Female solo pastors earn more than male solo pastors.
Okay, so there aren’t many female solo pastors; in American churches responding to our survey, only six percent of solo pastors are women. Still, it’s intriguing that female solo pastors reported 10.4 percent higher total compensation. Their average salary was 8.6 percent higher than men’s ($49,219 compared to $45,259); and better housing and retirement benefits made up the rest. Why the difference? Why do female solo pastors earn, for total compensation (includes health insurance, retirement, and continuing education), $62,472, when their male counterparts earn $56,558?
My first hypothesis went like this: “Since there are precious few women hired as senior pastors—only 2.5 percent, in our research—women stay in solo pastorates longer, and their longevity leads to higher pay.” But that hypothesis doesn’t hold up: for solo pastors, the number of years served makes next to no difference in pay.
The more-likely explanation is regional. We know that solo pastors receive the highest pay in the New England and Pacific states (not surprisingly, given the higher cost of living in these regions). And these regions probably have the greatest cultural acceptance of women serving as solo pastors. Thus, women solo pastors tend to find work in regions with a high cost of living, and consequently, get a higher salary.
And before we assume that the church runs counter to the still-prevalent cultural practice of paying women less than men for comparable work, women were paid less than men in every other church position surveyed (except for secretary). On average, females earned approximately 80 percent of the compensation of males. Or, in other words, males earned about 30 percent more than females.
I think their explanation (female pastors are more accepted on the coasts which also have a higher cost of living) makes sense. I also wonder if the women who are solo pastors serve in mainline denominations that have established programs for things like health insurance, retirement, as well as sufficient funds to pay pastors a living wage as opposed to the (mostly) men who serve in smaller more conservative churches that have no resources and pay poorly. What are your thoughts or reactions to studies like these?