Esra Burak Ho

Department of Sociology

Public Opinion on Executive Pay in the United States: Can Extraordinary Merit Justify Extremely High Pay?


In light of the recent events showing public awareness of high income inequality in the United States, my research examines American acceptance for and opposition to very high Chief Executive Officer (CEO) pay. My dissertation research addresses the question of whether, according to the general public, extremely high rewards can be justified with very high levels of contribution. Previous research shows that, where the goal is productivity, people often believe that rewards should be distributed proportionally to contribution, most notably effort and performance. The first of my dissertation papers examines the effect of three different types of contribution on perceived fair pay and on acceptance for very high incomes: effort, performance, and contribution to society. The experiments portray CEOs of large multinational companies. Effort is measured by hours of work, performance by a change in company profits, and contribution to society by creating jobs or by layoffs. The symmetries and asymmetries in the effects of negative contributions (e.g., a decrease in company profits) and positive contributions (e.g., an increase in profits) are also examined.