Explaining Attitudes toward Executive Pay: Evidence from a Survey Experiment


Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines the effects of several factors, including performance, on attitudes toward high executive pay. We ask: would people agree on whether a CEO’s pay is too high or too low, fair or unfair, and right or wrong, if they could be more certain than typically possible regarding a CEO’s relevant contributions? Using data from a population-based survey experiment (N = 1,170), we find that the effects of a CEO’s inputs are small next to the effects of predispositions (e.g. core values people bring to the issue), with implications for how pay at the top is justified.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631-655
Number of pages25
JournalSociological Quarterly
Issue number4
Early online date5 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

This research was fully supported by an Early Career Scheme (ECS) grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China [Funding Reference No: LU 23601615].
The authors wish to thank David B. Grusky, Michael J. Rosenfeld, Cristobal Young, Paul Sniderman, Michael Tomz, Michelle Jackson. A previous version of this paper was presented at the RC28 Summer meeting in Columbia University, New York.


  • Income inequality
  • attitudes
  • distributive justice


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