After the financial crisis, many economists have concluded that Econ 101 is broken across the university system and is not preparing students for a world where markets frequently fail. Chetty’s class offers a new way to teach an introductory course, yet at the same time is more closely aligned with what contemporary economic research looks like. The course’s lecture videos are already available online, for students at other institutions to use…..

Billionaire Taxes

Source: Michael Simkovic, University of Southern California Gould School of Law, USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 19-7, Last revised: March 27, 2019

From the abstract:
Targeted ultra-high net worth wealth taxes can fund reductions in taxes on wages. Wealth taxes are harder to avoid than existing capital gains taxes and inheritance taxes, and can be more precisely targeted toward extreme wealth. Exit taxes to prevent capital flight are consistent with business law principles governing partnerships. Valuation disputes can be managed through existing property tax mechanisms and through private law provisions called “shotgun clauses.”

Most experts believe that wealth taxes are constitutional. The critical difference between wealth taxes and income taxes, the realization requirement, exists for administrative convenience, not as a constitutional requirement. Constitutional challenges can be discouraged by including in wealth tax legislation a savings clause that would create as a backup an economically equivalent income tax.

Race and the Accumulation of Wealth: Racial Differences in Net Worth over the Life Course, 1989-2009

Source: Melvin Thomas, Cedric Herring, Hayward Derrick Horton, Moshe Semyonov, Loren Henderson, Patrick L Mason, Social Problems, Advance Articles, March 21, 2019

From the abstract:
Using data from the 1989–2009 Panel Study of Income Dynamics, this research examines racial differences in wealth accumulation over the life course. We ask: (1) How have racial differences in wealth changed over time? (2) Do racial wealth gaps change over the life course? (3) Are racial gaps in net worth expanding, contracting, or staying the same over time and over the life course? and (4) Do these patterns differ by cohort? The analysis is informed by (1) the declining significance of race and post-racial perspectives; (2) the cumulative effects of discrimination explanation; and (3) the vintage hypothesis. Results show that African Americans’ wealth as a percentage of whites’ wealth fell in 2009. Results do not support the declining significance of race and post-racial perspectives. Partially consistent with the vintage hypothesis, post-1960s African Americans are relatively better off than are pre-1960s African Americans (compared with whites of the same cohort). Consistent with the cumulative effects of discrimination model, the African American-white wealth gap increases over the life course for each historical period. If current patterns persist, presumed gains made by young African Americans relative to young whites may turn out to be illusory as they progress through the life course.