NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 7, 2008

Supporting the almost-universal belief that teachers are underpaid, Education Week published an article on January 10 stating, "public school teachers nationwide make 88 cents for every dollar earned in 16 comparable occupations," including accountants, architects, clergy, computer programmers, insurance underwriters, physical therapists, and registered nurses.

The long-lived conventional wisdom is that teachers are underpaid.  That belief is virtually unanimous.  But it runs contrary to many respectable research studies that conclude teacher salaries are at least equal to, if not in excess of, compensation for comparable occupations:

  • Jay P. Greene and Marcus A Winters found that the average public school teacher in the United States earned $34.06 per hour in 2005, and the average public school teacher was paid 36 percent more per hour than the average non-sales white-collar worker and 11 percent more than the average professional specialty and technical worker.
  • Richard Vedder, an Ohio University professor of economics and senior fellow at the Independent Institute found that teachers earn more per hour than architects, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, statisticians, biological and life scientists, registered nurses, university-level foreign-language teachers, and editors and reporters.
  • Michael Podgursky, an economics professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia and expert on teacher compensation concluded that when adjusted for annual weeks of work, teacher pay and benefits compare favorably with those of other college-educated workers.

To objectively evaluate teacher benefits relative to other occupations, several relevant conditions need to be factored in.  For example:

  • Teachers work about 20 percent fewer days annually than other white-collar workers.
  • Consequently, a teacher paid $60,000 per year is actually being paid $72,000 at the adjusted rate.
  • Add another 25 percent (on average) for retirement and health insurance, and the annual benefit package increases to $87,000.

Source: Richard G. Neal, "Report Finds Teachers' Pay Is More than Adequate Across the Country," Heartland Institute, April 1, 2008; based upon: Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters, "How Much Are Public School Teachers Paid?" Manhattan Institute, No. 50, January 2007; Richard Vedder, "Comparable Worth," by Richard Vedder, Education Next, Spring 2003; and, Michael Podgursky, "Is Teacher Pay Adequate?" Education Working Paper, Department of Economics, University of Missouri-Columbia, April 4, 2006.

For Green and Winters study:

For Podgursky study: 


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