Pay Transparency

The verdict is in. A whopping 28 million American adults would rather run naked through the office for all their colleagues to see than reveal their salary earnings, a new survey finds.

Trusaic commissioned a survey conducted by YouGov, to learn about Americans’ attitudes towards pay transparency. The leading question was:

If you had to choose, which one of the following two things would you rather do?

  • Run naked through the office or workplace in front of your co-workers
  • Allow your co-workers to know how much you earn

We’ve captured the highlights from the poll below.

The poll sample comprised a representative cross-section of the U.S. adult population aged 18 and over. Given, that the 2020 U.S. Census counted 258 million Americans, 18 and over, the poll results indicate that some 28 million Americans (11%) would rather run naked through the office than let co-workers know what they earn, while a further 88 million (34%) declined to say. The remaining 152 million (55%) would prefer to say their pay.

More men (14%) than women (9%), and younger workers than older ones, would opt to run naked through the workplace rather than reveal their pay. Sixteen percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 would choose to run naked at work compared to just 10% of those 55 and above. 

Interestingly, the age group with the highest percentage preferring to let co-workers know their pay rather than run naked through the workplace were the 25-34 year-olds. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of this age group would rather let their co-workers know what they earn.  

Respondents were also asked about one of the most aggressive pay transparency regimes in the world. The question, “Would you like information on everyone’s income to be made publicly available online, like in Norway?” revealed a rather stark depiction of Americans’ general attitude towards pay transparency.

  • Over half (57%) of Americans would oppose the U.S. adopting the practice in Norway, where the government publishes online information on everyone’s income for anyone to access
  • Over a quarter (28%) would welcome such a system
  • A total of 28% were either “strongly in favor” (13%) or “slightly in favor” (15%)
  • A total of 57% were either “strongly against” (45%) or “slightly against” (12%)
  • Younger respondents were over twice as likely as older ones to favor the U.S. copying Norway in this area
  • Over a third (36%) of the 18-24 age group liked the idea, compared to one in six (17%) of those aged 55+

The poll also included questions regarding how much Americans currently know about what their co-workers earn. According to the survey, only 14% of U.S. employees know what all their co-workers earn. A shocking 32% say they don’t know what any of their co-workers earn and 50% say they know what only a few or none of their co-workers earn. The consensus? The vast majority of U.S. employees are in the dark about their colleagues’ pay.

What’s more, is that the survey’s final polling question asked American employees if they could easily find out — with employer permission — their co-workers’ earnings.

The majority (59%) say that they don’t have employer permission and easy access to find out what any of their co-workers earn. Just 15% of U.S. employees have employer permission and easy access to find out what ALL their co-workers earn. Only 5.5% have permission/access to find out what “few” of their co-workers earn; 8.5% have it for “about half” of their co-workers; 12% for “most of them”. 

So, what’s the deal with pay transparency? Why is everyone’s pay still a secret? The fact is, greater pay transparency is shown to help reduce both gender and racial-ethnic pay gaps — an issue that is taking a white-hot spotlight this year. Across the U.S. and around the world, pay transparency requirements are coming into play for employers. 

Americans, and the rest of the world for that matter, have much to gain from a pro-pay transparency society, but the survey indicates that there is general reluctance, especially amongst older audiences, to let others know what they earn. Employers would be wise to heed the call of America’s rising generation of young adults to promote workplace pay transparency. After all, the last thing we want is folks running around the office naked.

For more information on the survey, check out the press release.

Methodology: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 1,276 adults, of which 481 were employees. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14th – 16th October 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all U.S. adults (aged 18+). Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.