Clergy Gender Pay Gap Smaller Than That of Overall US Gap, Study Shows

The Reverend Teresa Hord Owens
The installation service for the Rev. Teresa Hord Owens, elected president of the Disciples of Christ at their General Assembly, held at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana on July 12, 2017. |

The gender pay gap between female and male clergy is smaller than the overall gender pay gap between men and women, according to a new study.

In a journal article published earlier this month, researchers from the University of Oklahoma found that in 2016 female clergy made 93 cents on the dollar, versus 60 cents on the dollar in 1976.

Cyrus Schleifer, assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma's Sociology Department and co-author of the study, told The Christian Post that last year "the gender gap in income between male and female clergy is much smaller than the gender gap in nonreligious jobs."

Tithes and offering
Many U.S. Protestant churches carry out a 90-Day Challenge to encourage non-tithers to start giving regularly. (FILE) |

"Depending on how you estimate these differences, the nonclergy gender disadvantage in pay is between two and three times larger than the gender disadvantage among clergy in 2016," said Schleifer.

Schleifer explained to CP that this smaller gender pay gap was "largely due to the declines in male clergy pay."

"If male clergy income was growing at the same rate as other highly educated individuals in population, then the gender gap in pay among clergy would be much closer to that of the general population," added Schleifer.

"The factors that seem to matter the most for our analyses is the very slow growth rates of male clergy income and, relatedly, the general devaluing of the clergy occupation."

Schleifer and his co-author, graduate student Amy Miller, used the Current Population Survey to examine disparities in pay among male and female clergy.

"My co-author and I began to read the literature in this area and we noticed that studies on gender inequality among clergy tended to focus on particular denominations and was largely qualitative (non-statistical) in approach," said Schleifer. "We felt that there remained some unanswered questions that we could address with our study."

Chandra Childers, senior research scientist with the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Women's Policy Research, told CP that the study's conclusions are "consistent with what we see in other occupations and with the wage gap overall."

"It's a much smaller wage gap, but the decline overtime in the wage gap, that seems to be consistent with what we're seeing with workers overall," said Childers.

"Women earn on average about eighty cents for every dollar that men earn. And so, the gap is larger for workers overall, whereas they report a much smaller gap."

Childers attributed the overall wage gap between men and women to the fact that "women and men tend to work in different occupations and in different industries."

As another potential factor in the smaller wage gap, Childers mentioned that research indicated that the number of female clergy had grown in larger congregations than smaller ones since 1998.

"Those are congregations where I would also expect them to have better earnings, higher pay. So that might also be part of pulling up their earnings," posited Childers.

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