Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Non-profit wage slaves

The non-profit sector as a profession is terrific, provided you're willing to sacrifice a bunch of earning power. That's just the facts...I think. Until recently I was certain of it, as is everyone I've ever met in the field. But those pedantic so-and-so's at Johns Hopkins University -- the world's largest and best-funded research center on the non-profit sector -- insist that we base this sort of conclusion on real-life data. And they have the nasty habit of actually finding and analyzing such data.

I'm not yet conceding that a lot of us wouldn't be paid more doing the same level of work in the business world. But smart people who have examined excellent data are finding that the idea that non-profit wages lag behind for-profit counterparts is "at best a half-truth." Now it would be easier to dismiss that counterintuitive finding except that Lester Salamon has written or edited several excellent books on the "civil society" both in the U.S. and worldwide, two and half of which I've read. There is probably literally no one in the world more knowledgeable about the subject.

That paper linked above is only a couple of pages long and worth the read. Salamon and company, from examining a newly-available level of employment data, found two trends: that while average non-profit wages overall do lag behind for-profit wages, and by smaller fractions than I would have guessed, when the two are compared in sectors where they go head to head non-profit wages are actually a bit higher (!).

Um. As they say out where I went to college, yougottabefrickinkiddinme. More thought required is here, and perhaps more information. A quick hunt did not turn up any non-anecdotal data saying otherwise...pointers are welcome. This subject will return.