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Special Report

The Salary Gap

By Christy Lynn Wilson — January 13, 2000 1 min read

A growing gap between salaries for public and private school teachers and other college graduates may make it increasingly difficult to lure and keep qualified people in the classroom, according to an Education Week study conducted for Quality Counts 2000.

Across the country and in every state, such teachers are paid less on average than other college-educated adults. As they get older and acquire more education, the gap grows much bigger.

And the pay differences have worsened during the economic boom of the 1990s.

Education Week worked with Martha T. Scobee of the University of Louisville’s Kentucky Data Center to analyze earnings reported by adults to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The study examined data compiled by the Census Bureau in its “Current Population Survey: March Supplement.”

The survey asked teachers and other adults to report their total earned income over the course of the previous year.

According to the study, in 1998 teachers ages 22 to 28 earned an average of $7,894 less than other college graduates of the same age.

However, that gap is three times greater for teachers ages 44 to 50, who earned $23,655 less than their peers in other occupations.

Moreover, graduate studies yield only half the payoff for teachers as for individuals in other occupations.

On average, teachers in 1998 with master’s degrees earned $12,425 more than teachers who had only bachelor’s degrees; Americans outside the teaching profession earned an average of $24,648 more per year with a master’s than with a bachelor’s degree.

That all adds up to much lower potential earnings for teachers who remain in the classroom--even those who earn advanced degrees.

In fact, teachers ages 44 to 50 who held master’s degrees in 1998 earned a whopping $32,511 less than master’s degree holders of similar ages in other occupations--or $43,313 vs. $75,824--the study found.

While the prosperity train raced across the nation in the latter half of the 1990s, teachers have been left at the station. From 1994 to 1998, salaries for bachelor’s-degree holders outside teaching have Increased 17 percent, or $6,808, after adjusting for inflation.

And the average salary for people with master’s degrees in nonteaching fields increased 32 percent over inflation, or $17,505. The average inflation-adjusted salary for teachers with either degree increased less than 1 percent over the same period.

A version of this article appeared in the January 13, 2000 edition of Education Week