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CEO Pay Has Increased By 937 Percent Since 1978

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A new report by the Economic Policy Institute shows that CEO compensation at the largest corporations has ballooned by 937 percent since 1978, when adjusted for inflation. A typical worker’s compensation grew a measly 10.2 percent over the same period.

The average CEO compensation at the 350 publicly owned companies with the largest annual revenue in the U.S. last year was $15.2 million, according to the EPI, a left-leaning think tank. That’s a 21.7 percent rise since just 2010.

These massive increases are fattening CEOs' wallets while those of average Americans look ever leaner. Of all income groups, it's arguably minimum-wage earners who have suffered the most. The federal minimum wage has declined sharply since the 1960s when adjusted for inflation. If it had kept pace with increases in workplace productivity, the federal minimum wage would be $21.72 an hour -- triple what it is today.

Meanwhile, median CEO pay among large public companies broke eight figures for the first time last year, according to a recent Associated Press/Equilar study.

In 2013, according to the EPI's study, the average CEO-to-worker compensation ratio was nearly 296-to-1. That's down from a high of 383-to-1 in the boom years of the 2000s, but up from 193-to-1 in the depths of the recession.

Across some industries, that ratio is even more shocking. Fast-food CEOs make 1,000 times more than their average full-time workers, for instance.

Among the top 0.1 percent of wage earners -- those bringing in more than 99.9 percent of the working population -- CEO compensation still looks outrageous. According to the EPI, average CEO compensation in 2012 was 4.75 times greater than that of the average top 0.1 percent wage earner.

The EPI concluded its report by suggesting that because CEO compensation grew so much faster than that of other highly paid workers, "the market for skills was not responsible for the rapid growth of CEO compensation." Accordingly, if CEOs took a pay cut, “there would be no loss of productivity or output."

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