Wall Street Bonuses Double Full-time Minimum Wage Worker Earnings

Wall Street bonuses totaled $25 billion in 2015 —double the combined annual earnings of all American full-time minimum wage workers, according to an Institute for Policy Studies analysis of New York State Comptroller bonus figures.

Link to report: Off the Deep End: The Wall Street Bonus Pool and Low-Wage Workers.

Key findings:

  • The bonus pool for 172,400 New York-based Wall Street employees was double the combined annual earnings of all 895,000 U.S. full-time minimum wage workers.
  • The average Wall Street bonus did decline last year, by 9 percent. But the 2015 bonus average of $146,200 was still 4 percent higher than in 2009, the last time Congress increased the federal minimum wage.
  • The bonus pool was large enough in 2015 to lift the pay of any one of these groups of low-wage workers up to $15 per hour:
  • all of the country’s 2.6 million restaurant servers and bartenders,
  • all 1.6 million home health and personal care aides, or
  • all 2.6 million fast food prep

aration and serving workers

“While worker wages have stagnated since the 2008 financial crisis and recession, the Wall Street bonus culture that contributed to that crisis is still flourishing,” said report author Sarah Anderson.

On March 7, President Barack Obama urged financial regulators to “complete regulations related to executive compensation to make sure that individuals who are working in these financial institutions are less incentivized to take big, reckless risks that could end up harming our financial sector overall.” Section 956 of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bans large financial institutions from offering incentive pay that encourages “inappropriate risks” by providing “excessive compensation.” Regulators were supposed to implement this provision within nine months of the 2010 law’s passage.

This is the third annual IPS report on Wall Street bonuses. Last year’s edition received coverage in most of the mainstream print media, including two pieces in the New York Times (an article and an editorial) and two articles in USA Today (editorial and article).

The Institute for Policy Studies (www.IPS-dc.org) is a 53-year-old multi-issue research center that has conducted path-breaking research on executive compensation for more than 20 years. The IPS website http://inequality.org/ is a portal into all things related to the income and wealth gaps that so divide us. Twitter: @inequalityorg

For more information, contact:

Sarah Anderson, report author and Global Economy Project Director, Institute for Policy Studies, sarah@ips-dc.org, tel: 202 787 5227

Elaine de Leon Ahn, Communications Director, Institute for Policy Studies, elaine@ips-dc.org, tel: 202 787 5271


Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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