09 May 2008

That's What I Want

Two disconnected articles recently caught my eye as I paged through my RSS feeds. The first one, Male Call: Recruiting More Men to Teach Elementary School, was of interest not just because I am spending my days in an elementary which has only one male teacher...but also because I wondered if anything had changed since I blogged about this very same topic three years ago. The short answer is "no." The interesting part of the more recent article was found in the comments. Many of the commenters blamed low pay as the reason few men are attracted to the profession. It makes me wonder if that is because of some sort of societal expectation that is different from what I posted about in days of yore. Is the pressure on men to perform financially so great that teaching isn't an appealing career option?

Education Week had a different take on things, not confining the pay issue to a particular gender, although they recognize The Teaching Penalty.

Back in 1960, women teachers were paid 14.7 percent more than other women with similar educations. But that trend reversed, and by 2000, women teachers were being paid 13.2 percent less than their educational peers in other fields. Indeed, over the past 10 years the latter trend has accelerated; the pay gap that was a 4.3 percent shortfall in 1996 became a 15.1 percent chasm for all teachers by 2006—a growth of 10.8 percentage points. Teachers were bypassed by the strong wage growth of the late 1990s and, more recently, continued to lose ground while college-graduate wages stagnated.

The rising pay gap will make it difficult to recruit teachers—and present an even more daunting challenge in retaining them. For teachers starting their careers—those between the ages of 25 and 34—the 12 percent pay penalty today is only 0.5 percentage points larger than that of their peers in 1996. But for women who are experienced teachers—those ages 45 to 54—the pay deficit has grown by 18 percentage points over the same period.

Sure, some say that teaching is such a unique profession that it is impossible to compare it with other occupations. But our study took pains to account for the special circumstances surrounding teachers’ pay and benefits. Because teachers’ annual work schedules are different from those of other professions, we compared wages earned for a week of work, rather than the entire year.

Since teachers may receive relatively generous health insurance and retirement benefits, we took total compensation into account—and found that it narrowed the pay gap by just 3 percentage points in 2006. In other words, the 15 percent weekly pay disadvantage based on wages alone translates to a 12 percent disadvantage when you factor in benefits. That’s not enough to transform the big picture, or the big point: Teaching just doesn’t pay nearly as well as the alternatives.

I haven't seen an article which takes a look at the pay issue this way, but I like the approach. It makes sense to include benefits as a factor. Either way, the results aren't pretty.

Maybe it isn't a matter of gender specific issues in terms of what both attracts teachers to the profession and what makes them stay. It is the concrete rewards in terms of money (and what it can provide) and recognition.


hschinske said...

The weird thing is that I see plenty of well-spoken, apparently educated men doing jobs that I *know* pay less than teaching, and have less status. Where I live, a lot of grocery store clerks are men, for instance, and middle-aged ones at that.


Joe said...

Well, I don't think money can quite explain what drives teachers into and possibly out of the profession. However, at my school site very few of the newer teachers (less than 10 years of experience) provide the primary household income. Many of these teachers report "being able to teach" because their smaller-than-average income is offset by a spouse that makes more. This seems to hold equally true for both male and female teachers.