Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ecuminical (and Financial) Incentives

From Slate:
Working with David Yermack of New York University, the two preachers' sons set out to test the Corinthian hypothesis by investigating the economic incentives affecting the United Methodist clergy of Oklahoma, where Hartzell's stepfather had spent his career. In "Is Higher Calling Enough?" a study forthcoming in the Journal of Labor Economics, the researchers show that Oklahoma's ministers are driven not just by spiritual motivations but also by high-powered financial incentives. Working with more than 40 years of church records covering more than 2,000 clergy, the authors find that ministers received about a 3 percent share of revenues generated from boosting membership, comparable to the pay-for-profit sensitivity of Fortune 500 CEOs. They also uncover some unfortunate side-effects of financial incentives for ministers who, motivated by material concerns, may have been encouraged to poach congregants from one another's flocks rather than to bring new believers into the fold.

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