Those darn overpaid NJ teachers sucking the life out of the lagging economy


I start this entry with a graph. We’ve all been hearing about the rough economic times and troubled state budgets. And, in New Jersey we’ve been hearing about how public employees should take the hit, just like private sector employees. At least some media outlets love to to toss around the bombastic rhetoric about how everyone else is suffering and has been for years… while those damn teacher salaries – because of their powerful unions – have just continued to climb and climb – seemingly leaving the rest of us  in the dust.

Well, above is one verison of the story – a comparison of teacher wages with wages from other professions for individuals aged 25 to 40 holding a bachelors or masters degree (degree levels held by most teachers). For this analysis I use hourly wages drawn from decennial census data ( and from the American Community Survey (ACS for 2005). Teacher wages are shown on the blue line, and were relatively competitive in 1980 according to these data. Since 1990 teacher wages have lagged significantly relative to other individuals with a BA or MA (and similar age span) in other professions.

I too was surprised by this.


Published by schoolfinance101

Bruce Baker is an Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. From 1997 to 2008 he was a professor at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. He is lead author with Preston Green (Penn State University) and Craig Richards (Teachers College, Columbia University) of Financing Education Systems, a graduate level textbook on school finance policy published by Merrill/Prentice-Hall. Professor Baker has written a multitude of peer reviewed research articles on state school finance policy, teacher labor markets, school leadership labor markets and higher education finance and policy. His recent work has focused on measuring cost variations associated with schooling contexts and student population characteristics, including ways to better design state school finance policies and local district allocation formulas (including Weighted Student Funding) for better meeting the needs of students. Baker, along with Preston Green of Penn State University are co-authors of the chapter on Conceptions of Equity in the recently released Handbook of Research Education Finance and Policy, and co-authors of the chapter on the Politics of Education Finance in the Handbook of Education Politics and Policy and co-authors of the chapter on School Finance in the Handbook of Education Policy of the American Educational Research Association. Professor Baker has also consulted for state legislatures, boards of education and other organizations on education policy and school finance issues and has testified in state school finance litigation in Kansas, Missouri and Arizona. He is a member of the Think Tank Review Panel, a group of academic researchers who conduct technical reviews of publicly released think tank reports on education policy issues.

4 thoughts on “Those darn overpaid NJ teachers sucking the life out of the lagging economy

  1. Bruce,

    Is there a way to make your chart larger? For those of us with post-40 eyes, the detail is impossible to see.

    Yours in decrepitude…..

    1. For a clearer view, right click on the chart and save it to your desktop and open in a graphics program. Unfortunately, this blog format has my image width and file size limited. And, I’ve just been cutting and pasting figures I already have… not taking much time to revise for the blog…

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