It pays to be Catholic, study finds

Catholic women earn more than their Anglican counterparts, according to a new study.

But it's not necessarily a reason to jump headfirst into the baptismal font because research indicates childhood upbringing may play a part.

Michael Kortt from the Southern Cross Business School drew data from the Household, Income Labour Dynamics Australia survey to examine the relationship between religious affiliation and wages for Australian women.

Dr Kortt said their data modelling was based on women aged 25 to 54, and controlled for a variety of demographic, age and economic factors, including work experience, education and marital status.

“We counted for as many different factors as you could possibly think turned out Catholic women had a 4.5 per cent wage premium than Anglican women,” he said.

“It's across the board, so it's not looking at jobs at all, but the wage rates for women,” he said.

Dr Kortt said the research, published in Economic Papers: A Journal of Applied Economics and Policy, found no other statistically significant wage difference between Anglican women and other groups, including other Christians, non-Christians and those with no religious affiliation.

“This premium exists ... what's interesting is that it's very similar to the US wage premium [for Catholic women] that's observed,” he said.

Dr Kortt said the models found little difference between Catholic and Anglican women when it came to attitudes towards work, fertility rates, and rates of return on educational investment.

“It could be unobservable characteristics like hard work, a work ethic, loyalty or other traits that are attractive to employers in the marketplace,” he said.

“Maybe that's what might be driving the results.”

The report highlighted the possibility that religious beliefs could have an impact on the importance of one's income.

“It is thus possible that Anglican women may view maximising income as materialistic and a less than noble approach to life,” the report reads.

Dr Kortt said further studies were needed, but the pattern was likely to be linked with family upbringing.

“I suspect it's probably got to do with upbringing ... I don't think you could expect to get a pay rise with the flick of a switch,” he said.

“It's possible that the Catholic education system may play a role in fostering it ... but that's not something we could get a really good handle on with the data.”