In this era of ever increasing income disparity, where a college degree offer a hefty premium across a lifetime of earning, how are clergy faring? Clearly, their status is in decline, but how about their income? The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) is highlighting a recent study that sought to find the answers. As is often the case, there’s good news and bad news.
First the good news, clergy pay is up. “Overall, in inflation-adjusted wages, non-Catholic clergy made $4.37 more per hour in 2013 than they did in 1983. That figure is more than double the wage increase of the average worker with a college degree.” But, though things are better than they were, clergy continue to lag behind advances for other professionals with similar education. “Like most everyone else in this age of increasing economic inequality, clergy are continuing to fall financially behind other elite professions such as doctors, lawyers and hedge fund managers, the study found.”
More financial blessings: The 35 highest-income occupations in the U.S., from investment bankers to physicians to engineers, are running away from everyone else. But excluding those professions, the income gap between clergy and other college-educated Americans is shrinking.
Greater work-family balance: A time-use study in 1934 found clergy put in a 76-hour work week. The work week of modern clergy declined from 52 hours per week in 1979 to 43 hours a week in 2013, the study of Current Population data found.
That is now nearly the same as the average 41-hour work week for other workers of similar education, according to the study.
A place of their own: As recently as 1976, 61 percent of clergy lived in church housing. By 2013, just 14 percent lived in church housing.
Having their own home away from the church not only helps preserve the privacy of ministers and their families, but is a financial asset with great potential for building equity.
The pulpit wage penalty: Clergy working as chaplains, teachers or administrators or in other nonchurch settings make 19 percent more than their peers working in congregations, the study found.
Money isn’t everything: On average, clergy earned about 7 percent more per hour the year after they left the profession; those who became clergy earned about 15 percent less per hour.
“Clearly, people paid an immediate wage penalty when they became clergy, and people who left the clergy received an immediate wage boost,” the study authors said.