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The Economics of Teacher Quality

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  • Lakdawalla, Darius

Abstract

Concern is often voiced about the quality of American schoolteachers. This paper suggests that, while the relative quality of teachers is declining, this decline may be the result of technological changes that have raised the price of skilled workers outside teaching without affecting the productivity of skilled teachers. Growth in the price of skilled workers can cause schools to lower the relative quality of teachers and raise teacher quantity instead. Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth demonstrates that wage and schooling are good measures of teacher quality. Analysis of U.S. census microdata then reveals that the relative schooling and experience-adjusted relative wages of U.S. schoolteachers have fallen significantly from 1940 to 1990. Moreover, class sizes have also fallen substantially. The declines in class size and in relative quality seem correlated over time and space with growth in the relative price of skilled workers.

Suggested Citation

  • Lakdawalla, Darius, 2006. "The Economics of Teacher Quality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(1), pages 285-329, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:y:2006:v:49:i:1:p:285-329
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/501083
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    1. DiNardo, John & Fortin, Nicole M & Lemieux, Thomas, 1996. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(5), pages 1001-1044, September.
    2. Joshua Angrist & Victor Lavy, 2002. "New Evidence on Classroom Computers and Pupil Learning," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(482), pages 735-765, October.
    3. Card, David & Krueger, Alan B, 1992. "Does School Quality Matter? Returns to Education and the Characteristics of Public Schools in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(1), pages 1-40, February.
    4. Sean P. Corcoran & William N. Evans & Robert S. Schwab, 2002. "Changing Labor Market Opportunities for Women and the Quality of Teachers 1957-1992," NBER Working Papers 9180, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Ehrenberg, Ronald G. & Brewer, Dominic J., 1994. "Do school and teacher characteristics matter? Evidence from High School and Beyond," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 1-17, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Falch, Torberg & Johansen, Kåre & Strøm, Bjarne, 2009. "Teacher shortages and the business cycle," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 648-658, December.
    2. Gilpin, Gregory A., 2011. "Reevaluating the effect of non-teaching wages on teacher attrition," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 598-616, August.
    3. Andersson, Christian & Waldenström, Nina, 2007. "Teacher supply and the market for teachers," Working Paper Series 2007:5, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    4. Gilpin, Gregory & Kaganovich, Michael, 2012. "The quantity and quality of teachers: Dynamics of the trade-off," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(3), pages 417-429.
    5. Gregory Gilpin & Michael Kaganovich, 2009. "The Quantity and Quality of Teachers: A Dynamic Trade-off," CESifo Working Paper Series 2516, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. Grönqvist, Erik & Vlachos, Jonas, 2008. "One Size Fits All? The Effects of Teacher Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Abilities on Student Achievement," CEPR Discussion Papers 7086, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Grönqvist, Erik & Vlachos, Jonas, 2008. "One Size Fits All? The Effects of Teacher Cognitive and Non-cognitive Abilities on Student," Working Paper Series 779, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    8. Hatsor, Limor, 2012. "Occupational choice: Teacher quality versus teacher quantity," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 608-623.
    9. Grönqvist, Erik & Vlachos, Jonas, 2016. "One size fits all? The effects of teachers' cognitive and social abilities on student achievement," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 138-150.
    10. Li Han & Jiaxin Xie, 2015. "Can Conditional Grants Attract Better Students: Evidence from Chinese Normal Universities," HKUST IEMS Working Paper Series 2015-14, HKUST Institute for Emerging Market Studies, revised Mar 2015.

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