Welcome to the Profit of Education website. Continuing the conversation begun in the book Profit of Education, we discuss the latest economic evidence on education reform.

Los Angeles Times Op-Ed

Me in the LA Times on raising teacher pay.

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-startz-teacher-raises-20190417-story.html

Share
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

As more women graduate from college, the teaching profession becomes more female

My most recent post on the BROWN CENTER CHALKBOARD at the Brookings Institution.

One of the great accomplishments of the late 20th century was to bring women onto a more equal footing in the labor market. Salaries became more equal. Employers opened up jobs for women. Educational opportunities became more gender-equal. And for college-educated women, all of this meant that careers outside teaching and nursing became possible.

One might think that as more career paths opened—even if not opened all the way—increased alternatives would have meant relatively fewer women in teaching. In fact, that is not what happened. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we look at how one of the very few historically female-dominated professions has become even more so. Here, I briefly describe what did happen and offer my explanation as to why.

Unlike with most jobs, teacher salaries have long been based on a schedule that minimizes opportunities for discrimination. Little matters for salary other than years of experience and level of education. (Oh yeah, and whether you teach in a district with high or low salaries.) So women and men get almost equal pay. In the most recent available data, base pay for female teachers was 96 percent of the pay received by male teachers. Even if you include extra school pay above the base level (for extracurricular activities, coaching, and a few other things), women still earn 93 percent of what men earn. High school teachers get paid somewhat more than elementary school teachers, and men are more likely than women to teach at the secondary level. But women teachers have slightly more education than men do.

While the gender pay gap has not yet been fully eliminated, it is smaller for teachers than in most of the economy. As a rough comparison, in “management, professional, and related occupations,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women earn 73 percent of what men earn. While a large majority of teachers are women, a majority of these management and professional workers are also women. The difference in the wage gap is much smaller in teaching, making teaching especially attractive to women.

What about in the not-so good old days? It’s hard to get exactly comparable data, but reports from the 1970 census suggest the male-to-female earnings ratio for year-round workers with four years of college was 55 percent. (Something else from the old days: the reports are all separated by race. The 55 percentage is for whites only.) In contrast, teaching salaries have been approximately equal by gender, although not perfectly equal. The earliest year for which I was able to track base teaching salaries was 1987, when the salary gender ratio was 0.89.

In other words, women’s and men’s teaching salaries have long been almost equal. Outside teaching, earnings are far less equal—but they’re a lot closer together than they were in past decades. So what would you expect to happen to the relative number of women and men in teaching over this period? It used to be that few opportunities outside of teaching were available and women had equal-ish pay, which incentivized talented women to go into the classroom. Now with a more open world, the incentives for women to teach are lower, so relatively fewer will become teachers and the gender balance in teaching should become somewhat more equal.

At least that’s what I thought. It turns out that I was wrong and, in fact, the opposite has happened. Here’s a picture of the proportion of female teachers over time.

teachergender
Source: The Current Population Survey via IPUMS USA, University of Minnesota, www.ipums.org. Additionally: The National Center for Education Statistics’ Schools and Staffing Survey via The Department of Education.

The green line tells the real story. The share of teachers who are women rose, not fell, over the past three-plus decades. The proportion rose quite a bit through some time in the 1990s and then has edged up a bit more since.

Now some more explanation about the graph. The solid lines are taken from the Current Population Survey (CPS)—a representative survey of the U.S. population—and look only at full-time teachers. The dots are taken from the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), which is a survey of teachers only and does not reach back quite so far. The SASS trend is also upward, but somewhat less dramatically so.

We can split out a few more details using the CPS data. The blue line at the top shows the female share for elementary school teachers: unsurprisingly, heavily female. The percentage moved up some through the 1980s, then back down a little. Overall, it has been pretty flat over time. Elementary school teachers are overwhelmingly women, both historically and today.

The orange line at the bottom tells us the real change in the female share is in secondary school. Teaching secondary school used to be a majority male occupation, and today a solid majority of secondary school teachers are women. Notably, the majority of math and science teachers in grades nine through 12 are women. Probably a small piece of the story as to why women’s share in teaching has risen rather than fallen is that secondary school teaching jobs have become more open to women.

Here’s what I think is going on: While it’s true that the relative attractiveness of teaching versus other careers has declined for women versus men, there has been an enormous increase in the number of women with the basic required education to be a teacher—a bachelor’s degree. The picture below shows what happened over the last 40 years; the ratio of bachelor’s degrees going to women relative to men has risen by 60 percent. In other words, the greatly increased number of women in the qualified labor pool for teaching overwhelms any effects of changed incentives of teaching relative to other professions. (Ingersoll et. al. provide a very readable report on these and other trends in the teacher workforce; also see the nice summary in the Atlantic.) From an economics point of view, it is interesting that the quantity effect dominates the incentive effect.

bawomen2men
Source: The National Center for Education Statistics’ Schools and Staffing Survey via The Department of Education.

We should also ask whether it matters for the kids if their teachers are women or men. Hopefully, you already have a good idea of the answer, because Michael Hansen and Diana Quintero reviewed the evidence last July right here on the Chalkboard. Here’s the nickel summary:

“It is not clear that the plethora of females in the teacher workforce is worrisome in most circumstances—more female teachers may even be preferred in math and science classrooms.”

But I’d place one big caveat on the conclusion that teacher gender doesn’t matter. Most of what we know about the effects of teacher gender are about what happens in K-12. As you’ve seen in the chart above, there has been a massive change in college attainment of men versus women—and though everyone looks at four-year degrees, the change in associate degrees is just as large.

Interestingly, the large increase in the fraction of college degrees going to women is a worldwide phenomenon. And perhaps not coincidentally, women as a fraction of the teaching force has increased in other developing countries as well.

Fraction of women in teaching force in developed countries

Primary

Lower Secondary

Upper Secondary general

Upper Secondary vocational
OECD 2016836962
56
OECD 1996755750
42

The table shows the increase in the fraction of teachers who are women in the OECD. (Note that the comparison is not perfect, as the set of countries included changed a bit over these two decades.) What we see is that the change in the teacher gender ratio—including in secondary school—is not just a U.S. phenomenon.

The “coincidence” of a shift to relatively more women going to college during a period in which students also had relatively fewer male teachers is interesting. One possibility is that high school boys are in need of male role models to keep them on track to college. Another possibility is that it’s the decline in discriminatory barriers that has led to both more women teachers and to more women going to college. Evidence on how much either explanation contributes to the changes we’ve seen will have to await further research.

Share
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Equal opportunity in American education In memory of Martin Luther King Jr.

My most recent post on the BROWN CENTER CHALKBOARD at the Brookings Institution.

Today would have been Dr. Martin Luther King’s 90th birthday had he not been taken from us in 1968. Whatever position one takes on how to deal with America’s racial issues, most people of goodwill ascribe to the idea of equality of opportunity in education. I want to look today at a number of indicators of educational opportunity.

I emphasize educational opportunity, as distinct from educational outcome. Outcomes depend on opportunities offered by schools, on backgrounds that students bring through the school room door with them, and on choices made by those students. I will begin by reviewing a bit of what is known about differences in outcomes, in part because some differences by race are shockingly large. But let me be frank about why I will largely focus on equality of opportunity: There remain a number of people who want to blame the disadvantaged for their situation, and who do so increasingly openly. Consequently, I think it is important to identify circumstances where disadvantage cannot be attributed to the disadvantaged.

I wish to note three background items before we begin. First, the Equality of Opportunity project, led by a team of scholars at Harvard University, offers a wealth of data and analysis on inequality along many dimensions. Second, ProPublica has a nice piece on disparities in outcomes written by Lena V. Groeger, Annie Waldman, and David Eads. Third, I am going to limit my analysis to black/white differentials rather than looking at all disadvantaged groups. Partially this is for simplicity and partially as a reminder of the struggles led by Dr. King. (Though I suspect Dr. King would not agree with my narrow focus.)

LARGE GAPS IN OUTCOMES PERSIST BY RACE

Let’s begin with two quotes about findings from the Equality of Opportunity project, as discussed by Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren. First, “The black-white gap is not immutable: black boys who move to better neighborhoods as children have significantly better outcomes.” What’s more is that the researchers are explicit that “environmental conditions during childhood have causal effects on racial disparities, demonstrating that the black-white income gap is not immutable.” The focus here on the Brown Center Chalkboard is education, but as we move on please remember that the educational system is not the only place there are inequities. As Chetty and Hedren write, “In 99% of neighborhoods in the United States, black boys earn less in adulthood than white boys who grow up in families with comparable income.”

While schools are not all that matter, let’s talk about some of the ways that schools do matter. Here is a graphic from ProPublica showing the achievement gap between black and white students across the nation.

ProPublica Miseducation
Source: ProPublica’s “Miseducation” project.

The big visual differences are in the South (still!), which is where Dr. King mostly fought. But the disparities are not just in the South. In LA Unified, the second largest school district in the nation, ProPublica reports, “Black students are, on average, academically 3.1 grades behind White students.” In Chicago, the gap is three grades. (ProPublica lets you check out your own local schools as well.)

Achievement gaps depend on opportunities inside school walls, and also on which groups end up being advantaged by those opportunities. ProPublica looked explicitly at racial gaps in participation in Advanced Placement and gifted programs. If a student isn’t enrolled in one of these programs, she or he can’t very well benefit from the program. Here’s the picture from ProPublica.

ProPublica's "Miseducation" project.
Source: ProPublica’s “Miseducation” project.

Again the South stands out, but, again, it’s not just the South. In NYC—the nation’s largest school district—white students are two-thirds more likely to be enrolled in AP courses than are black students.

OPPORTUNITY GAPS UNDERNEATH THE OUTCOME GAPS

Still, one could argue that the differences in enrollment in these advanced opportunities reflects something that students bring into school rather than the opportunities that the schools make available. To nail the point that inequality of opportunity is an issue, I want to look at issues of availability. To be pointed, if a student attends a school that doesn’t even offer an AP course, it’s pretty clear that the gap issue is one of opportunity rather than student choice.

A central issue, of course, is that black and white students don’t attend the same schools. To a great extent, schools remain de facto separate. (For discussion, see Chalkboard posts hereherehere, and here.) The most recent Department of Education Office of Civil Rights data collection reports information from almost 25,000 high schools (defined for our purposes as schools including a 12th grade). About 15 percent of students are black, but 40 percent of black students are in majority-black schools, and only 24 percent of black students attend majority-white schools. There was a time when many thought “separate but equal” was viable. Are opportunities in our still largely separate schools now equal?

Only 36 percent of high schools where the majority of students are black offer a calculus course. In contrast, 60 percent of majority white schools offer calculus. It’s hard to see how this makes for equal opportunity.

As a practical matter, to take calculus in high school—assuming it’s available in your high school—it helps to have gotten a head start on earlier math courses. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights asks schools whether Algebra 1—normally a ninth grade course is available to seventh or eighth graders. This head-start offering is available in 42 percent of majority-black schools as compared to 66 percent of majority-white schools. An alternative comparison sounds not quite as bad (but still not good): 77 percent of white students are in schools offering early algebra while the corresponding number gets up to 64 percent for black students.

Perhaps I am hung up on the importance of math courses. After all, I am an economist, and in economics and other STEM fields, getting an early start on calculus before going to college is awfully valuable. But math isn’t everything. Let’s look at a couple of more general indicators.

The vast majority of teachers in the United States are certified. But schools that are disproportionately black have a noticeably disproportionate share of teachers who are not certified. Sometimes that’s intentional. Some uncertified teachers come through Teach for America or a school district academy and perform well. Of course, schools that receive Teach for America teachers are typically pretty disadvantaged in a variety of ways. So whether you think that uncertified teachers are less qualified or you just think that the presence of uncertified teachers is a signal that the school environment is more challenging than where you’d like to send your kids … well, neither is good. Here’s the figure showing the relation between the fraction of students in the school who are black and the fraction of teachers who are not certified. The relation between student race and teacher certification is quite clear.

It is a well-established fact that brand new teachers do not teach as well as teachers with more experience (on average, that is). Being a classroom teacher is just a very, very hard job that requires practice. Educational opportunities are therefore better for students assigned teachers who are not just starting off. Who is more likely to get a rookie teacher?

Here’s a figure showing the fraction of teachers in a school in their first year against the fraction of the students in the school who are black. Students in schools that are under 10 percent black have about 6 percent first-year teachers. In schools that are 90 percent or more black, that fraction doubles to almost 12 percent.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY STILL ELUDES US

We all know that educational outcomes—test scores, high school graduation, college attendance, school discipline, and so on—differ by race. Some part of those differences reflect what students bring to school. But the data above also shows that the opportunities offered black and white students have not yet become equal. Dr. King’s dream of equality of opportunity sadly remains, in the words of Langston Hughes, “a dream deferred.”

Share
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Humanities PhDs: After Graduation

Back in October I asked why universities continue to produce so many humanities PhDs in the face of the abysmal humanities job market. The flip side of that question is to ask why young scholars are willing to invest so much of their lives in earning a humanities PhD. I hope the answer is that it’s their love of the subject, because it surely isn’t because of the economic return.

Let’s begin with the economics of getting that PhD. The NSF surveys new PhD recipients and asks them how much debt they acquired in graduate school. The figure below shows that humanities (and art) PhDs fare worse than STEM students. Just over half of humanities students escape with a degree without having acquired more debt in graduate school. In physical sciences, math and computer science, and in engineering about 80 percent avoid graduate student debt. Probably more important, more than a quarter of humanities PhDs end up with over $30,000 in new debt. For life sciences the percentage is about half that and in other STEM fields the fraction with large debts is a quarter of the rate for humanities and arts.

[DS1] 

There is also the “opportunity cost” of being in graduate school. Graduate school stipends are a lot lower than pay after earning the degree. Humanities degrees take longer to get than do STEM degrees. On average, one to two years longer. That’s a lot more foregone earnings for humanities students.

How about employment on graduation? Unsurprisingly, humanities PhDs are less likely than STEM graduates to have post-graduation plans lined up. But the difference is not all that large. In the humanities and arts, 43 percent of students reported to the NSF that they had no definite commitment. In math and computer science that fraction was only 27 percent, and in engineering the same number was 36 percent. The NSF also asked doctoral recipients who had definite plans whether the next step was a job or postdoctoral study. Of the humanities grads who had plans, the next step was overwhelmingly employment—only 21 percent were headed to post-docs. In the physical and life sciences, 3 out of 5 students went the post-doc route.

The real difference after graduation? Among humanities and art students who do have jobs lined up, the vast majority are going to work for colleges and universities. In contrast, STEM doctorates very often go to work for business or industry. Working for a university is not a bad outcome (I mention in case my employer is reading this), but industry certainly pays better. Here’s a figure with the breakdown from NSF data.

[DS2] 

For those new PhDs with an employment commitment after graduation, the NSF surveys expected annual salaries. In life sciences, the median is $80,000. (I report male salaries here; salaries for women are 15 percent lower.) Median salary in physical sciences is $86,000. Math and computer science is $113,000. Engineering is $100,000, and in economics the median salary is $100,000.

In humanities and arts, the median expected salary is $52,000. So it’s the salary levels that make the biggest difference between the humanities and STEM fields.

The NSF data is informative about the very beginning of a career. To learn more about economic returns over a lifetime, we can turn to the American Community Survey. (One caveat here: The ACS identifies fields by undergraduate degree, so there is no doubt some minor error in classifying degrees.) Here is a graph of median income in the humanities and STEM at both the BA level and the PhD level.

[DS3] 

The basic message is that a student with a humanities PhD earns about the same salary as a STEM BA. Some of this is because of the different employment venues, but even within colleges STEM PhDs earn more than do those in the humanities. Humanities PhDs working at a college or university have a median income of $72,000. The STEM figure is about 13 percent higher.

I’ve made a graph of the distribution of salaries for PhDs who work at colleges and universities (Wonk note: the picture is from what’s called a “kernel density” estimate.) What you can see is that that humanities PhD salaries in higher education are mostly between fifty and a hundred thousand. In contrast, about a third of STEM PhDs earn over 100K.

[DS4] 

The salary difference is much more noticeable in industry. Here’s the picture:

[

About a third of humanities PhDs employed outside of higher education earn over $100,000. For STEM grads, the number is more like 60 percent.

Putting it all together, getting a doctorate in the humanities doesn’t seem to be a great dollars-and-sense investment. If it’s a labor of love—and if students heading into these doctoral programs are fully informed—then it can still be a perfectly sensible career choice. I’m not so sure about whether prospective students are “fully informed,” but on that there’s no evidence other than anecdote. What I am sure about is that the rest of us continue to benefit from the young scholars who choose to sacrifice financially to transmit understanding of poetry and history and philosophy to the next generation.


Share
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How many humanities Ph.D.s should universities produce?

My most recent post on the BROWN CENTER CHALKBOARD at the Brookings Institution.

If you have been anywhere near a university that trains doctoral students in the humanities, you will know that the market for new Ph.D.s is abysmal.

The plain fact is that we train far more humanities Ph.D.s than there are jobs for. In a recent year, the American History Association reported about 340 tenure-track job openings for historians, plus maybe another hundred jobs outside history departments that might recruit a historian. In the same year, American universities minted about 1,150 new Ph.D. historians. In economics, there were 2,650 new jobs and about 1,250 new Ph.D.s. The contrast is stark and largely typical of the situation in humanities versus STEM fields.

In part, this is not new. The “crisis” has been going on for an academic lifetime—at least since the 1970s. Academics who started their career when the Modern Language Association first reached the “melancholy conclusion” that, “should present trends continue, life … particularly in the humanities, could turn grim indeed,” well, those academics have now mostly retired.

I want to talk about some possible reasons why more humanities Ph.D.s are produced than there are jobs for, especially in light of how long we’ve been in this dismal situation. First though, I want to raise a concern that conditions may be moving from dismal to disaster. Here are four graphs showing the most recent 10 years of data for the number of bachelor’s degrees (in blue) and the number of doctorates (in red) across economics, English, math and statistics, and history. The count of the former says a lot about the demand for the latter.

Figure 1: Comparison of B.A.s and Ph.D.s granted in economics, English, math and statistics, and history, 2005-2015

Comparison of bachelor's degrees and Ph.D.s granted in economics, English, math and statistics, and history, 2005-2016
Source: Digest for Education Statistics. (Note: The right-hand y-axis refers to B.A.s, the left to Ph.D.s.)

Look at economics and math/statistics on the left side of the figure. The number of bachelor’s degrees has grown, and the number of Ph.D.s has pretty much grown in parallel. Now look at English and history on the right. For the first half of the graph, the number of B.A. degrees was flat while the number of Ph.D.s grew rapidly. More recently, the number of bachelor’s granted in a year has plummeted while the number of doctorates has leveled off. One wants to be careful about extrapolating from five years, or even a decade. Nonetheless, things don’t look good. Why do the gaps matter? Because a big part of the demand for Ph.D.s in an area is to provide teaching for students pursuing their bachelor’s.

The economic problem in the humanities market is too much supply chasing too little demand. While one may lament the too-little demand, we’re left with the question of why supply hasn’t adjusted. Why do universities keep training so many humanities Ph.D.s when their market is so weak? It helps to understand that decisions about the number of Ph.D. students to admit are partially at the discretion of individual academic departments and partially decided by the choice of university administrators about how much money to allocate to a given department. It’s worth pointing out that resource allocations change very slowly in universities (but that’s slow on a scale of years, not slow on a scale of decades.) Let me suggest some reasons why universities continue to churn out so many Ph.D.s in the humanities.

Graduate students are cheap labor for teaching undergraduates, grading papers, etc. The suggestion is that it’s cheaper for universities to hire graduate students than to hire faculty.

Maybe, but I am less than enamored of this explanation because of the arrangements of salaries in research universities—which is where Ph.D.s are trained. Teaching assistant (TA) salaries are often set across the board, so they are the same in humanities and STEM disciplines. (More or less, as STEM fields are more likely to provide some supplements to TA pay. The “across-the-board” pattern is generally stronger in universities where the teaching assistants are unionized.) On the other hand, STEM faculty salaries are a lot higher than humanities faculty salaries. So if it’s a “cheap labor” argument, the excess supply should show up in STEM rather than in the humanities because the faculty/TA salary gap is larger there.

Graduate students are necessary for research and scholarship. Universities bring in humanities Ph.D.s to keep humanities faculty productive.

I suspect there is something to the need for graduate students to support research. And that makes it a valid reason, at least it makes it a valid reason for the university.

Graduate students may not be necessary, but humanities faculty really like to teach graduate courses. Humanities departments accept too many Ph.D. students in order to justify teaching graduate courses.

This is the explanation that I mostly believe, and this is also the explanation that I have no hard evidence for whatsoever. Just to be clear, economists also often like to teach graduate courses. I’m not suggesting any difference in attitudes or desires among humanities faculty versus STEM fields. The difference is that after coursework and after dissertations STEM Ph.D.s get jobs.

Faculty in the humanities see keeping a healthy graduate program as part of their mission to protect the role of the humanities in the wider world.

There’s no doubt about the importance of the humanities in helping us all do a better job of thinking through the problems faced in the world outside the ivy walls. I’m less sure whether producing an excess of Ph.D.s helps promote the value of the humanities in general.

Whatever the explanation of how universities benefit from producing more humanities Ph.D.s than the market will support, the question remains: Is it fair to the Ph.D. students? The Modern Language Association recommends “graduate programs routinely send applicants … data on the placement of recipients of PhDs from the department in the last three to five years (names of institutions, numbers of placements, fields of specialization).” Do humanities departments routinely make this sort of information available on the web? (Economics departments typically do.) I did some spot checking. Harvard does. Yale does. Michigan does. (My university, UC Santa Barbara, mostly does.) At three other major public universities I checked—nope. My suspicion is that humanities departments that place well despite the abysmal market are more upfront about placements than are departments with less enviable records.

Nothing I’ve said here will be new to anyone in the humanities. What’s more, the Modern Language Association, the American History Association, and others deserve credit for recognizing the situation and doing what they can about it for decades now. The problem does not lie in particular universities; the problem is that each university’s reasonable behavior adds up nationally to more humanities Ph.D.s than there are jobs for. Everyone wants some other university to shrink production.

One more thing. Humanities Ph.D.s do find jobs. After all, one has to be very smart to get into a Ph.D. program, and very persistent and talented to earn the degree. Unfortunately, while humanities Ph.D.s can find jobs outside academia, the financial reward isn’t much at all considering the 6 to 10 years the Ph.D. takes. The National Science Foundation reports that the average annual salary for new humanities and arts Ph.D.s who do have a job is about $52,000 a year. A comparable salary number for people with a bachelor’s in any field, aged 30 to 35, with full-time employment is about $61,000. It’s a depressing state of the world.

Share
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

It happens here, too: Lessons for universities on preventing sexual harassment

My most recent post on the BROWN CENTER CHALKBOARD at the Brookings Institution.

While school was out this summer, the National Academy of Sciences published the over 300-page report, “Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.” The report is what you would expect from the National Academy: lots of numbers and a couple hundred references to the scientific literature. Included are a number of positive suggestions for reducing sexual harassment in academia—more on some of these below—but the report has one finding that shocked me.

Worse than the private sector? 58 percent? (Reports of harassment of students by faculty or staff are also high, in the 20-50 percent range.) Despite surface appearances, sexual harassment in academia turns out to be a major concern. While the pervasiveness is a surprise, some of the causes are not. My observation is that, in academia, there are three elements that contribute to such pervasive sexual harassment:I think of universities as pretty decent places to work; while there are certainly individual squabbles—sometimes serious ones—academics are pretty reasonably behaved for the most part. But, shockingly, that’s not what the evidence says when it comes to sexual harassment. According to the National Academy: “[Among employees], the academic workplace … has the second highest rate of sexual harassment at 58 percent (the military has the highest rate at 69 percent) when comparing it with military, private sector, and the government, where a broad definition of sexual harassment is used.”

  • Power and silos
  • Institutional “see-no-evil”
  • Plain, old insensitivity

Something true in both the military and in the academy is that there are many relationships in which the power between two people is extremely unequal. In the private sector, usually the worst someone can do to you is fire you, and even then there are always other jobs. In academia, one person may be in a position to effectively end the other person’s academic career—not just interfere with their current position. (The power structure in the military as compared to civilian society is pretty obvious.) In most organizations, there is at least some avenue of appeal from perceived unfair treatment. In contrast, if I give a student a failing grade, tell a Ph.D. candidate that their dissertation isn’t acceptable, write a referee report judging that a journal ought to reject a submitted paper, or vote against someone’s tenure, the truth is there is little to no recourse.

The problem of power is reinforced in academia because organization is so “siloed.” When I’m advising a Ph.D. student, basically no one else knows what I’m doing and probably no one else on campus could judge whether the mentor/mentee relationship is reasonable, even if they could observe it. The fact that so much interaction is effectively private reinforces the risk of bad behavior where there is a power imbalance. Interestingly, the National Academy study finds the greatest incidence of sexual harassment happens in medicine, which is especially hierarchical: “Research on the medical environment reveals that overall ‘mistreatment’ is commonplace in all levels of the medical hierarchy, especially among medical school students, interns, and residents.”

On the second bullet point, the National Academy study says, “Too often, judicial interpretation of Title IX and Title VII has incentivized institutions to create policies and training on sexual harassment that focus on symbolic compliance with current law and avoiding liability, and not on preventing sexual harassment.”

If you are reading this from a university, when is the last time you heard about a significant punishment to a colleague for egregious sexual harassment? If you were the subject of sexual harassment (I’m hoping you find this a hypothetical question, but in light of the study’s finding I’m no longer so sure this is merely hypothetical for most readers), would you feel it worth the cost and risk to file a complaint? Here, there are two different issues. The first issue is whether the campus takes sexual harassment seriously. The second issue is whether the campus makes public the extent to which there are consequences of bad behavior. If you want to deter misbehavior, be sure that there are consequences and everyone on campus knows it. If you want victims to come forward, they need to know that complaints result in actions.

As a positive example of good reporting, the National Academy study praises Yale’s semiannual “Reports of Complaints of Sexual Misconduct”: “These reports are written to protect anonymity while also providing minimal descriptions and statistical summaries that reveal (1) the complainants and respondents role in the university …and (2) the status of the complaint (if the complainant decided to pursue a formal complaint, if investigation is pending, any action taken by the university after investigation.”

Most harassment stops short of coercion and assault. The National Academy cites a large study done at Penn State of faculty/staff-on-student harassment for female students. About 95 percent of misbehavior falls into the categories of “sexist hostility” and “crude behavior.”So reporting can be done. It’s not that hard. And frankly, making data public is an important step in bringing a university community together when improvements are needed. A university would likely prefer not to read about unsuccessful processes from an external source, such as the recent California state auditor’s report, “The University of California: It Must Take Additional Steps to Address Long-Standing Issues With Its Response to Sexual Harassment Complaints.”

So a little advice to faculty, staff, and teaching assistants who either don’t care how women feel or who—despite all the attention the subject has gotten—still don’t understand how women feel. Don’t make sexual remarks. The fact that women may laugh or go along doesn’t make it okay, because some of them won’t feel they have a choice, and you won’t know that. The issue isn’t whether sexual banter can be fun for everyone—the issue is that you won’t know if you’re making people uncomfortable (unless, of course, they file a complaint against you).

Keep inappropriate comments and “jokes” out of your professional life. Why? Because you know that you might be making someone uncomfortable when that’s not your intention at all. What’s more, you are setting an example. So keep it professional.

One final comment from the report for those who are onboard with improving the situation:

Taken together, the surprisingly sparse—yet robust—set of studies on sexual harassment trainings shows that trainings can improve knowledge of policies and awareness of what is sexual harassment; however, trainings have either no effect or a negative effect on preventing sexual harassment.

 

Given … that actions can be taken to inhibit sexually harassing behavior … and that changing attitudes is difficult, effort seems better spent on developing and using sexual harassment trainings aimed at changing people’s behaviors rather than on their attitudes and beliefs. Ultimately, it is individuals’ actions and behaviors that both harm targets and are illegal, not their thoughts.

Share
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tax credits can help high-poverty schools attract more teachers

My most recent post on the BROWN CENTER CHALKBOARD at the Brookings Institution. This one is with Kate Walsh of NCTQ.

Today, the federal government provides about 9 percent of the funding for K-12 public schools. The Center for American Progress (CAP) has just issued a call for raising that amount to more like 11 percent, putting the extra money into high-poverty schools in a way that doesn’t otherwise increase federal control of how states and school districts manage public education. The CAP proposal, under the title “How to Give Teachers a $10,000 Raise,” would provide federal tax credits directly to teachers who work in high-poverty schools.

Here we offer: (1) a quick review of how the idea would work; (2) an explanation of why this appears to be a way to tackle a big obstacle to ensuring that teacher talent is equitably distributed; (3) an argument as to why this might actually be politically feasible; and (4) a small, technical gotcha that needs a little attention.

The idea is simple. If a teacher signs on to a school with 75 percent or more of students on free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL), then the teacher gets a $10,000 refundable credit on her income taxes come April 15. The refundable credit part is important, because it means the teacher gets the money back no matter what else is going on with her tax return. Teachers who work in less poor schools, but still poor (>50 percent), would qualify for a reduced credit.

All told, about 57 percent of the teachers in the U.S. would be eligible for some level of substantial tax credit.

The proposed tax credit does two things: First, it would likely increase the available supply of teachers who want to work in high-poverty schools, achieving greater equity and improved education. There is a well-documented gap in average teacher quality between low-poverty and high-poverty schools (see here and here). Second, it also would provide a tax credit for teachers who are already there. That’s only fair. Teaching in high-poverty schools is an awfully tough job. CAP’s policy seeks to close what it observes as an existing $4,000 pay gap between teachers in the highest-poverty and the lowest-poverty schools, although part of that gap is due to a higher proportion of high-poverty schools being located in low-income areas (where all salaries are lower), and part is due to teachers in high-poverty schools having less experience and therefore sitting at a lower line on the salary scale.

A $10,000 tax credit is equivalent to just under a 20 percent raise for a teacher at the national average. In low-income states and in low-income districts, because teacher salaries are low, the raise is likely to be more than 20 percent. Analogously, the percentage increase may be less in low-income urban schools that are located in school districts that pay above the national average.

There is, however, at least a question as to whether a tax credit is as salient to teachers as a direct salary increase. We know from different studiesthat pension enhancements are less attractive to teachers than are equivalent increases in salary. However, a tax credit is much closer to a current salary boost than the promise of a better pension many years in the future. Still, it might make sense for districts to emphasize that eligible teachers can reduce their tax withholding in order to get an immediate increase in take-home pay.

Enticing strong teachers to move to disadvantaged schools won’t be a panacea for all the education problems associated with poverty: The teacher quality gap is significant, but it is not always as huge as some believe.

Still, jobs that pay more tend to be more competitive, drawing more applicants. Even a healthy-sized tax credit does not mean that all teachers will gravitate toward these opportunities. But unless teaching is exempt from basic labor economics, more teachers will almost certainly apply than would otherwise. It’s worth noting that district experience with such enticements have been mixed—with some succeeding better than others at convincing teachers from less challenging jobs to more challenging ones—but we’re also not aware of any other effort where the salary increase was both large and permanent.

This targeted tax credit also manages to walk a fine line between those who advocate paying some teachers higher salaries with those who advocate that an across the board raise is what is needed. The CAP proposal would apply only to teachers who are making a very specific extra contribution by working in high-poverty schools. While performance isn’t ostensibly a factor, we presume competition for these higher paying positions would allow principals in these schools to become a lot more selective about whom they hire, as well as reducing expensive teacher turnover and reliance on long-term substitutes or out-of-field teachers. (A North Carolina study by Charles Clotfelter and co-authors found that an $1,800 annual bonus lowered turnover rates by 17 percent.) That suggests that districts might do well to review their hiring systems in the face of a changed landscape.

Another reason the proposal makes sense is that tax credits are “off-budget” in the same way that the deductibility of mortgage interest is. That means that Congress doesn’t have to re-fight about the topic each year (and even avoids fickle state legislatures and school district budgets which can go from riches to rags overnight). Congress can make changes—as they have recently with the deductibility of mortgage interest—but once in place refundable credits are likely to be stable for a number of years. Stability is important for teachers making long-term career choices.

What’s more: $10,000 is actually worth more than $10,000. That’s because a tax credit is after-tax income. A typical teacher is likely in the 22 percent tax bracket on her federal return (a bit higher in states with a state income tax). In order to take home an extra $10,000, that teacher would need to earn $12,505.51 more. So a $10,000 credit actually comes with a $2,500 (plus change) take home bonus.

Key to its political viability is the fact that “high poverty” is as helpful to rural areas as urban—maybe more so where $10,000 is a higher percentage increase because salaries and the cost-of-living is low. In fact, high-poverty counties are more likely to have voted for President Trump in the last election than are low-poverty counties. Here’s a little scatterplot. (Note: Vote data is from Tony McGovern; poverty data is from the Census Bureau.)

Trump vote by percentage below poverty line, by county (2)
Source: Dick Startz and Kate Walsh; data from Tony McGovern and the Census Bureau.

The correlation between red votes and areas of poverty is not terribly strong (although it is strongly statistically significant), but it’s positive—not negative. In other words, there is a bunch of red state members of Congress who should have a strong interest in funneling money into high-poverty schools. Eventually, such a proposal has to be paid for of course, which should be a concern for everyone. CAP calculates the cost of the program to be about one-tenth the size of the recently passed federal tax cuts.

Now to that small, technical gotcha. Looking at FRPL is not such a good measure of poverty, in part because a number of districts now provide free lunches to all students, in response to an anachronistic system which is dependent upon families submitting a form declaring themselves to be poor. (See Brookings-based discussions here and here and here.) Fortunately, a better measure would be simple to implement. Eligibility for FRPL corresponds roughly to income below 185 percent of the poverty line. So change the credit-eligibility criteria from FRPL to a set fraction of students below the poverty line equivalent. You don’t need to know the income of individual families. If you know where your students live, then a poverty measure can easily be put together from Census data. Using such poverty data directly really gets right to the heart of where teachers should be getting an extra (tax) credit.

The high-poverty-school-refundable-tax-credit idea is a good idea that should have wide appeal, if ideas were still judged on their merits. While CAP is a left-of-center organization, we’ve pointed out why the idea should appeal to both sides of the aisle. Given the income distribution across the country, much benefit would end up in low-income and rural states that are often conservative strongholds. And using tax cuts rather than policy mandates ought to appeal to the conservative agenda. Bipartisanship may be a quaint notion in the current political context, but this is an idea well worth consideration from all sides.

 

Share
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Teachers have been moonlighting in Texas—and elsewhere—to make ends meet

My most recent post on the BROWN CENTER CHALKBOARD at the Brookings Institution.

Last month, we talked about the fact that teachers are more likely than others to work second jobs. Since then, there have been all sorts of stories about teachers in Oklahoma working multiple jobs—as many as six! And the stories are neither new nor limited to Oklahoma.

Presumably, teachers who take second jobs do it mostly—like anyone else—in order to supplement their salaries. Of course, low teacher salaries are a central issue in the teacher strikes that have swept the nation in recent months, so keep these teachers in mind when thinking about who might be working these second jobs. Thanks to work by Dr. Sam Sullivan and Dr. Robert Maninger at Sam Houston State University (SHSU), there’s quite a bit more to be said about teachers’ attitudes toward moonlighting.

For more than three decades, SHSU has conducted a biennial survey of Texas teachers under the auspices of the Texas State Teachers Association, the Texas affiliate of the National Education Association. Even though the survey results are from just one state, it’s an exceptionally large and diverse state and should help shed light on teachers’ attitudes that likely apply in other states as well. Also, as background, Texas teacher pay adjusted for cost of living is smack dab in the middle among all the states.

A first point: The survey results show that second jobs are way up. While the responses vary from year-to-year, both summer and school-year second jobs have increased noticeably—particularly around the Great Recession.

The survey asked moonlighting teachers how much of a raise would be needed to get them to drop their school-year jobs. As the next figure shows, the answers have been quite stable at a touch under 20 percent of salary. To me that suggests that dollars really are an important issue.

We can say something more about what predicts whether a teacher chooses to moonlight during the school year. Professors Sullivan and Maninger provided me with the underlying data from their 2016 survey. While teachers each have individual reasons for deciding about moonlighting, there are some clear average tendencies.

First, money matters, but it may not be the only thing that matters. It is noteworthy that the amount teachers say would be required to quit moonlighting is generally larger than the amount they actually make moonlighting; about 60 percent larger in fact. (A separate survey by Brown, Sullivan, and Maninger finds the same qualitative result.)

Second, supporting your family matters. Teachers who identify as the major breadwinner in their household are 12 percentage points more likely to report taking on a second job. In other words, the probability of moonlighting rises by over a third if you are the primary breadwinner.

Third, teachers’ attachment to teaching matters. Those who say they are considering leaving teaching are 9 percentage points more likely to report moonlighting. Some caution is needed here. We don’t know if teachers who moonlight actually do leave teaching, and we don’t know if teachers are moonlighting because they are unhappy in their jobs, or, if in the course of moonlighting, new career opportunities open up.

Finally, the reason we really care about public teachers moonlighting is whether doing so actually changes teachers’ classroom effectiveness. After all, research makes clear that quality teaching is the most important school-based input into education. We can think of ways it potentially could improve teaching (e.g., teachers bring new perspectives into the classroom) or make teaching worse (e.g., teachers are too tired).  From the survey results, I can tell you what teachers who moonlight say: They say it’s bad for the quality of their own teaching. (This Vox story has a nice collection of anecdotes from tired teachers.)

While we still don’t know everything we might like to know about the causes and consequences of teachers taking second jobs, thanks to the work of Sam Sullivan and Robert Maninger we do know a lot more than we would otherwise. It seems clear that money is a cause, and some loss in teaching quality is likely a consequence.

Share
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Why are teachers more likely than others to work second jobs?

You might not think of teachers as players in our growing “gig economy.” After all, a teaching job seems like the ultimate form of guaranteed employment. Turns out, a significant number of teachers do work second jobs. In fact, teachers are more likely than others to work a second job. It’s a summer thing, right? Apparently not, but we’ll get to that below.

We know a fair amount about the extent to which teachers take second jobs. We know less about why they take jobs and not too much at all about the consequences of second jobs. A teacher with a second job raises their income, of course. Does outside work distract from teaching, or does it enrich what the teacher brings to class? Is a second job a path to leaving teaching altogether, or does a second job bring in enough extra income to allow an underpaid teacher to keep teaching as their main gig? The data shared here establishes that second jobs for teachers are an issue that deserves more attention. For some of the “whys” and “consequences,” it would be awfully interesting to hear from teachers.

To begin, how do we know who works a second job? The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) conducts a year-round survey, called the American Time Use Survey, in which it asks individuals how they have spent their time both on the day of the survey and in the very recent past. In addition to asking about a person’s main occupation, the BLS asks if they worked another job in the last seven days. Our sample is made up of individuals with a college education who report being employed full-time from 2003 through 2016, giving us just over 36,000 observations.

Overall, teachers (defined as elementary and secondary teachers, excluding special ed) are about 30 percent more likely than non-teachers to work a second job based on survey responses. That comes down to about 11 percent of non-teachers and 14 percent of teachers. This figure changes when the type of teacher is considered, though. The chart below shows that elementary school teachers are only a little more likely than non-teachers to have a side job. The difference is quite a bit more for secondary school teachers.

Source: The American Time Use Survey/author’s calculations.

Among non-teachers, women and men are equally likely to hold down a second job. The situation among teachers is quite different. While female teachers are slightly more likely than female non-teachers to have a second job, male teachers are much more likely to have a second job than are their non-teaching counterparts. In fact, nearly one male teacher in five reports working a second job.

Source: The American Time Use Survey/author’s calculations.

Percentage holding a second job by month
Source: The American Time Use Survey/author’s calculations.

It would be nice to get a handle on what kind of work is involved in a second job. If a teacher is coaching football on the side while a second job for non-teachers is driving for Uber, we might feel differently than if both were driving as a second gig. While the BLS asks about the nature of second jobs, hardly anyone answers that question. (For a fun recounting of an interesting but unusual outside job, see this New York Times article.) Fortunately, the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS; I’m using the 2011-12 results) does gather some information about the nature of second jobs. The survey is only given to teachers, so we can’t compare second-job types for teachers versus non-teachers, but we can tease out a little more about what teachers do.

First thing, SASS data confirm the fraction of teachers holding second jobs. In fact, it’s a tad higher than the BLS number, with 17 percent holding a second job outside their school system. Of those second jobs held by teachers, about half are not related to teaching. Of the jobs that are related to teaching (but remember, not for their own school system), about two-thirds are either teaching or tutoring, while the other third are “related,” but not teaching. So, no, the side jobs do not appear to be mostly coaching positions. Notably, female teachers with second jobs are relatively likely to have second jobs related to teaching. For men, it’s the other way around, where second jobs not related to teaching are more common.

The SASS data also raises the possibility that part of the reason teachers are more likely to take second gigs is that they can find positions doing extra teaching—or at least something related to teaching—relatively easily.So teachers are more likely than non-teachers to hold a second job. It’s particularly secondary school teachers and male teachers who have second jobs. Why are teachers more likely to take a second job? I suspect part of the difference is due to the fact that teachers are paid less, so they have greater incentive to increase their income. But I did a quick statistical analysis which suggests that earnings differentials only explain something over a third of the difference between the two groups. That means there is something more than pay differentials that matter. (For the record, according to the sample data teachers and non-teachers work the same number of weekly hours at their main job.) This leads to intriguing questions: Why do more teachers choose second jobs? Is it the pay differentials? Or might it be that teachers have easier access to second jobs because teachers and tutors are in demand?

And perhaps most importantly, does having a second job make someone a better teacher, or does it just make them a more tired teacher?

Note: UCSB undergraduate and Gretler Fellow Isabel Steffens provided research assistance for this post.


Footnote

  1. I do want to raise one caution about interpreting the apparent summer drop in second jobs among teachers. Respondents are asked whether they had multiple jobs in the last week. It’s possible that, in July, teachers who have a non-teaching job might answer “no,” because they aren’t in the classroom during July. There’s no way to tell for sure how much of this might be going on. Since a drop in summer jobs is what the data says, that’s our best guess, but do keep in mind the caveat.

Share
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sealing the border redux: American universities are losing international students

My most recent post on the BROWN CENTER CHALKBOARD at the Brookings Institution.

One year ago, I wrote on these pages: “If new border controls prevent the entry of foreign students, or simply makes them feel unwelcome so they go elsewhere, American jobs and American students pay the price.” I regret to report that we have now started down that path.

First, the fact: College enrollment of international students is down for the first time in a long time. The drop is large, but not overwhelming—at least not yet. We’ve seen a one-year decrease of about 30,000 students, which isn’t massive. However, Department of Education data suggests that foreign-student enrollment had risen consistently for the last 35 years. Here’s a picture based on NSF data. (A nice article in Inside Higher Edgives more details.)

International students in American colleges and universities

 

In the short run, losing international students is bad for what some might think of as a pretty crass reason: International students subsidize American kids because nonresidents pay higher tuition and receive less financial aid. This is especially true at public universities. For example, at the University of California—which is the world’s largest research university system—Californians pay about $14,000 in tuition and fees. International students pay more like $41,000—that’s roughly triple. And about a third of tuition is turned around and spent on financial aid, but almost none of that goes to international students. So the effective price difference is even bigger than list price would indicate.

The immediate effect of losing foreign students falls very unevenly across institutions. Unsurprisingly, international enrollments continue to climb at some universities (typically elite or flagship public universities), while international enrollments plummet at others (typically smaller, less prestigious institutions). The resulting budget cuts at the latter often hit in the areas that are already under the most financial stress, not necessarily the areas which attract the most international students. The New York Times writes, “At Wright State University in Ohio, the French horn and tuba professors are out. … At Kansas State, Italian classes are going the way of the Roman Empire.”

The immediate budget impact is bad, but I worry also about a longer-run, more serious problem. Bringing international students to the United States has two valuable way-down-the-road outcomes. One easy-to-see benefit is that we get to cream skim, keeping some of the best students in the United States. Just as an example, many tech-entrepreneurs came to the U.S. this way. Losing international students will harm the domestic economy in the long run.

A harder-to-see benefit is that many international students who return home do so with an appreciation for what America is really like. I believe that to know us is to love us. And it’s not just a matter of affection; surprisingly large numbers of foreign government officials have American degrees. Just as an economics example, the governors of the central banks of Europe, England, Israel, Argentina, India, and Mexico all have American degrees. Though the governors of the central banks of China and Russia don’t have American degrees, each did spend a year studying at an American university. Though the benefits from these educational exports are difficult to quantify, presumably some diplomatic goodwill in foreign governments across the globe is a result.

International college students bring us economic benefits today and political benefits in the future. I really hope that, a year from now, I’m not sharing with you that things have gotten worse.

Share
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *