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Are Teacher Absences Worth Worrying About in the U.S.?

  • Charles T. Clotfelter
  • Helen F. Ladd
  • Jacob L. Vigdor

Using detailed data from North Carolina, we examine the frequency, incidence, and consequences of teacher absences in public schools, as well as the impact of an absence disincentive policy. The incidence of teacher absences is regressive: schools in the poorest quartile averaged almost one extra sick day per teacher than schools in the highest income quartile, and schools with persistently high rates of teacher absence were much more likely to serve low-income than high-income students. In regression models incorporating teacher fixed effects, absences are associated with lower student achievement in elementary grades. Finally, we present evidence that the demand for discretionary absences is price-elastic. Our estimates suggest that a policy intervention that simultaneously raised teacher base salaries and broadened financial penalties for absences could both raise teachers' expected income and lower districts' expected costs.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13648.

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Date of creation: Nov 2007
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Publication status: published as Education Finance and Policy Spring 2009, Vol. 4, No. 2, Pages 115-149 Posted Online April 15, 2009. (doi:10.1162/edfp.2009.4.2.115)
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13648
Note: ED
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  1. Andrea Ichino & Enrico Moretti, 2006. "Biological Gender Differences, Absenteeism and the Earning Gap," NBER Working Papers 12369, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Duflo, Esther & Hanna, Rema & Ryan, Stephen, 2008. "Monitoring Works: Getting Teachers to Come to School," CEPR Discussion Papers 6682, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Paul Glewwe & Nauman Ilias & Michael Kremer, 2003. "Teacher Incentives," NBER Working Papers 9671, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Bradley, Steve & Green, Colin & Leeves, Gareth, 2007. "Worker absence and shirking: Evidence from matched teacher-school data," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 319-334, June.
  5. Ronald G. Ehrenberg & Randy A. Ehrenberg & Daniel I. Rees & Eric L. Ehrenberg, 1991. "School District Leave Policies, Teacher Absenteeism, and Student Achievement," NBER Working Papers 2874, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Alan Krueger, 1997. "Experimental Estimates of Education Production Functions," Working Papers 758, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  7. Nazmul Chaudhury & Jeffrey Hammer & Michael Kremer & Karthik Muralidharan & F. Halsey Rogers, 2006. "Missing in Action: Teacher and Health Worker Absence in Developing Countries," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 91-116, Winter.
  8. Clotfelter, Charles & Glennie, Elizabeth & Ladd, Helen & Vigdor, Jacob, 2008. "Would higher salaries keep teachers in high-poverty schools? Evidence from a policy intervention in North Carolina," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1352-1370, June.
  9. Maarten Lindeboom & Marcel Kerkhofs, 2000. "Multistate Models For Clustered Duration Data - An Application To Workplace Effects On Individual Sickness Absenteeism," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(4), pages 668-684, November.
  10. Abhijit Banerjee & Esther Duflo, 2006. "Addressing Absence," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 117-132, Winter.
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