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Nonprofit Wages: Theory and Evidence


  • Hirsch, Barry

    () (Georgia State University)

  • Macpherson, David A.

    () (Trinity University)

  • Preston, Anne E.

    () (Haverford College)


The nonprofit sector's share of wage and salary employment in the U.S. has increased over time, from about 5½ percent in the mid-1990s to 7 percent in 2015. This paper surveys the literature and presents new evidence on the employment and earnings of workers in the nonprofit sector since 1994. As compared to the private for-profit sector, nonprofits have a more educated and older workforce, with employment concentrated in health, education, and service occupations and industries. Standard wage level analysis indicates lower wages for men employed in nonprofits compared to male for-profit workers with similar measured attributes. No such penalty is found for women. Based on panel estimates of wage changes, we find no substantive wage penalties for either women or men moving between jobs in and outside the nonprofit sector. We conclude that wages in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, on average, differ little for similar workers and jobs.

Suggested Citation

  • Hirsch, Barry & Macpherson, David A. & Preston, Anne E., 2017. "Nonprofit Wages: Theory and Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 10571, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10571

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Glaeser, Edward L. & Shleifer, Andrei, 2001. "Not-for-profit entrepreneurs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 99-115, July.
    2. Christopher J. Ruhm & Carey Borkoski, 2003. "Compensation in the Nonprofit Sector," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(4).
    3. Leete, Laura, 2000. "Wage equity and employee motivation in nonprofit and for-profit organizations," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 423-446, December.
    4. Preston, Anne E, 1988. "The Effects of Property Rights on Labor Costs of Nonprofit Firms: An Application to the Day Care Industry," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(3), pages 337-350, March.
    5. Roomkin, Myron J & Weisbrod, Burton A, 1999. "Managerial Compensation and Incentives in For-Profit and Nonprofit Hospitals," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(3), pages 750-781, October.
    6. Jones, Daniel B., 2015. "The supply and demand of motivated labor: When should we expect to see nonprofit wage gaps?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 1-14.
    7. Preyra, Colin & Pink, George, 2001. "Balancing incentives in the compensation contracts of nonprofit hospital CEOs," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 509-525, July.
    8. Christopher R. Bollinger & Barry T. Hirsch, 2006. "Match Bias from Earnings Imputation in the Current Population Survey: The Case of Imperfect Matching," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 483-520, July.
    9. Brickley, James A & Van Horn, R Lawrence, 2002. "Managerial Incentives in Nonprofit Organizations: Evidence from Hospitals," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(1), pages 227-249, April.
    10. H. Naci Mocan & Erdal Tekin, 2003. "Nonprofit Sector and Part-Time Work: An Analysis of Employer-Employee Matched Data on Child Care Workers," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(1), pages 38-50, February.
    11. Mark G. Duggan, 2000. "Hospital Ownership and Public Medical Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1343-1373.
    12. Preston, Anne E, 1989. "The Nonprofit Worker in a For-Profit World," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(4), pages 438-463, October.
    13. A. G. Holtmann & Todd L. Idson, 1993. "Wage Determination of Registered Nurses in Proprietary and Nonprofit Nursing Homes," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 28(1), pages 55-79.
    14. Preston, Anne E, 1990. "Women in the White-Collar Nonprofit Sector: The Best Option or the Only Option?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 72(4), pages 560-568, November.
    15. Weisbrod, Burton A, 1983. "Nonprofit and Proprietary Sector Behavior: Wage Differentials among Lawyers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(3), pages 246-263, July.
    16. Anne Preston, 1993. "Efficiency, quality, and social externalities in the provision of day care: Comparisons of nonprofit and for-profit firms," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 4(1), pages 165-182, June.
    17. Barry T. Hirsch & Edward J. Schumacher, 2004. "Match Bias in Wage Gap Estimates Due to Earnings Imputation," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(3), pages 689-722, July.
    18. Handy, Femida & Katz, Eliakim, 1998. "The Wage Differential between Nonprofit Institutions and Corporations: Getting More by Paying Less?," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 246-261, June.
    19. repec:hrv:faseco:33078971 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Leete, Laura, 2001. "Whither the Nonprofit Wage Differential? Estimates from the 1990 Census," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(1), pages 136-170, January.
    21. Furubotn, Eirik G & Pejovich, Svetozar, 1972. "Property Rights and Economic Theory: A Survey of Recent Literature," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 1137-1162, December.
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    More about this item


    nonprofit wage differentials; nonprofit employment; Current Population Survey (CPS);

    JEL classification:

    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • L33 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Comparison of Public and Private Enterprise and Nonprofit Institutions; Privatization; Contracting Out

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