We study the allocation and compensation of human capital in the U.S. finance industry over the past century. Across time, space, and subsectors, we find that financial deregulation is associated with skill intensity, job complexity, and high wages for finance employees. All three measures are high before 1940 and after 1985, but not in the interim period. Workers in finance earn the same education-adjusted wages as other workers until 1990, but by 2006 the premium is 50% on average. Top executive compensation in finance follows the same pattern and timing, where the premium reaches 250%. Similar results hold for other top earners in finance. Changes in earnings risk can explain about one half of the increase in the average premium; changes in the size distribution of firms can explain about one fifth of the premium for executives.
Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 127, no. 4, November 2012, pp. 1551-1609