May 1, 2019 - Economy

Teachers' "wage penalty" is fueling strikes across the U.S.

Reproduced from the Economic Policy Institute; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans are currently seeing the highest minimum wage ever, the New York Times' Ernie Tedeschi reported last week. Despite the federal minimum wage stagnating at $7.25 for 10 years, a string of moves by states and cities recently has raised the effective minimum wage to almost $12 an hour.

Yes, but: One group on the other side of that wage increase is America's teachers. "Teachers were paid 21.4% less in weekly wages than similar college graduates in 2018—after accounting for education, experience, and other factors known to affect earnings," according to a new analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.

  • Despite generous benefits packages teachers earn, in terms of total compensation (wages plus benefits) teachers earned 13.1% less than similar college graduates last year, EPI's analysis found.

The big picture: 4 of the 7 states with the largest wage gaps between teachers and similar college graduates — Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, and Oklahoma — were the site of teacher protests in 2018. Teachers in these states earned at least 26% less, according to EPI's data.

  • "It's no surprise that the states that have seen teachers strike and walk out over the past year are the states that have some of the highest teacher wage penalties," said EPI Distinguished Fellow Lawrence Mishel in a statement. "If we are going to have excellent schools, we must make sure that teachers are paid for their work."

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