Magazine article The Christian Century

Pay Gap for Women Clergy Is Decreasing

Magazine article The Christian Century

Pay Gap for Women Clergy Is Decreasing

Article excerpt

Women ministers are making dramatic strides in achieving equal pay with male clergy.

The gender pay gap shrunk from women clergy making 60 cents on the dollar compared to men in 1976 to 93 cents on the dollar in 2016. This gap is substantially less than the current 22 cent gender disadvantage in the general population, a new study finds.

Yet researchers said there is still evidence of a stained-glass ceiling for women, who are disproportionately working in part-time and lower-paid noncongregational jobs. A separate finding noted that male clergy who work in settings such as church agencies, schools, and hospitals make around 11 percent more than congregational clergy. But there is no such wage benefit for women clergy in jobs outside the congregation, an indication that men are more likely to serve as agency heads or school administrators, while women are more likely to have lower-level positions.

"While our results highlight growth in gender income parity among American clergy, there are still barriers to female mobility within this occupation," the researchers concluded.

Nor are all boats rising at the same rate with regard to clergy pay. Some 42 percent of the difference in the closing of the gender gap was related to slower increases in compensation for male pastors, researchers said.

Several factors may put further pressure on ministerial wages, notably the rising number of Americans choosing not to affiliate with a religious group, which reduces clergy demand, and economic theories that indicate some occupations are devalued when they come to be seen as "women's work."

"We might be at a point where we see a general devaluation of the clergy occupation," said lead researcher Cyrus Schleifer.

Researchers have faced difficulties in analyzing gender compensation gaps among clergy and in comparing figures with other occupations. It is hard to find national data with statistically significant numbers of women clergy, and it's hard to account for the benefits ministers receive in the form of housing allowances or living in church-provided residences.

Schleifer and Amy Miller of the University of Oklahoma analyzed data on working clergy age 18 to 65 from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey from 1976 to 2016.

The survey, administered by the U.S. Census Bureau, is widely used in measuring economic inequalities and provides information on the housing benefits that are a special part of clergy compensation.

The study results were recently published online in Sociology of Religion, a peer-reviewed journal. …

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