CEOs Get Massive Raises While Their Workers' Wages Stagnate

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Two recent studies have added to the growing body of evidence that indicates America’s rich are getting even richer. Everyone else? Not so much.


Median pay for the nation’s 50 highest-earning CEOs jumped nearly 22 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to a new report from the Associated Press and Equilar.

The “poorest” CEO in the top 50 list - Coca-Cola’s Ahmet Kent - earned a massive $18.2 million.

Meanwhile, the average worker’s salary increased a meager 2.6 percent, according to a separate survey by Towers Watson. While raises this year are shaping up to be a little higher at 2.9 percent, it’s nowhere near the 510 percent increase TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer - who at Number 4 on the list pulls in $39 million - snagged.

While the top 50 CEOs are certainly in rare company, top executives in general have fared quite well. Median pay for CEOs of a Standard & Poor’s 500 company has soared above $10 million for the first time ever, an 8.8 percent increase from 2012. And more than two-thirds of CEOs received a raise. For reference, most American households pull in around $50,000.

The best-paid CEO, Anthony Petello of Nabors Industries, pulled in 246 percent more last year than in 2012, according to the survey. His pay? A cool $68.2 million.

One interesting finding from the study is that female CEOs have a higher median pay package than their male counterparts - $11.7 million compared to $10.5 million. Still, there were just 12 female CEOs in the study and 325 male CEOs.


One reason pay has soared for the nation’s highest earners is that the stock market has rebounded and the AP/Equilar report factors in things like stocks and bonuses. The S&P 500 rose 30 percent last year alone, meaning stocks drove a good chunk of the increase.

But while CEO pay has climbed in recent years, after a brief dip during the recession, other workers haven’t been so lucky. Most Americans haven’t seen much of an income boost since the 1970s and 80s, even though they’re more productive than ever.


Employers who were forced to cut costs during the economic downturn realized their companies operated just fine and many kept the leaner staffs and operating budgets.

According to the AP, a chief executive now makes more than 250 times the average worker.


Worker rights groups have argued that the discrepancy is unfair, and income inequality has become one of President Obama’s key talking points. But companies argue they need to be able to attract top talent.

That’s little consolation for workers struggling to get by.

But a new Securities and Exchange Commission rule that should take effect this year could be a step in the right direction. It would require corporations to publish the ratio of pay CEOs earn compared to average workers.


Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.