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Gender pay gap among clergy worse than national average – A first look at the new national data

The graphic is not offered for republication.
The graphic is not offered for republication.

The graphic is not offered for republication.

New national data reveals that women clergy earn 76 cents for each dollar earned by male clergy. This is substantially worse than the national pay gap of 83 cents. The clergy pay gap is even more stark when compared to similar occupations.

Up until this year, national data on the clergy pay gap was unavailable. There were denominational surveys or surveys of clergy from similar faiths, but we lacked national data that would include churches and faiths left out of those surveys. Even with large surveys of churches, there was no way to make valid comparisons to the pay in other occupations.

This year, however, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 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 was able to report these figures this year, making it possible to calculate the pay gap among clergy.


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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.

The gap among clergy is noteworthy because, as an occupation, the clergy has credentialing (ordination) and educational requirements that should encourage similar pay for similar work. Religious organizations often have educational requirements and institutional controls for clergy.

Nationally, women make up 44 percent of the full-time or salaried workforce. The pay gap nationally is 83 cents. But this national patterns is based on all workers, from unskilled labor to CEOs.

The clergy pay gap is worse than for similar occupations. Just over half of all high school and college teachers are women, and the pay gap is just under the national average for both occupations.

The gender gap is narrower for other similar occupations including education administrators and managers of social or community services. Counselors and social workers are much more likely to be female. These occupations have a smaller gap, with women earning around 95 cents for each dollar a man earns.


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The BLS report does not include all occupations at churches and other religious organizations. Religious communities hire other employees, such as bookkeepers and custodians. The Clergy Compensation Handbook reports the results of compensation surveys Christian churches, many of which are evangelical. There is a substantial pay gap in these churches in all occupations except two: Clergy at churches with only one pastor (94 cents; women are eight percent of all solo pastors) and women secretaries ($1.06; women are 97 percent of secretaries).

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About the author

Tobin Grant

@TobinGrant blogs for Religion News Service at Corner of Church and State, a data-driven conversation on religion and politics. He is a political science professor at Southern Illinois University and associate editor of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

26 Comments

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  • This is horrible news, in that it totally contradicts what one would assume about the more liberal, mainstream churches that invest so heavily in the political issue of female equality. Where the rubber meets the road, women are not paid on par with men.

    One explanation–which our esteemed author fails to suggest, has to do with the usual career path that takes one from being an intern, to being the regular–and sole pastor of a strong congregation. Most female pastors, begin their careers right out of seminary, serving either a small, struggling congregation that can barely pay the minimum, or as the assistant to a male senior pastor in a larger church. From there they gain the experience to build out their resumes to then become pastor of a better-paying church. I would posit that–should a similar comparison be made between fledgling male assistants, with the salaries of senior pastors, the results would be very much the same. Get a clue, Mr. Grant!

  • Unfortunately, the Apostle Paul doesn’t agree with you, Mike. See 1 Timothy 5:17-18: “Let the elders who rule well be considered worth of double honer, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching…the laborer deserves to be paid.”

  • As a woman, ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. We are appointed to consistently lower paying churches. Men are appointed to the higher paying churches. Competence is not a factor. Experience is not a factor. Gender is the factor.

  • mike, if you think pastoring a church or being a professional chaplain is not a “job”, then you’re delusional.

  • On what are you basing your assumption that the data is comparing junior women to senior men, as opposed to ALL women to ALL men?

  • When I graduated from seminary, I was called by a small, struggling congregation, at a significantly lower salary than my pre-sem career. But I noticed that many of my female seminary classmates were getting calls to even smaller congregations, many not even full-time positions. Reasons given were many, but mainly (1) bishops were using these women to break into stubborn churches or (2) bishops couldn’t get anyone else to even consider the setting.

    I say that now as an associate pastor in a larger congregation serving under a woman senior pastor who make 20% more in salary than I. And this survey doesn’t make the distinction between denominations that do not ordain women from those that do, thereby skewing numbers as well.

  • Another point to be made is the process followed by denominations – some appoint (UMC, etc) and others use a congregation-and-clergy agreement call process (ELCA, PCUSA, etc). Less negotiation for clergy when someone else determines where and under what arrangements you’ll serve. Puts more responsibilty on the episcopate.

  • Actually my whole carrier has been as a BI_Vocational Pastor. The last 10 years has been at a inner city church that can’t afford to pay even a minimum wage. Could I use a raise, sure, however that is not why I was called to this carrier. My advice, is to listen to THE LORD, and you won’t be missing that over the top pay that everyone thinks we make anyway.

  • What do you do with;
    1 Corinthians 9:14 ESV
    In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

    By the way I’m a Bi-Vo.

    Nuf said.

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