While the huge multi-million pay packages of a few hundred CEOs get all of the media attention, what usually receives much less attention is the small number of CEOs represented in the annual salary surveys, especially compared to the total number of CEOs in the US. For example, the WSJ’s executive compenstation survey last year included only 300 CEOs at large, U.S.-traded public companies, and the AP analyzed compensation figures for only 337 companies in the S&P 500 last year. The AFL-CIO did an analysis of the CEOs of 350 companies in the S&P 500 in 2013 and then computed a “CEO-to-worker pay ratio” of 331 times, up from a ratio of 300 ten years ago and 200 twenty years ago.Our practical application of arithmetic and statistics for the day. Why do our friends on the left trumpet the false number? Because it advances their agenda. They have to lie to advance their agenda.
Although these samples of 300-350 CEOs are representative of large, publicly-traded, multinational US companies, they certainly aren’t very representative of the average US company or the average US CEO. According to both the BLS and the Census Bureau, there are more than 7 million private firms in the US, so the samples of 300-350 firms for CEO pay represent only one of about every 21,500 private firms in the US, or about 1/200 of 1% of the total number of US firms. And yet the AFL-CIO, Financial Times, AP, the WSJ and others compare the average annual wages of hundreds of millions of full-time employees working at the more than 7 million US companies to the CEO pay of executives at only several hundred companies, which is hardly a fair comparison.
We can get a more accurate and complete picture of CEO compensation in the US by looking at wage data released recently by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its annual report on Occupational Employment and Wages for 2014. The BLS report provides “employment and wage estimates by area and by industry for wage and salary workers in 22 major occupational groups, 94 minor occupational groups, 458 broad occupations, and 821 detailed occupations,” including the occupational category “chief executives.” In 2014, the BLS reports that the average pay for America’s 246,240 chief executives was only $180,700. The CEOs of the 300-350 S&P 500 firms that supposedly represent typical CEO compensation represent only one out of about every 820 firms in the country (or 1/7 of 1%) that have a CEO at the head. The larger sample of almost a quarter-million CEOs reported by the BLS gives us a much better understanding of “average CEO compensation.”
For the larger sample of CEOs reported by the BLS, their average pay of $180,700 last year was an increase of only 1.3% from the average CEO pay of $178,400 in 2013. In contrast, the BLS reports that the average pay of all workers increased by 1.7% last year to $47,230 from $46,440 in 2013. That’s right, the average worker last year saw an increase in their pay that was more than 30% greater than the increase in pay for the average US CEO.
And the “CEO-to-worker pay ratio” for the average CEO compared to the average worker was only 3.83 times last year (see chart above), nowhere close to the pay ratio of 331X reported by the AFL-CIO using the 350 highest-paid CEOs in the country. Call it a “statistical falsehood-to-truth ratio” of 87-to-1 for the AFL-CIO’s exaggerated, bogus ratio.
Update, 10/1/15: Let's remember that the president of Planned Parenthood, a so-called non-profit that profits from the selling of babies' body parts, makes over half a million dollars a year, which is almost 3x the average American CEO pay.