Since becoming a teacher, I’ve never been one to complain about teacher pay. In all honesty, part of that is because I work for a school district that pays its teachers about as well as any public school district can and does. I know in that sense I am very fortunate. But having come from a different profession, and teaching economics where we frequently focus on incentives, this is a very interesting study.


Peter Dolton and Oscar Marcanero-Gutierrez, two economics professors at the University of London and University of Malga respectively, collected data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) annual Education at a Glance reports, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) to determine the relationship between pay and student achievement. They concluded that – guess what? – better teacher pay leads to teacher quality and that leads to improved student performance.

In their analysis, Dolton and Gutierrez identify two key factors that determine how professional pay enhances teacher quality, particularly as it pertains to attracting new teachers. One, higher pay promotes competition and therefore more and better teaching applicants. Secondly, improving pay increases the “national status” of the profession, again making it more attractive to potential recruits.