Special Report

States With the Most Underpaid Teachers


To identify the states with the most underpaid teachers, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed each state’s teacher pay penalty from the report, “Teacher pay penalty dips but persists in 2019,” published Sept. 17, 2020 by the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank.

The teacher wage penalty is regression-adjusted and represents how much less, in percentage terms, public school teachers are paid in weekly wages relative to other college-educated workers (after accounting for factors known to affect earnings such as education, experience, and state residence). The EPI used data pooled from 2014 to 2019 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey to calculate the pay penalty. The wage sample was restricted to full-time workers (working at least 35 hours per week), 18 to 64 years old with at least a bachelor’s degree. Click here to see EPI’s full methodology.

It is important to note that because teachers tend to enjoy more attractive benefits packages than other professionals, the measure of relative teacher wages overstates the teacher disadvantage in total compensation.

To supplement and provide context for the ranking, we calculated the average wage of public high school teachers in every state using data from the BLS’ Occupational Employment Survey. We calculated a weighted average annual income of non-teacher college-educated workers in each state using BLS employment projections for 2019-2029 for occupations that require at least a bachelor’s degree.

Current spending by each state on public elementary and secondary schools came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 Annual Survey of School System Finances. Spending includes instruction, salaries, employee benefits, general administration, and school administration.

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