EPI News l October 10, 2022
EO pay, including stock awards and options, is up 11.1% since 2020 and 1,460% since 1978, a new EPI analysis finds. This increase was not matched by increased pay for typical workers: The ratio of CEO-to-typical-worker pay soared to 399-to-1 under EPI’s realized measure of CEO pay, the highest ratio on record, up from 366-to-1 in 2020 and a massive increase from 59-to-1 in 1989.
The CEO pay analysis this year excluded an extreme outlier in 2021: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors. In 2021, Musk exercised $23.5 billion worth of stock options that would have expired in 2022, making his pay under EPI’s realized measure nearly 1,000 times the average of other large-company CEOs. Including Musk’s pay in the analysis would have led to an increase in CEO pay of over 300% relative to 2020.
Skyrocketing CEO pay is not just a symbolic issue—it’s become a substantive driver of rising inequality. It adds fuel to the growth of top 1% and top 0.1% incomes, limiting opportunities for economic growth for ordinary workers and widening the gap between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else.
“Exorbitant CEO pay is a contributor to rising inequality that we could restrain without doing any damage to the wider economy. We need to enact policy solutions that would both reduce incentives for CEOs to extract economic concessions and limit their ability to do so,” explains Josh Bivens, EPI’s director of research and one of the authors of the report.
CEO pay is growing ever higher because the labor market for top corporate executives is fundamentally broken. CEOs have essentially seized the power to set their own pay by convincing corporate boards to act as CEOs’ agents instead of their bosses. Further, by hooking their pay to general growth in the stock market—more than 80% of their pay is stock-related—CEOs have been able to realize huge raises that are not the result of them becoming more productive or skilled over time.
The decision to exclude Musk’s pay was made for similar reasons as EPI’s decision to exclude Mark Zuckerberg’s salary after the initial public offering for Facebook in our 2013 analysis. Outliers like these are further proof that CEO pay is not linked to job performance.
“Musk’s compensation in 2021 is different in degree, not kind, from other CEOs’ pay: It rewards him for increases in the value of stock that may well have occurred under any other Tesla CEO. It has no clear link to the actual economic value he brings to the shareholders–let alone workers–of his company over the long term,” said Jori Kandra, co-author of the report.
The authors outline several policy solutions that would limit CEOs’ ability to attain increasingly higher pay without hurting the overall economy. These include:
- Implementing higher marginal income tax rates at the very top of the income ladder to limit executives’ ability to add to their wealth without increased productivity and reduce the incentives for executives to push for such high pay.
- Using antitrust enforcement and regulation to restrain firms’—and by extension, CEOs’—excessive market power.
- Allowing greater use of “say on pay,” which allows a firm’s shareholders to vote on top executives’ compensation.
The labor market recovery and pandemic relief measures lifted Black and Brown workers and families in 2021
By Valerie Wilson and Adewale A. Maye l September 20, 2022
The 2021 Census Bureau reports on income and poverty provide a first official glimpse at the economic condition of U.S. households by race and ethnicity in the first full year of the COVID-19 economic recovery, which reached people of color much faster than the recovery from the Great Recession.
The faster pace of this recovery can be attributed to the strong pandemic policy response that not only contributed to robust job growth throughout 2021, but also provided critical income supports to economically vulnerable families and children.
However, along with these positive outcomes came a spike in inflation that threatened to chip away at any income gains. As a result, in 2021, real median household income ($70,784) was not statistically different from 2020 ($71,186). Real median household income was also statistically unchanged across all racial and ethnic groups. Reported income estimates reflect the Census Bureau’s inflation adjustment for 2021 – an annual increase of 4.7% between 2020 and 2021 and the largest annual increase since 1990. While this suggests that median incomes essentially kept pace with the 2021 rise in prices, these estimates do not reflect the more rapid increase in inflation in 2022.
Comparisons of 2020 and 2021 income estimates to earlier years should be made with caution as Census reports that “since 2020, survey nonresponse has continued to bias income statistics upward by about 2%” due to much lower response rates among low-income households since the pandemic. Further, in an attempt to “mitigate nonresponse bias based on age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin and ensure that the weighted sample is representative of the U.S. population,” both 2020 and 2021 data have been (re)weighted using decennial census population controls and will not match estimates published last year.
All caveats aside, relative racial and ethnic disparities in median household income remained unchanged during the 2020-2021 pandemic years, as shown in Figure A. In 2021, Asian households reported the highest median income ($101,418), followed by non-Hispanic white households ($77,999). Incomes remained much lower among Hispanic (from $57,981) and Black households ($48,297). Relative to every dollar of white household income, Hispanic and Black households earn just 74 cents and 62 cents, respectively.
he impact of the pandemic was most clearly reflected in the historic single-year decline in full-time, year-round employment in 2020. After falling by 13.7 million in 2020, the number of full-time, year-round workers increased by 11.1 million in 2021. This indicates a significant shift to more full-time year-round work since the total number of workers was unchanged.
Due to systemic and structural inequalities in the labor market, the 2020 losses in full-time, year-round employment were largely borne by lower earners who were disproportionately women and men of color.
As shown in Figure B, in 2021, the number of full-time, year-round earners rebounded most significantly among those same groups. The number of full-time year-round earners increased 21.1% among Hispanic men and 17.8% among Hispanic women. The corresponding changes for Black men and women were 15.4% and 10.8%, respectively. White, non-Hispanic men and women saw increases of 8.4% and 8.8%, respectively.
The 2021 official poverty rates remained largely unchanged between 2020 (11.4%) and 2021 (11.6%). As seen in Figure C, official poverty rates either rose slightly or remained unchanged for all racial and ethnic groups. The Black poverty rate was highest at 19.5% (statistically unchanged from 2020 at 19.6%), followed by the Hispanic (17.1%, up 0.1 percentage points), Asian (9.3%, up 1.2 percentage points), and white (8.1%, down 0.1 percentage points) poverty rates.
In 2020, Black and Hispanic children continued to face the highest poverty rates—27.6% of Black children and 23.1% of Hispanic children under age 18 lived below the poverty level. In 2021, Black children saw a slight decline in poverty by 0.3 percentage points (to 27.3%) and Hispanic children saw a decline in poverty by 0.7 percentage points (to 22.4%). Despite the decline in child poverty rates, Black children were nearly three times as likely to be in poverty as white children (8.8%), and 8.8% of Asian children lived in poverty in 2021.
The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), an alternative to the long-running official poverty measure, provides a more accurate measure of a household’s economic deprivation. While the official poverty rate captures only before-tax cash income, the SPM accounts for various non-cash benefits and tax credits. The SPM also allows for geographic variability in what constitutes poverty based on differences in the cost of living.
The 2021 SPM reveals the extent to which various safety net programs mitigated the worst effects of the pandemic recession, particularly for Black and Hispanic households. While the official poverty measure shows 19.5% of the Black population in poverty, the SPM shows only 11.2%, a difference of 8.3 percentage points. The SPM shows a lower poverty rate in the Hispanic population as well, 11.2% compared to 17.1% in the official poverty measure. The non-Hispanic white and Asian populations saw smaller differences between their SPM and official poverty rates (5.7% vs 8.1% for whites, 9.5% versus 9.3% for Asians).
The substantial reduction in poverty captured by the SPM reveals how important the investments in pandemic relief were to some of our nation’s most vulnerable communities, including Black and Brown children. Notably, the expanded Child Tax Credit significantly reduced child poverty for all groups, keeping nearly 3 million children out of poverty. We have the capacity to significantly lower poverty rates through progressive policy and should not wait for another global pandemic to do so.
Amazon Air Delivery Could Be Moneymaker for Black Drone Pilots in California
By Edward Henderson | California Black Media | June 19, 2022
For Black drone pilots, e-commerce package delivery going aerial could present new earning or business opportunities for them.
Last week, Amazon announced that its customers in Lockeford, a town of about 3500 people in San Joaquin County, will become among the first to receive Prime Air deliveries via drone.
The tech company, the world’s largest e-retailer, chose Lockeford because of its historic links to the aviation industry.
“Lockeford residents will soon have access to one of the world’s leading delivery innovations,” said Assemblymember Heath Flora (R-Ripon), whose district includes the town. “It’s exciting that Amazon will be listening to the feedback of the San Joaquin County community to inform the future development of this technology.”
Amazon’s drones fly up to 50 miles per hour and can carry packages of up to 5 pounds as high as 400 feet in the air.
Blacks and the Drone Industry
Technology and aviation industry watchers say drone pilots are in high demand right now and they predict their demand will keep increasing. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) estimates that by the year 2025, at least 100,000 jobs will be created for drone pilots. Multiple companies are set to spend over $16 billion on drones over the next eight years, with advertising agencies, construction, and security firms being among the first.
According to the Economic Research Institute, the average pay for a drone pilot is $71,669 a year and $34 an hour in California. The average salary range for a drone pilot is between $50,891 and $88,659. Entrepreneurship related to drone piloting creates opportunities, experts say, for generating new streams of income and establishing new businesses that support the industry.
Jeffery Howell, a Navy officer currently stationed in San Diego, began his journey with drones when his wife gifted him one for his birthday last year.
“At first I was nervous,” said Howell. “I’ve never really flown a drone before, so I started watching YouTube videos back-to-back, learning about the qualifications to fly drones legally and weight classes. As I delved deeper into it, there is a whole different world and community out there.”
Over time, Howell became more comfortable piloting his drone and was interested in connecting with other pilots who looked
like him. Eventually, he stumbled upon the Facebook group, ‘Black Drone Pilots,’ and connected with a community of over 300 pilots nationwide who not only shared his budding passion but were making a living with it.
On the weekend of June 11, Black drone pilots held inaugural meet-and-greets in five different cities nationwide. Howell attended the event in Newport Beach and had the opportunity to network and fellowship with local pilots.
“I was amazed at the brothers and sisters getting together just having a good time flying,” he said. “You could tell that the ones who weren’t as knowledgeable were getting pointers from the more experienced pilots. It was a beautiful thing to see.”
Inspired by his new network of professionals, Howell decided to start his own drone photography and video company ‘Air Speed Aerial Productions.’ To start his business, Howell needed to attain his Park 107 certification through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). All drone pilots must take and pass this test to receive their commercial licenses. The test costs $175 to register and there are several online guides to help study for it.
Licensed drone pilots and entrepreneurs like Howell are a welcomed sight within an industry that still has room to grow in terms of diversity. There are 250,000 drone pilots certified with the FAA. Ten percent are Black and only 3% are Black women.
Ashlee Cooper is a certified drone pilot who founded ‘Droneversity,’ a Delaware-based organization that teaches teenaged youth about the fundamentals, opportunities and innovations within drone piloting and aviation, more broadly.
“Aviation careers have always been a white male dominated field,” said Cooper. “Unless you were in the military or related to a pilot, it was unlikely you were going to tap into those positions within the aviation industry. Most of them do not require a high school or college degree.”
Youth are eligible to take the Park 107 exam at the age of 16. Cooper’s company provides courses to help them take and pass the exam as well.
“Most of these young girls and boys are gamers. They take naturally to flight. The skillset is marketable. Like gaming, it takes hand-eye coordination and knowing how to operate under pressure and solve problems quickly.”
Cooper, who also is a member of Black Drone Pilots, transitioned from her background in Molecular Biology to drone piloting during the pandemic. Her experience with secondary education created inroads for her organization to reach teenagers and help inspire them to pursue drone piloting as well.
“I still feel like I’m late, however I know my timing was divine especially because of who’ve I’ve been able to help. Being a Black woman in this industry has led to some incredible partnerships and networking. There is an opportunity as long as we provide equitable access. By making it more accessible, you have more innovators.” You can connect with Black Drone Pilots’ Facebook page here to follow their updates, get a listing of future events or learn how you can begin your own journey to drone piloting.