New data confirms pay gap among clergy: Women earn 85 to 90 cents for a man’s dollar

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Photo by Ciro Duran via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Ciro Duran via Flickr Creative Commons

In January, I reported on Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data that found women clergy earn 76 cents for each dollar earned by male clergy. New data from the BLS and the Census confirm that there is a gap in pay. However, the wage gap is closer to 90 cents.

Photo by Ciro Duran via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Ciro Duran via Flickr Creative Commons

Up until recently, national data on the clergy pay gap was unavailable. Last year, however, the BLS was able to report on the national median income for both male and female clergy. The BLS collected data on this before, but could not make reliable estimates for women because of their relatively few numbers.

The BLS reports weekly earnings, which generally show less of a gender gap than annual earnings. According to the BLS, in 2014 male clergy earned $1,007 per week; female clergy earned only $763. This is a $12,000 difference in annual earnings.

Data from 2015 are now available from the BLS. Weekly earnings by male clergy were virtually unchanged ($1,021), but the median earnings by women rose to $924.

Survey/Data Gender Pay Gap among Clergy
Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014, Median weekly pay $ 0.76
Bureau of Labor Statistics 2015, Median weekly pay $ 0.90
Census American Community Survey 2014, Median annual income $ 0.93
Census American Community Survey 2014, Average annual income $ 0.87
Census American Community Survey 2014, Average annual income controlling for education and age $ 0.85

It’s unlikely that female clergy actually experienced a 21 percent raise in pay. The change reflects the sensitivity of the estimates caused by the relatively few female clergy in the data. There are enough to make a report, but there is less stability in the figures than for other groups.

The 2015 BLS numbers are consistent with data from the 2014 U.S. Census American Community Study. I analyzed the 3,997 clergy in the ACS survey. The average yearly income for male clergy was $44,164. For women, the average was only $38,533.

Because women are more likely to have skewed toward lower incomes, the pay gap is larger when comparing average (mean) incomes and median incomes. Using median incomes, the gap is 93 cents. For mean income, the gap is 87 cents.

Perhaps the most surprising finding is that the pay gap does not diminish (and may grow wider) when we take into account education and experience. Women in the clergy tend to be better educated than their male colleagues. As a result, when we take into account age, years of schooling, and having a theology degree, the gap becomes 85 cents. In other words, female clergy really do earn less for the same education and experience.

Bottom-line: There is a gender pay gap among clergy that is not explained by education or experience. The gap is narrower than first reported but remains between 85 and 90 cents for each dollar male clergy earn.

Note: In analyzing the ACS, I used only full-time clergy. These are clergy who worked at least 35 hours a week for 50-52 weeks a year. Some are full-time volunteers (earning zero despite working full-time). Eliminating these workers had no effect on the earning differences between men and women.

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  • I completely agree that there should be no pay differential. Yet, this article does not include church size or budget. I would expect that women are serving smaller congregations, which would also be an issue of justice.

    What is not mentioned is the pay of all pastors, male or female. They usually have a M. Div., which took three years to complete. How many other professionals have a 3-year Masters? Not teachers or SW, to the best of my knowledge. Kudos to the pastors who serve for God in spite of commensurate compensation.

  • patrick

    ” They usually have a M. Div., which took three years to complete. ”

    Imagine – 3-yrs to get an advanced degree in phantasmagoria.

    Teachers and social workers provide mankind beneficent tangibility.

    God-Men provide woo-woo….

  • Debbo

    Actually Gary, within the ELCA*, MDivs generally require 4 years, with one of those years being an internship. It is all very demanding. One must develop enough fluency with ancient Koininia Greek and Hebrew to read it. Knowledge of Latin and German (Martin Luther) is helpful. It’s a very rigorous education. Lutherans, along with Episcopalians and Roman Catholics, are among the best educated clergy. I’m one of them.

    *Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination.