For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Sarah Anderson, Global Economy Project Director and co-editor, Institute for Policy Studies,, 202 787 5227, Domenica Ghanem, Institute for Policy Studies Media Manager, domenica@ips-dc.org202-787-5205

Wall Street Bonus Pool Dwarfs 'Tax Reform Bonuses' and Minimum Wage Earnings While Contributing to Gender Inequality

WASHINGTON - Just-released figures from the New York State Comptroller show Wall Street banks handed out $31.4 billion in bonuses to their New York City-based employees for 2017 performance, up 17 percent over 2016. According to Institute for Policy Studies analysis of these figures:

Wall Street bonuses v. ‘tax reform’ bonuses 

  • The bonus pool for 176,900 Wall Street employees far exceeds the total amount of so-called “tax reform bonuses” some corporations awarded to millions of employees after the U.S. Congress passed the new tax legislation in December. According to one analysis, 44 S&P 500 firms’ “tax reform bonuses” amounted to $3.7 billion, which is less than 12 percent of the Wall Street bonus pool.
  • The average Wall Street bonus was $184,220, while the typical “tax reform” bonus was $1,000.

Wall Street bonus pool v. minimum wage worker earnings

  • The total bonus pool for 176,900 Wall Street employees was 2.5 times the combined annual earnings of all 884,000 U.S. full-time minimum wage workers.
  • Since 2009, the average Wall Street bonus has increased 31 percent, from $140,620 to $184,220, while the federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 per hour.

Wall Street bonuses and gender inequality 

  • The relatively rapid increase in the value of Wall Street bonuses has contributed to gender inequality, since workers at the bottom of the wage scale are predominantly female, whereas those in the financial industry’s upper echelons are overwhelmingly male.
  • The five largest U.S. investment banks (JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, and Citigroup) report that the share of their executives and top managers who are male ranges from 69-82 percent, while only 36 percent of all U.S. minimum wage earners are male.

Wall Street bonus pool and the Fight for $15

The 2017 bonus pool holds enough dollars to lift the pay of any one of these groups of low-wage workers up to $15 per hour:

  • all of the country’s 3.2 million restaurant servers and bartenders,
  • all 1.8 million home health and personal care aides, or
  • all 3.4 million fast food preparation and serving workers

“The massive size of the Wall Street bonuses is disturbing not just because of how it contributes to economic inequality in this country,” said Institute for Policy Studies executive compensation expert Sarah Anderson. “It’s also a sign that the reckless Wall Street bonus culture which contributed to the 2008 financial crisis continues to flourish. And while we’re still waiting for the Wall Street pay reforms in the 2010 Dodd-Frank law to be implemented, Congress is busy deregulating the financial industry.”

Sources and methodology information are available here. A more detailed report, including figures comparing the Wall Street bonus pool to the so-called “tax reform bonuses,” will be available soon.


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