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Firm Performance and Wages: Evidence from Across the Corporate Hierarchy

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.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp1088.

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Date of creation: Nov 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1088
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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  1. Cronqvist, Henrik & Heyman, Fredrik & Nilsson, Mattias & Svaleryd, Helena & Vlachos, Jonas, 2006. "Do Entrenched Manager Pay Their Workers More?," SIFR Research Report Series 47, Institute for Financial Research.
  2. Guiso, Luigi & Pistaferri, Luigi & Schivardi, Fabiano, 2001. "Insurance Within the Firm," CEPR Discussion Papers 2793, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Ian Gregory-Smith & Steve Thompson & PeterW. Wright, 2009. "Fired or Retired? A Competing Risks Analysis of Chief Executive Turnover," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(536), pages 463-481, 03.
  4. Xavier Gabaix & Augustin Landier, 2006. "Why Has CEO Pay Increased So Much?," 2006 Meeting Papers 518, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Brian Bell & John Van Reenen, 2010. "Bankers' pay and extreme wage inequality in the UK," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 28780, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  6. Helpman, Elhanan & Itskhoki, Oleg & Redding, Stephen J., 2009. "Inequality and Unemployment in a Global Economy," CEPR Discussion Papers 7353, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Card, David & Devicienti, Francesco & Maida, Agata, 2011. "Rent-Sharing, Hold-up, and Wages: Evidence from Matched Panel Data," IZA Discussion Papers 6086, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Van Reenen, John, 1994. "The Creation and Capture of Rents: Wages and Innovation in a Panel of UK Companies," CEPR Discussion Papers 1071, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald & Peter Sanfey, 1992. "Wages, Profits and Rent-Sharing," NBER Working Papers 4222, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Nickell, S & Vainiomaki, J & Wadhwani, S, 1994. "Wages and Product Market Power," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 61(244), pages 457-73, November.
  11. Mahmood Arai, 2003. "Wages, Profits, and Capital Intensity: Evidence from Matched Worker-Firm Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(3), pages 593-618, July.
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