Pay Cuts for the Boss: Executive Compensation in the 1940s
42 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2011 Last revised: 31 Aug 2011
Date Written: August 2011
Executive pay fell during the 1940s, marking the last notable decrease in the past 70 years. We study this decline using a new panel dataset on the remuneration of top executives in 246 firms. We find that government regulation--including explicit salary restrictions and taxation--had, at best, a modest effect on executive pay. By contrast, a decline in the returns to firm size and an increase in the power of labor unions contributed greatly to the reduction in executive compensation relative to other workers' earnings from 1940 to 1946. The continued decrease in relative executive pay remains largely unexplained.
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