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Learning from the Past: Trends in Executive Compensation over the Twentieth Century

  • Carola Frydman

In recent years, a large academic debate has tried to explain the rapid rise in CEO pay experienced over the past three decades. In this article, I review the main proposed theories, which span views of compensation as the result of a competitive labor market for executivesto theories based on excess of managerial power. Some of these hypotheses have foundsupport in cross-sectional evidence, but it has proven more difficult to determine which factors have caused the observed changes in pay over time. An alternative strategy is to evaluate the fit of plausible explanations out of sample by contrasting them with the evolution in executive pay and the market for managers during earlier time periods. A case study of General Electric suggests that evidence for earlier decades can speak to the recent trends and reveals the limitations of current explanations to address the long-run data.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2008/wp-cesifo-2008-11/cesifo1_wp2460.pdf
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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2460.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2460
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  1. Vicente Cuñat & Maria Guadalupe, 2007. "Executive compensation and competition in the banking and financial sectors," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 24497, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  2. Carola Frydman & Raven E. Saks, 2010. "Executive Compensation: A New View from a Long-Term Perspective, 1936--2005," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(5), pages 2099-2138.
  3. Fabienne Llense, 2008. "French CEO Compensations: What is the Cost of a Mandatory Upper Limit?," CESifo Working Paper Series 2402, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Vicente Cuñat & Maria Guadalupe, 2009. "Globalization and the Provision of Incentives inside the Firm: The Effect of Foreign Competition," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(2), pages 179-212, 04.
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  7. Lucian Arye Bebchuk & Jesse M. Fried, 2003. "Executive Compensation as an Agency Problem," NBER Working Papers 9813, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Xavier Gabaix & Augustin Landier, 2006. "Why Has CEO Pay Increased So Much?," 2006 Meeting Papers 518, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  9. Frank Levy & Peter Temin, 2007. "Inequality and Institutions in 20th Century America," NBER Working Papers 13106, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Brian J. Hall & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 1997. "Are CEOs Really Paid Like Bureaucrats?," NBER Working Papers 6213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "The Economics of Superstars," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 845-58, December.
  12. Benjamin E. Hermalin, 2005. "Trends in Corporate Governance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 60(5), pages 2351-2384, October.
  13. Murphy, Kevin J., 1999. "Executive compensation," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 38, pages 2485-2563 Elsevier.
  14. Cuñat, Vicente & Guadalupe, Maria, 2006. "Globalization and the Provision of Incentives Inside the Firm," CEPR Discussion Papers 5950, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  15. Bebchuk, Lucian A. & Fried, Jesse M., 2003. "Executive Compensation as an Agency Problem," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt81q3136r, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  16. Marko Tervio, 2008. "The Difference That CEOs Make: An Assignment Model Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 642-68, June.
  17. Fama, Eugene F, 1980. "Agency Problems and the Theory of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(2), pages 288-307, April.
  18. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2001. "Are Ceos Rewarded For Luck? The Ones Without Principals Are," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(3), pages 901-932, August.
  19. Bizjak, John M. & Lemmon, Michael L. & Naveen, Lalitha, 2008. "Does the use of peer groups contribute to higher pay and less efficient compensation?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(2), pages 152-168, November.
  20. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "Income Inequality In The United States, 1913-1998," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 1-39, February.
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