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Bankers' Pay and Extreme Wage Inequality in the UK

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  • Brian Bell
  • John Van Reenen

Abstract

It is well known that the distribution of income in the United Kingdom has widened considerably in the last three decades. This rise has been a result of a widening at both the top and bottom of the wage distribution. More recently, most of the action appears to have occurred at the top of the distribution with lower wage workers keeping pace with the median. This paper explores this increased dispersion at the very top of the wage distribution. We show that the growth has occurred primarily within the top few percentiles and that the rise in inequality in recent years is much more pronounced when we focus on annual earnings as opposed to weekly wages (where most work has concentrated). This is because annual wages include bonuses. By the end of the decade to 2008, the top tenth of earners received £20bn more purely due to the increase in their share (it would have been only £173bn had their share of the pie remained the same as 1998), and £12bn of this went to workers in the financial sector (almost all of which was bonus payments). We consider various reasons why the bankers have managed to capture an increasing share of the wage bill over the last decade.

Suggested Citation

  • Brian Bell & John Van Reenen, 2010. "Bankers' Pay and Extreme Wage Inequality in the UK," CEP Special Papers 21, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepsps:21
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Bryan, Mark & Bryson, Alex, 2016. "Has performance pay increased wage inequality in Britain?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 149-161.
    2. Hochul Shin & Keun Lee, 2019. "Impact of Financialization and Financial Development on Inequality:  Panel Cointegration Results Using OECD Data," Asian Economic Papers, MIT Press, vol. 18(1), pages 69-90, Winter/Sp.
    3. Matthias Efing & Harald Hau & Patrick Kampkötter & Johannes Steinbrecher, 2015. "Die Dosis macht das Gift – eine Analyse zum Einfluss von Bonuszahlungen auf die Profitabilität und das Risiko von Banken," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 68(03), pages 23-31, February.
    4. Efing, Matthias & Hau, Harald & Kampkötter, Patrick & Steinbrecher, Johannes, 2015. "Incentive pay and bank risk-taking: Evidence from Austrian, German, and Swiss banks," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(S1), pages 123-140.
    5. Vincenzo Quadrini & Ramon Marimon & Thomas Cooley, 2012. "Risky Investments with Limited Commitment," 2012 Meeting Papers 603, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Gunther Capelle-Blancard & Yamina Tadjeddine, 2010. "The Impact of the 2007-2010 Crisis on the Geography of Finance," Working Papers 2010-16, CEPII research center.
    7. Olivier Godechot, 2011. "Finance and the rise in inequalities in France," Working Papers halshs-00584881, HAL.
    8. Van Reenen, John, 2011. "Wage inequality, technology and trade: 21st century evidence," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 730-741.
    9. John Forth & Alex Bryson & Lucy Stokes, 2016. "Are firms paying more for performance?," International Journal of Manpower, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 37(2), pages 323-343, May.
    10. Joanne Lindley & Steven Mcintosh, 2017. "Finance Sector Wage Growth and the Role of Human Capital," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 79(4), pages 570-591, August.
    11. repec:ilo:ilowps:485244 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. 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.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    wage inequality; financial services; bonuses;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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