Panel Paper: The Impact of Layoff Threat on Teacher Mobility

Saturday, November 8, 2014 : 10:15 AM
Aztec (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Dan Goldhaber, University of Washington and Katharine O. Strunk, University of Southern California
One consequence of the Great Recession is that layoffs of public school teachers occurred at a scale previously unseen. Recent research (Boyd et al., 2010; Goldhaber and Theobald, 2013; Kraft, 2014) has shown that layoffs, which are often executed following a seniority-based, or "Last-in-First-Out” (LIFO) method, can have profound direct effects on the composition of the teacher workforce. But there are potentially important indirect effects of layoffs as well: the mere threat of being laid off may affect future teacher mobility. This issue has not previously been examined.

In this paper we assess whether different types of layoff threat affect the subsequent mobility patterns of teachers.  We utilize longitudinal data from two contexts, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and Washington State.  We consider two types of layoff threat. First, we examine how teachers respond to the receipt of a Reduction-in-Force (RIF) notice. Public school districts must provide RIF notices in the spring to any teacher who may be laid off for the next school year. However, generally only a fraction of these teachers are actually laid off. As a result, many teachers experience and respond to the threat of losing their jobs as they determine whether to remain in their district or in the profession.

Second, we explore how teachers respond to differential levels of layoff threat that result from varying policy contexts. While most layoffs are informed to some degree by teacher seniority, the weight applied to seniority as a factor governing layoffs can vary across schools and/or school districts. Specifically, LAUSD is the setting for the Reed vs. State of California, et al. court case and decision that for two years protected teachers within 45 schools from traditional LIFO policies. And in Washington State locally negotiated collective bargaining agreements determine the layoff system, placing varying degrees of weight on seniority as opposed to other teacher characteristics.

We use the variation in layoff threat to answer four questions:


  1. Does the receipt of a RIF notice affect teacher mobility (i.e. the likelihood that teachers subsequently leave their district, or (in Washington) the public school workforce)?
  2. Is teachers’ mobility impacted by their colleagues being laid off or receiving a RIF notice?
  3. Do the policies governing layoffs affect teacher mobility?
  4. Is there evidence of variation in the effects of layoff threat on teacher mobility along the distribution of teacher effectiveness?

Multinomial logistic regressions in a difference-in-difference and/or regression discontinuity framework show that the receipt of a RIF notice has considerable impact on subsequent teacher mobility, but the evidence on other forms of layoff threat is more mixed. We find little evidence that there is variation in the impact of layoff threat along the teacher effectiveness distribution.