The Determinants and Effects of CEO–Employee Relative Pay
47 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2012 Last revised: 5 Dec 2012
Date Written: April 2012
We study the determinants and effects of the relative compensation of top executives and lower-level employees. First, we show that CEO–employee pay ratio depends on the balance of power between the CEO (relative to the board) and ordinary employees (relative to management). Second, our results suggest that employees do not perceive higher pay ratios as an inequitable outcome to be redressed via costly behaviors that lower productivity. We do not find a negative relation between relative pay and employee productivity, either in the full sample or in subsamples where employees are well-informed about executive pay and are protected against retaliatory managerial actions. Rather, we find that productivity increases with relative pay when the firm has fewer employees who are well-informed, and when promotion decisions are predominantly merit-based. We also find that firm value and operating performance both increase with relative pay. We conclude that ordinary employees appear to perceive an opportunity in higher pay ratios but the extent to which such perception incentivizes them depends on the likelihood of success in a promotion tournament.
Keywords: Employee incentives, productivity, pay ratio, executive compensation
JEL Classification: D24, G34, J33, L14
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