Financial regulators and investors have expressed concerns about high pay inequality within firms. Using a proprietary data set of public and private firms, this paper shows that firms with higher pay inequality—relative wage differentials between top- and bottom-level jobs—are larger and have higher valuations and stronger operating performance. Moreover, firms with higher pay inequality exhibit larger equity returns and greater earnings surprises, suggesting that pay inequality is not fully priced by the market. Our results support the notion that differences in pay inequality across firms are a reflection of differences in managerial talent.
As of 2019, salary history bans have been enacted by 17 states and Puerto Rico with the stated purpose of reducing the gender pay gap. We argue that salary history bans may negatively affect wages as employers lose an informative signal of worker productivity. We empirically evaluate these laws using a large panel dataset of disaggregated wages covering all public sector employees in 36 states and find, on average, salary history bans lead to a 3% decrease in new hire wages. We find no decrease in the gender pay gap in the full sample and a modest 1.5% increase in the relative wages of women, as compared to men, among new hires most likely to have experienced gender discrimination historically.
Why do young firms pay less? Using confidential microdata from the US Census Bureau, we find lower earnings among workers at young firms. However, we argue that such measurement is likely subject to worker and firm selection. Exploiting the two-sided panel nature of the data to control for relevant dimensions of worker and firm heterogeneity, we uncover a positive and significant young-firm pay premium. Furthermore, we show that worker selection at firm birth is related to future firm dynamics, including survival and growth. We tie our empirical findings to a simple model of pay, employment, and dynamics of young firms.
We examine the human capital of IPO-filing firms and how going public affects their labor force. IPO-filing firms have high average wages and limited industrial diversification. Moreover, we document that a successful IPO increases departures of high-skilled employees to startups and diversification though employment growth in non-core industries.
We present evidence that some firms pursue mergers with an objective of acquiring and retaining the target firm’s employees. Acquirers wishing to obtain employees via an acquisition will likely pursue firms with an important set of skilled employees who are difficult to obtain elsewhere and may possess unique skills. We identify such target firms by the language used to describe employees in their 10-K statements. Specifically, we focus on references to “skilled” employees.
We discuss firm-level evidence based on UK data showing that within-firm pay inequality--wage differentials between top- and bottom-level jobs--increases with firm size. Moreover, within-firm pay inequality rises as firms grow larger over time. Lastly, using wage data from 15 developed countries, we document a positive association between aggregate wage inequality at the country level and growth by the largest firms in the country. We conclude that part of what may be perceived as a global trend toward more wage inequality may be driven by an increase in the size of the largest firms in the economy.
Minority acquisitions, involving less than 50% of the target, represent a distinct organizational choice. Minority acquisition can mitigate some of the incentive problems that arise in contractual relationships. Less is known, however, about the trade-off between minority acquisitions and complete integration.
We use US Census administrative data to document important facts about wages at entrepreneurial firms. As in earlier studies, we confirm lower average wages at new firms. However, nearly two thirds of this decline can be attributed to differences in worker quality at new firms. Moreover, once we control for firm fixed effects, absorbing time invariant firm quality, the wage difference between new and established firms further declines.
Firms initiating broad-based employee share ownership plans often claim employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) increase productivity by improving employee incentives. Do they? Small ESOPs comprising less than 5% of shares, granted by firms with moderate employee size, increase the economic pie, benefiting both employees and shareholders. The effects are weaker when there are too many employees to mitigate free-riding.
Young firms disproportionately employ and hire young workers. On average, young employees in young firms earn higher wages than young employees in older firms. Young employees disproportionately join young firms with greater innovation potential and that exhibit higher growth, conditional on survival. We argue that the skills, risk tolerance, and joint dynamics of young workers contribute to their disproportionate share of employment in young firms. Moreover, an increase in the supply of young workers is positively related to new firm creation in high-tech industries, supporting a causal link between the supply of young workers and new firm creation.
We show that in the years following a large broad-based employee stock option (BBSO) grant, employee turnover falls at the granting firm. We find evidence consistent with a causal relation by exploiting unexpected changes in the value of unvested options. A large fraction of the reduction in turnover appears to be temporary with turnover increasing in the third year following the year of the adoption of the BBSO plan. The increase three years post-grant is equal in magnitude to the cumulative decrease in turnover over the three prior years, suggesting that long-vesting BBSO plans delay, instead of prevent, turnover.
We use unique data on employee decisions in the employee stock purchase plans (ESPPs) of U.S. public firms to measure the influence of networks on investment decisions. Comparing only employees within a firm during the same election window and controlling for a metro area fixed effect, we find that the local choices of coworkers to participate in the firm’s ESPP exert a significant influence on employees’ own decisions to participate.
Using unique data on employee ownership plans sponsored by U.S. public companies, we find that large negative market shocks lead to active changes in portfolio choices among inexperienced and previously inattentive investors. We use employee ownership plans to identify a set of inexperienced investors who did not actively select to participate in the market and who are confronted with a difficult financial decision.
High rates of opioid abuse have had a significant impact on the United States including implications for firms which must now contend with a lower pool of available and productive workers. This paper documents a negative effect of instrumented opioid prescriptions and subsequent individual employment outcomes.
Why do firms offer non-wage compensation instead of the equivalent amount in financial compensation? We argue that firms use non-wage benefits, specifically maternity leave, to efficiently target workers with desirable characteristics.
We examine the effect of higher wages on firm performance during the 2008 financial crisis. To identify variation in wages, we rely on heterogeneity in the timing of long-term wage agreements for a sample of UK firms. We instrument for firms signing long-term agreements overlapping with the crisis by the presence of a contract signed in 2006 or earlier and expiring before September 2008.
Mergers and acquisitions (M&As) are an important mechanism through which new technology is adopted by firms. We document patterns of labor reallocation and wage changes following M&As, consistent with the adoption of technology. Specifically, we show target establishments invest more in technology, become less routine task intensive, employ a greater share of high technology workers, and pay more unequal wages.