Beware the pay gap!

June 27, 2008, 1:33 AM UTC
Fortune

Tonight’s CNBC documentary hosted by David Faber, Untold Wealth: the Rise of the Super Rich, talks about the widening gap between “haves” and “have-nots” in America. In 1985, there were only 13 billionaires in the U.S. Today there are more than 1,000, and hundreds of thousands of multi-millionaires.

This calls to mind a conversation that Pattie Sellers (Postcards’ main author) and I had yesterday with a well-known chief executive. We were chatting about young people taking jobs on Wall Street and with hedge funds for ridiculously big paychecks and horrendous working hours – when, if you’d get these young workers into a confession booth, they’d tell you that they’d rather be working normal hours in a different industry. “It’s the spread!The spread! It’s bigger than ever,” this CEO told us.

“The spread” is one version of the gap between rich and poor. It’s the ever-widening pay difference that is luring more and more recent grads into jobs that don’t satisfy. It’s the junior version of the upper-echelon gap that Faber details on his show. Faber says that today if two students graduate from an Ivy League school and one becomes a top neurosurgeon while the other becomes one of the top 25 hedge fund managers, there will be a 1,000 percent difference in their incomes.

Do you think that one consequence of the spread is rising turnover in corporate America? Coincidentally, we’re hearing a lot lately about billionaire marriages unwinding due to couples disagreeing about how to indulge their children – or not. “The spread” is causing dysfunction all around! – Jessica Shambora