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Firm Performance and Wages: Evidence from Across the Corporate Hierarchy

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  • Brian Bell
  • John Van Reenen

Abstract

Does it matter whether you work for a successful company? And if so, does it matter who you are? To answer these questions we construct a unique panel dataset covering the pay of all CEOs, senior managers and a fully representative sample of workers for a large group of publicly-listed companies covering just under 90% of the market capitalization of the UK stock market. We show that senior management appear to have pay that is strongly associated with various measures of firm performance (such as shareholder returns and quasi-rents), while workers' pay is only weakly associated with such measures. A 10% increase in firm value is associated with an increase of 3% in CEO pay but only 0.2% in average workers' pay. Falls in firm performance are also followed by CEO pay cuts and significantly more CEO firings. This is essentially a result of the responsiveness of flexible pay to performance and only senior executives have a large enough share of pay in bonuses to generate a sizeable overall effect on pay. External control matters for pay - firms with lower levels of institutional ownership have smaller pay-performance elasticities for CEOs and do not cut their pay when performance is poor.

Suggested Citation

  • Brian Bell & John Van Reenen, 2011. "Firm Performance and Wages: Evidence from Across the Corporate Hierarchy," CEP Discussion Papers dp1088, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1088
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Henrik Cronqvist & Fredrik Heyman & Mattias Nilsson & Helena Svaleryd & Jonas Vlachos, 2009. "Do Entrenched Managers Pay Their Workers More?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(1), pages 309-339, February.
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    3. Xavier Gabaix & Augustin Landier, 2008. "Why has CEO Pay Increased So Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 49-100.
    4. David Card & Francesco Devicienti & Agata Maida, 2014. "Rent-sharing, Holdup, and Wages: Evidence from Matched Panel Data," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(1), pages 84-111.
    5. Nickell, S & Vainiomaki, J & Wadhwani, S, 1994. "Wages and Product Market Power," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 61(244), pages 457-473, November.
    6. John Van Reenen, 1996. "The Creation and Capture of Rents: Wages and Innovation in a Panel of U. K. Companies," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(1), pages 195-226.
    7. Stephen G. Bronars & Melissa Famulari, 2001. "Shareholder Wealth and Wages: Evidence for White-Collar Workers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(2), pages 328-354, April.
    8. Luigi Guiso & Luigi Pistaferri & Fabiano Schivardi, 2005. "Insurance within the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(5), pages 1054-1087, October.
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    1. Bosses as robber barons
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2012-06-12 18:03:09

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    Cited by:

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    2. Bryan, Mark & Bryson, Alex, 2016. "Has performance pay increased wage inequality in Britain?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 149-161.
    3. Lucy Stokes & Alex Bryson & John Forth & Martin Weale, 2017. "Who Fared Better? The Fortunes of Performance Pay and Fixed Pay Workers through Recession," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 55(4), pages 778-801, December.
    4. Ana P. Fernandes & Priscila Ferreira & L. Alan Winters, 2014. "The Effect of Competition on Managers' Compensation: Evidence From a Quasi-natural Experiment," NIMA Working Papers 57, Núcleo de Investigação em Microeconomia Aplicada (NIMA), Universidade do Minho.
    5. Bell, Brian & Bukowski, Pawel & Machin, Stephen, 2018. "Rent Sharing and Inclusive Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 13408, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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