By Morton Marcus
Here we are a few months after your daughter’s college graduation and she announces she wants to go into the clergy.
Were you prepared for that? Did she prepare for that?
No doubt you and she are aware of what kind of income is available for people who have this calling. Nationwide, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found half the persons in the clergy made less than $45,740, meaning the other half made more than that. This was the annual median wage for clergy in May 2016 when the survey was conducted.
That’s not bad. It ranks right in the middle of 820 occupations covered by the survey, and just $180 (or a mere 0.004 percent) below the annual median wage for 140.4 million American workers.
There are 49,320 clergy in the survey and they are scattered all across the nation, in numerous religions and denominations. Each may have a distinctive arrangement regarding housing, pensions and other benefits making comparisons difficult.
Nonetheless, your daughter surely knew the 820 Hoosier clergy members would be earning less than their national counterparts. The median for Indiana clergy was $43,520, or 4.8 percent less than the national figure. That ranks 35th in the country, so she could improve her income by moving to Illinois, Idaho, Florida or Tennessee.
Our Hoosier compensation for clergy ranks just above Mississippi and Louisiana, but there you get the bonus of crayfish, if that’s to your taste.
Naturally, the highest compensation is found in the District of Columbia where the clergy are desperately needed to tend to the spiritual concerns of politicians, favor seekers and lobbyists. There seems to be a 47 percent premium for tending to a flock in D.C.
Now I understand your girl has a mind of her own and must follow her own path. But did she consider serving society as a probation officer? The pay in Indiana is a little better by $930 per year and the need is perhaps greater.
She could have been an elementary school teacher and earned $47,800 compared to $43,520 in the clergy. Think of the value of shaping the minds and behavior of those sweet little children. As a secondary school teacher she, in time, would enjoy the median of $50,360 in Indiana. Then she would discover how sweet little children’s minds and behaviors manifest themselves as teenagers.
These are not starting salaries, but the median for all, regardless of length of service, hours of work and other conditions of the jobs. Special education and career/vocational teachers do see somewhat higher rewards.
What’s that? Oh, yes. Your daughter, in joining the clergy, has additional considerations beyond monetary compensation. But the same is true of teachers and many occupations. Firefighters and police officers, social workers and substance abuse counselors all understand their contributions to society.
It is society that does not recognize nor honor those contributions adequately.
Morton Marcus is an economist, formerly with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Send comments to email@example.com.