A new report from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) analyzes compensation at the three hundred publicly held US corporations with the lowest median wages in 2020. The report, authored by Sarah Anderson, Sam Pizzigati, and Brian Wakamo, finds that the average gap between CEO and median worker pay jumped to 670:1 in 2021, up from 604:1 in 2020. Forty-nine of the firms had ratios above 1,000:1.
Wages at 106 of the firms did not keep pace with the 4.7 percent average US inflation rate last year, and of those, sixty-seven spent resources buying back their own stock, with repurchases totaling $43.7 billion. The biggest buybacks took place at Lowe’s, Target, and Best Buy. As the IPS notes, “With the $13 billion Lowe’s spent on share purchases, the company could have given each of its 325,000 employees a $40,000 raise. Instead, median pay at the company fell 7.6 percent to $22,697.” None of the big-box stores’ retail workers are currently unionized, though there are nascent union campaigns underway at several Target stores.
Of the three hundred companies analyzed by the IPS, 40 percent received federal contracts between October 1, 2019 and May 1, 2022, for a combined value of $37.2 billion. Only six of the 119 contractors had pay gaps of less than 100:1. Maximus, a company that handles federal student debts and Medicare call centers, took in the most federal contracts of any of the firms, with $12.3 billion during the period under consideration. IPS notes that Maximus CEO Bruce Caswell made $7.9 million in compensation, or 208 times the firm’s median income and thirty-six times the salary of the officials who direct the agencies awarding the contracts.
Let’s investigate the claim that the gender pay gap is a result of discrimination by looking at some of the data on wages and hours worked by gender and by marital status and age in the BLS report for 2020:
Comment: Because men work more hours on average than women, some of the raw earnings gap naturally disappears just by simply controlling for the number of hours worked per week, an important factor not even mentioned by groups like the National Committee on Pay Equity. For example, women earned 82.3% of median male earnings for all workers working 35 hours per week or more in 2020, for a raw, unadjusted pay gap of 17.7% for all full-time workers. But for those workers with a 40-hour workweek (more than three-quarters of all full-time female workers), women earned 87.4% of median male earnings, for a smaller pay gap of only 12.6% (see chart and Table 1). Therefore, once we control only for one variable – hours worked – and compare men and women both working 40-hours per week in 2020, almost one-third (5.1 percentage points) of the raw 17.7% pay gap reported by the BLS for full-time workers disappears.
Bottom Line: When the BLS reports that women working full-time in 2020 earned 82.3% of what men earned working full-time, that is very much different from saying that women earned 82.3% of what men earned for doing exactly the same work while working the exact same number of hours in the same occupation, with exactly the same educational background and exactly the same years of continuous, uninterrupted work experience, and with exactly the same marital and family (e.g., number of children) status. As shown above, once we start controlling individually for the many relevant factors that affect earnings, e.g., hours worked, age, marital status, and having children, most of the raw earnings differential disappears. In a more comprehensive study that controlled for all of the relevant variables simultaneously, we would likely find that those variables would account for nearly 100% of the unadjusted, raw earnings differential of 17.7% for women’s earnings compared to men as reported by the BLS. Discrimination, to the extent that it does exist, would likely account for a very small portion of the raw 17.7% gender earnings gap.
Women in finance in the U.K. still make significantly less than men. While the gender pay gap at financial firms in the country narrowed slightly last year, overall the industry continues to have the biggest disparity.
Men working in finance and insurance made 25% more than women last year, down from 28% in 2019, a Bloomberg News analysis of government data shows. The pay gap is especially wide in investment banking, where some of the highest-paid employees work.
It is the fourth straight year that finance has led the industry rankings, showing that executives are finding it difficult to shrink the gap. Mining and quarrying had the second-biggest pay gap at 23% as the commodity boom boosted the income of workers, who are largely male.