NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Declining Quality of Teachers

Darius Lakdawalla

NBER Working Paper No. 8263
Issued in April 2001
NBER Program(s):   LS   ED

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.

download in pdf format
   (2707 K)

email paper

This paper is available as PDF (2707 K) or via email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8263

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Corcoran, Evans, and Schwab w9180 Changing Labor Market Opportunities for Women and the Quality of Teachers 1957-1992
Hanushek, Kain, O'Brien, and Rivkin w11154 The Market for Teacher Quality
Boyd, Lankford, Loeb, Ronfeldt, and Wyckoff w15966 The Role of Teacher Quality in Retention and Hiring: Using Applications-to-Transfer to Uncover Preferences of Teachers and Schools
Manski w1539 Academic Ability, Earnings, and the Decision to Become a Teacher: Evidence From the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972
Muralidharan and Sundararaman w15323 Teacher Performance Pay: Experimental Evidence from India
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us