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Returns to Seniority among Public School Teachers


  • Dale Ballou
  • Michael Podgursky


Returns to seniority account for a substantial share of public K-12 expenditures. Over the first ten to 15 years of a career, public school teachers enjoy average wage growth at least equivalent to that of other white-collar workers. Explanations for this structure in terms of human capital or costly monitoring lack theoretical and empirical support. A steeper wage-tenure profile reduces turnover, but it is doubtful that the costs of turnover are high enough to make this an optimal use of school resources. We conclude that the structure of teacher pay in public education is more consistent with rent-seeking than efficient contracting.

Suggested Citation

  • Dale Ballou & Michael Podgursky, 2002. "Returns to Seniority among Public School Teachers," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(4), pages 892-912.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:37:y:2002:i:4:p:892-912

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    5. Dale Ballou & Michael Podgursky, 1996. "Teacher Pay and Teacher Quality," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number tptq, November.
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    7. Dale Ballou, 1996. "Do Public Schools Hire the Best Applicants?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(1), pages 97-133.
    8. Monk, David H., 1994. "Subject area preparation of secondary mathematics and science teachers and student achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 125-145, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Maria D. Fitzpatrick, 2014. "Intergovernmental (Dis)incentives, Free-Riding, Teacher Salaries and Teacher Pensions," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 15-220, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    2. Hanushek, Eric A. & Rivkin, Steven G. & Schiman, Jeffrey C., 2016. "Dynamic effects of teacher turnover on the quality of instruction," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 132-148.
    3. Czyżewski Bazyli & Polcyn Jan, 2016. "Education Quality and its Drivers in Rural Areas of Poland," Eastern European Countryside, De Gruyter Open, vol. 22(1), pages 197-227, December.
    4. Barbara Bruns & David Evans & Javier Luque, 2012. "Achieving World-Class Education in Brazil : The Next Agenda," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2383.
    5. Eric A. Hanushek & Steven G. Rivkin, 2010. "The Quality and Distribution of Teachers under the No Child Left Behind Act," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(3), pages 133-150, Summer.
    6. John V. Winters, 2011. "Teacher Salaries and Teacher Unions: A Spatial Econometric Approach," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 64(4), pages 747-764, July.
    7. Eric A. Hanushek & Steven G. Rivkin, 2010. "Constrained Job Matching: Does Teacher Job Search Harm Disadvantaged Urban Schools?," NBER Working Papers 15816, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Kristine L. West, 2015. "Teachers’ Unions, Compensation, and Tenure," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(2), pages 294-320, April.
    9. Martin, Stephanie M., 2010. "The determinants of school district salary incentives: An empirical analysis of, where and why," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 1143-1153, December.
    10. Paul Hek & Daniel Vuuren, 2011. "Are older workers overpaid? A literature review," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 18(4), pages 436-460, August.
    11. Brunner, Eric J. & Squires, Tim, 2013. "The bargaining power of teachers’ unions and the allocation of school resources," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 15-27.
    12. West, Kristine Lamm & Mykerezi, Elton, 2011. "Teachers' unions and compensation: The impact of collective bargaining on salary schedules and performance pay schemes," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 99-108, February.
    13. Jean-Michel Plassard & Nhu Tran Thi Thanh, 2009. "Liberté de choix des élèves et concurrence des établissements : un survey de l'analyse du pilotage des systèmes éducatifs par les quasi-marchés," Revue d'économie industrielle, De Boeck Université, vol. 0(2), pages 99-130.
    14. Polcyn, Jan, 2017. "Edukacja jako dobro publiczne - próba kwantyfikacji
      [Education as a public good – an attempt at quantification]
      ," MPRA Paper 76606, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2017.
    15. Sally Hudson, 2010. "The Effects of Performance-Based Teacher Pay on Student Achievement," Discussion Papers 09-023, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    16. Heutel, Garth, 2009. "Testing implications of a tournament model of school district salary schedules," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 143-151, February.

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