The typical CEO of a major U.S. corporation has to work fewer than seven hours to make the amount of money that the average worker earns in an entire year, according to a new analysis by Sarah Anderson of the Institute for Policy Studies.

Anderson, an expert on executive compensation, wrote Dec. 23 that “if the typical CEO of a large U.S. corporation clocks in at 9:00 a.m. on January 2, by 3:37 p.m. that afternoon he’ll have earned $58,260—the average annual salary for all U.S. occupations.”

The new analysis spotlights the growing chasm between typical worker pay and CEO compensation, which has soared by nearly 1,500 percent since 1978. Workers’ wages, meanwhile, have lagged significantly over the past four decades, rising just 29 percent between 1979 to 2021.

Anderson based her analysis on the average pay of a CEO of an S&P 500 company, which was $18.3 million—or $8,798 an hour—in 2021, the most recent data available.


“I started by looking at the fast food workers who often toil straight through the holidays,” Anderson wrote. “Most McDonald’s restaurants are open even on Christmas Day. Average pay for this labor force is just $26,060 for the whole year. A typical CEO would bank that by noon on his first day back in the corner office suite.”

“Then I thought of the home care aides who may be the only people around to cheer up their homebound elderly and disabled clients over the holidays,” she continued. “They earned an average of just $29,260 in 2021. The typical CEO of a big U.S. corporation would pocket that much by lunchtime on his first workday of the year. He’d have to work less than an hour more to make $36,460, the average annual pay for a pre-K teacher.”

Anderson called the figures “disturbing” but said she is encouraged by the fact that “Americans increasingly reject the old myth that CEOs make so much money because they’re just that much smarter and harder-working than the rest of us.”

“Public outrage over these extreme pay gaps is now so high that a majority of Americans across the political spectrum favor a cap on CEO pay relative to worker pay, regardless of company performance,” Anderson noted.

Last year, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and several Senate Democrats proposed legislation that would raise taxes on large companies that pay their CEOs over 50 times more than the median worker. The bill, formally known as the Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act, never received a vote.

A recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute found that, on average, top CEOs in the U.S. were paid 399 times more than typical workers last year.

Separate research by the AFL-CIO showed that Amazon had the highest CEO-to-worker-pay ratio of all S&P 500 companies last year: 6,474 to 1.

—Jake Johnson,