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Credentialism Across Creeds: Clergy Education and Stratification in Protestant Denominations

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In this paper, we explore how Protestant denominations use education to stratify their pastors among lower and higher income jobs and how this use of education intersects with gender. We assume that reliance on education as anindication of job qualification ultimately reflects accommodation to secular norms and hypothesize that it will be practiced most strongly in theologically liberal contexts. Next, we hypothesize that women will benefit from education more than men, a pattern that is typical of secular labor markets. And we predict that education will have a stronger effect on income in denominations where regional clergy administrators have influence in matching pastors to jobs. Data are taken from the 1994 “Ordained Women and Men Study”and consist of career information on clergy in fifteen denominations. Contrary to expectations, clergy degrees have a stronger effect on income in conservative than in liberal denominations. We further find that women clergy receive lower income returns to their degrees in denominations requiring a Master of Divinity for ordination but receive higher returns in the others. Finally, results show that seminary prestige is more beneficial in denominations where pastors are hired directly by congregations rather than placed in congregations by regional clergy administrators.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Graduate Department of Sociology, University of Notre Dame, 2: Assistant Director, Center for American Religion and Public Life, and Associate Research Professor in Sociology, Boston College

Publication date: June 1, 2000

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