American Teachers Earn 17% Less Than Comparable Workers
Report: Teacher Pay Gap Widens
Recent findings from the Economic Policy Institute suggest that U.S. teachers have suffered greater income losses than other workers elsewhere in the economy.
The report looked at wages across a 21-year period. In 1994, teachers earned 1.8% less than workers with similar education and experience, but that gap widened to 17.0% in 2015. (Source: “The teacher pay gap is wider than ever,” Economic Policy Institute, August 9, 2016.)
Even when researchers looked at total compensation, which includes healthcare benefits and perks, teacher pay was still 11.1% below comparable wages. The report claims that these numbers can potentially damage the nation’s education outcomes.
“It is crucial that school districts recruit and retain high-quality teachers,” write report authors Sylvia Allegretto and Lawrence Mishel. However, they also highlighted three challenges.
For one thing, Allegretto and Mishel contend that teachers are increasingly likely to leave the profession before retirement. Teacher attrition jumped 41% between 1989 and 2009, from 6.4% to nine percent, with most of that increase due to non-retirement reasons.
“As teachers retire, they are replaced by newcomers, and the high attrition rate among this group is a particularly critical issue,” they write. “The increasing rates of attrition foster a growing instability in the teaching profession that affects classroom efficacy.”
The supply of teachers is also affected by annual retirements. In the 1988—89 school year, only 35,000 teachers left the profession to enjoy their golden years; by the mid-2000s, that number was up to 89,000 per year. It has tempered slightly since that peak, but roughly 85,000 teachers are still retiring every year. Allergretto and Mishel call that a, “nontrivial amount.”
The report also claims that fewer college students are choosing teaching as their profession. For decades, the pool of “cognitively skilled” applicants has been shrinking, leading to a significant shortage in the supply of teachers.
“Several factors have helped to drive this trend,” say the authors. “Over the long run, employment opportunities for women have greatly expanded, and thus the teaching profession can no longer rely on what was a somewhat captive labor pool.”
They also added that standardized testing has created an environment in which, “teachers are less satisfied and more stressed.” This squeeze in supply is particularly disturbing because of growing demand for teachers.
Local school districts are demanding smaller classroom sizes and, at the same time, national standards for schooling are on the rise. These conditions have added significant upward pressure on the demand for well credentialed teaching professionals.
“The demand for teachers is escalating, while simultaneously the supply of teachers is faltering,” write Allegretto and Mishel. “In light of these challenges, providing adequate wages and benefits is a crucial tool for attracting and keeping the teachers America’s children need.”