I have uncanny experiences reading the bigtime press sometimes. I’ve complained before about how Paul Krugman brings up the rear, sometimes years after I’d written about them. See here for some examples. Or here.
The newspaper of record—do we still call it that in the post-print days?—has done it again. Catherine Rampell the other day (“Does It Pay to Become a Teacher?):
The United States spends a lot of money on education; including both public and private spending, America spends 7.3 percent of its gross domestic product on all levels of education combined. That’s above the average for the O.E.C.D., where the share is 6.2 percent.
Despite the considerable amount of money channeled into education here, teaching jobs in the United States are not as well paid as they are abroad, at least when you consider the other opportunities available to teachers in each country.
In most rich countries, teachers earn less, on average, than other workers who have college degrees. But the gap is much wider in the United States than in most of the rest of the developed world.
The average primary-school teacher in the United States earns about 67 percent of the salary of a average college-educated worker in the United States. The comparable figure is 82 percent across the overall O.E.C.D. For teachers in lower secondary school (roughly the years Americans would call middle school), the ratio in the United States is 69 percent, compared to 85 percent across the O.E.C.D. The average upper secondary teacher earns 72 percent of the salary for the average college-educated worker in the United States, compared to 90 percent for the overall O.E.C.D.
Me, a year-and-a-half ago (“Schooling in capitalist America 2011”):
In 2007, the U.S. spent 7.6% of GDP on education, 1.9 points above the OECD average….
Putting all that together, as the graph above shows, the share of GDP devoted to teachers’ salaries is rather low in the U.S. Big spending on teachers doesn’t necessarily guarantee good results. But this is a strange place to be directing the budgetary axe.
Teachers aren’t all that highly paid in this country. Secondary teachers with fifteen years experience earn 35% less than the average college graduate, 22 points below the OECD average, and 38 points behind Finland (see graph below). The figures are worse for primary teachers — 40% below the average college grad.
A skeptic might counter, yes, but U.S. overall incomes are higher than many foreign countries, so teachers are doing pretty well in absolute terms despite their poor standing relative to other occupations. But that skeptic would be wrong. An American primary school teacher is paid about $40 per hour of teaching time, $10 below the OECD average, and more than $16 below Finnish rates. Upper secondary teachers (see graph below) earn $45 per classroom hour in the U.S. $26 below the OECD average, and almost $37 below Finland.
And my version has more graphs too.