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The Declining Quality of Teachers

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  • Darius Lakdawalla

Abstract

Concern is often voiced about the declining quality of American schoolteachers. This paper shows that, while the relative quality of teachers is declining, this decline is a result of technical change, which improves the specialized knowledge of skilled workers outside teaching, but not the general knowledge of schoolteachers. This raises the price of skilled teachers, but not their productivity. Schools respond by lowering the relative skill of teachers and raising teacher quantity. On the other hand, college professors, who teach specialized knowledge, are predicted to experience increases in skill relative to schoolteachers. Finally, the lagging productivity of primary schools is predicted to raise the unit cost of primary education. These predictions appear consistent with the data. Analysis of US Census microdata suggests that, from the 1900 birth cohort to the 1950 birth cohort, the relative schooling of teachers has declined by about three years, and the human capital of teachers may have declined in value relative to that of college graduates by as much as thirty percent, but the teacher-student ratio has more than doubled over the last half century in a wide array of developed countries. Moreover, the per student cost of primary school education in the US has also risen dramatically over the past 50 years. Finally, the human capital of college professors has risen by nearly thirty percent relative to schoolteachers.

Suggested Citation

  • Darius Lakdawalla, 2001. "The Declining Quality of Teachers," NBER Working Papers 8263, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8263
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Marigee Bacolod, 2006. "Do Alternative Opportunities Matter? The Role of Female Labor Markets in the Decline of Teacher Quality," Working Papers 06-22, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    2. Michael Podgursky, 2006. "Is Teacher Pay Adequate?," Working Papers 0601, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
    3. Luis Armando Galvis & Leonardo Bonilla Mejía, 2011. "Las desigualdades en la distribución del nivel educativo de los docentes en Colombia," DOCUMENTOS DE TRABAJO SOBRE ECONOMÍA REGIONAL Y URBANA 008918, BANCO DE LA REPÚBLICA - ECONOMÍA REGIONAL.
    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. Player, Daniel, 2009. "Monetary returns to academic ability in the public teacher labor market," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 277-285, April.
    6. Peter Temin, 2002. "Teacher Quality and the Future of America," NBER Working Papers 8898, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Pugno, Maurizio, 2006. "The service paradox and endogenous economic growth," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 99-115, January.
    8. Emiliana Vegas & Ilana Umansky, 2005. "Improving Teaching and Learning through Effective Incentives : What Can We Learn from Education Reforms in Latin America?," World Bank Other Operational Studies 8694, The World Bank.
    9. Limor Hatsor, 2014. "Allocation of Resources in Educational Production: The Budget Puzzle," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 16(6), pages 854-883, December.
    10. Kaoru Nabeshima, 2003. "Raising the quality of secondary education in East Asia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3140, The World Bank.
    11. Richey, Jeremiah, 2014. "Divergent Trends in U.S. Teacher Quality: 1980-2010," MPRA Paper 55637, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Peter Temin, 2002. "Teacher Quality and the Future of America," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 28(3), pages 285-300, Summer.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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