New Evidence on Teacher Labor Supply

February 2011
Brian Jacob, Mimi Engel

Recent evidence on the large variance in teacher effectiveness has spurred renewed interest in teacher labor market policies. A substantial body of prior research documents that more highly qualified teachers tend to work in more advantaged schools, although this literature cannot determine the relative importance of supply versus demand factors in generating this equilibrium outcome. To isolate the importance of teacher labor supply, we attended three large teacher job fairs in Chicago during the summer of 2006 and collected detailed information on the specific schools at which teachers interviewed. We document a substantial variation in the number of applicants per school, with some schools having fewer than five applicants and others schools having over 300 applicants, even after controlling for the number and type of positions advertised at the school. We show that the demographic characteristics of schools strongly predict the number of applicants to the school in the expected direction. Interestingly, the geographic location of the school is an extremely strong predictor of applications, even after controlling for a host of observable school and neighborhood characteristics.

We would like to thank Toby Park, Sharon Traiberman, and Elias Walsh for their research assistance and the Chicago Public Schools’ Department of Human Resources for allowing us to collect data at the 2006 job fairs and for sharing administrative records. We especially thank Nancy Slavin and Raquel Saucedo at CPS for all of their help at various stages in this project. Generous financial support was provided by the WT Grant Foundation. All errors are our own. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Education Policy Initiative.