|You Pay for Average, You Get Average|
|Subject||Change in wages of teachers cause fewer bright students to become teachers.|
|Topic||Labor Markets; Income Inequality|
Wage Compression, Income Distribution
Many parents and employers perceive that public school teachers aren't as smart as they used to be. Recent research both refutes and supports that perception.
Using aptitude test scores as measures of teacher "quality,"
researchers at the University of Maryland show that test scores have remained
remarkably stable over the last 40 years, although the average teacher's
test score is slightly below the average college graduate's score. However,
the best high school graduates - those in the top 10% of test scores -
are now far less likely to become teachers as before. "Whereas close
to 20% of females in the top decile [ten percent] in 1964 chose teaching
as a profession, only 3.7% of females in the top decile in 1992 chose
teaching." Since teaching as a field remains a female domain (the
proportion of female public school teachers has remained fairly stable
at 75% over the last 40 years, and women are twice as likely to attend
college as they were 40 years ago), the chance of getting a really bright
teacher has fallen.
Unionization would have the effect of compressing wages; the average
would rise, but the difference between the highest and lowest wages would
fall. These researchers find that wage compression accounts for about
80% of the change in teacher composition. While in the 1960s a bright
teacher would command about a 50% premium over other teachers and earn
about the same as other teachers today, someone who was below average
in aptitude test scores would earn abut 28% less than the average teacher
in the 1960s, and about the average pay now. Wages have been compressed
together, causing the brightest teachers to leave. As the author writes,
we get what we pay for: average quality for average wages."
(Updated May, 2004)
|Source||Virginia Postrel. "Getting the Most out of the Nation's Teachers." The New York Times. 25 March 2004..|
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