2014 Wall Street Bonus Pool Is Double the Full-Time Minimum Wage Earnings Combined


If you were on Tumblr this weekend, you might have seen this Nicholas Kristof quote spreading virally through the tumblogs:

It turns out that the Wall Street bonus pool in 2014 was roughly twice the total annual earnings of all Americans working full time at the federal minimum wage.

You read that right: Just the annual bonuses for just the sliver of Americans who work just in finance just in New York City dwarfed the combined year-round earnings of all Americans earning the federal minimum wage.

If you were like me, you immediately wondered exactly how many Americans were working full-time at the federal minimum wage (aren’t a bunch of people working part-time, and isn’t that one of the grievances minimum wage workers are trying to address through demonstrations like #FightFor15?), and how much money that combined minimum wage income turns out to be.

Luckily, the NYT did the math for us.

What about the total earnings of full-time workers at the federal minimum wage? The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are 1.03 million full-time workers paid an hourly wage of $7.25 or less. These people tend to work around 40 hours a week on average. If they all earn $7.25 per hour and work 50 weeks per year, the total earnings of this group come to nearly $15 billion. Ms. Anderson, whose report usefully shows all her work, prefers an estimate of 37 hours per week — which looks too low to me based on other data — and 52 weeks per year, so after rounding, she gets to a total of $14 billion.

1.03 million people are currently working full time and earning $7.25 or less. (What’s the current population of the United States? 318.9 million people.) Their wages combined equal approximately $14 billion. Now, about those Wall Street bonuses:

The New York State Comptroller reported on Wednesday that the size of the bonus pool paid to securities industries employees in New York City was $28.5 billion. Dividing this total among 167,800 workers yields an average bonus of $172,860, which seems plausible enough. For sure, some received much, much bigger bonuses, and many received nothing.

When combined, the $28.5 billion in Wall Street bonuses is in fact twice the $14 billion earned by full-time minimum wage workers. And when you look at the average individual Wall Street bonus compared to what a person working 37 hours a week for 52 weeks at $7.25 per hour earns, you get $172,860 for the Wall Street worker (on top of their annual salary, of course) and $13,949 for the minimum wage worker.

The Wall Street bonus pool may be double the full-time minimum wage earnings combined, but an individual bonus could be twelve times as much as a minimum-wage worker earns.

That sounds like another data point that should go viral.



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