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CEO Pay vs. Typical Worker Pay


We recently released an insightful bit of data that looks at the ratio of pay for Fortune 50 CEOs to the pay of employees at their respective companies. The results are unsettling — on average the Fortune 50 CEOs earn 213 times more than their workers.

Who tops the list for the biggest ratio and which CEO earns pay closest to their employees? See the answers below…

And the Fattest Cat of Them All Is…

Stephen J. Hemsley, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, who earns $1,731 for every dollar earned by a typical employee at his company: $101,965,000 vs. $58,700. The Fortune 50 CEO with the second highest ratio is Michael T. Duke, CEO of Wal-Mart, who earns $717 for every dollar earned by a typical employee at his company: $16,270,000 vs. $22,700.

While Hemsley was the highest paid CEO on Forbes 500 Highest Paid CEOs List, Duke was far from the second highest paid. He was in fact #82 on the list. The reason he is so high on the CEO pay vs. worker pay list is due to the fact that the overwhelming majority of Wal-Mart’s two plus million workers are minimum wage retail workers. Of the companies included in the study, Wal-Mart was the one with the lowest typical pay for its employees — even lower than other retail giants on the list, such as Target ($29,500), Home Depot ($29,100) and grocery giant, Kroger ($25,800).

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Another Reason to Love Warren Buffett

Not only does he support renewable energy, philanthropy, and higher taxes on the super wealthy, he also has the lowest pay ratio of the Fortune 50 CEOs. The ratio of Warren Buffet’s cash compensation to the typical employees of Berkshire Hathway and its subsidiaries is only 10:1 ($450,000 vs. $47,000).

Another (former) CEO with an almost fanatical following, even in the afterlife, would have passed Warren Buffet as the Fortune 50 CEO with the lowest pay ratio. I am of course talking about Steve Jobs, the former CEO of Apple, who was famous for his $1 annual salary. With this pay amount, his pay ratio would be the absurdly small 0.000016399:1.

While your pay may never come close to that of one of the Fortune 50 CEOs, do you wonder how it compares to other workers like you? When you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position or job offer, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale’s full salary survey.


Katie Bardaro
Lead Research Analyst, PayScale, Inc.

Katie Bardaro
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