Median Workers Pay Climbed Just 2% in 2020 as Top-Paid CEOs Saw 14% Increase


Amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the 200 highest-paid CEOs in the United States saw their annual compensation jump by just over 14 percent on average as median workers at their companies saw their pay increase by just under 2 percent.

Equilar, a company that compiles and curates corporate leadership data, carried out a survey of the nation's 200 highest-paid CEOs for The New York Times and released its report on Friday. The report found that business leaders saw their compensation continue to increase significantly during the pandemic while the median workers at their companies saw little pay increase.

The executives saw an average increase of 14.1 percent while median workers saw their wages tick up by only about 1.9 percent. Overall, CEOs made about 274 times than the workers' median. The inequality gap grew last year, increasing from 245 times in 2019.

"Median total compensation for Equilar 200 CEOs was the highest in the study's history, totaling $19.7 million," Equilar's survey report explained.

However, there was even a massive gap between the lowest paid and highest paid of the top 200 CEOs. While the highest-paid (Alexander Karp of data-mining company Palantir) received $1.1 billion in compensation, the lowest-paid (Marc Holliday SL Green Realty) received a substantially smaller $15.2 million.

"For only the second time in the study's history (and for the second consecutive report), the top CEO had a pay package worth more than $1 billion. Eight CEOs received compensation valued at more than $100 million in 2020 — prior to 2018, there had never been more than two $100 million-plus awards in the study's history," the report explained.

Dan Price, CEO of card processing company Gravity Payments, shared a link to the report on Twitter on Thursday, calling out the inequality. The executive went viral in 2015 after he cut his own compensation from about $1.1 million to just $70,000 to make the minimum salary at his company $70,000.

"Next time you hear about companies raising prices to 'pay workers,' remember they've added millions to their CEO pay every year and given workers almost nothing," Price wrote.

The report came just days after ProPublica reported on the taxes of the nation's 25 richest people, finding that many had paid little or no income taxes in various years over the past decade.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos paid $0 in federal income taxes in 2011, as did Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2018. Bezos and Musk are the richest and third-richest people in the world respectively, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index. As of the time of writing, Bloomberg lists Bezos' net worth at $186.8 billion and Musk's at $166.1 billion.

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