Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Principal Race, Ethnicity, and Gender Explain Teacher Labor Market Outcomes: An Analysis of Teacher Hiring and Retention

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 2:45 PM
Jasmine (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jason Grissom, Vanderbilt University
Research demonstrates that the racial, ethnic, and gender composition of a school’s teaching faculty can matter for student outcomes and differences in outcomes across student groups (Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2007; Dee, 2004; Dee, 2005; Grissom, Kern, & Rodriguez, 2015), yet the factors that determine how teachers from different demographic backgrounds come to be distributed across schools are not well understood. Building on studies suggesting that school principals play key roles in teachers’ labor market decisions (e.g., Boyd et al., 2011) and research on private sector firms connecting manager demographic characteristics to patterns in employee hiring and dismissal (Giuliano, Levine, & Leonard, 2009; 2011), this study tests whether the race/ethnicity and gender of a school’s principal predicts the characteristics of teachers hired and retained in the school. Unlike prior work demonstrating empirical connections between principal and teacher race/ethnicity and gender and teacher labor market outcomes in cross-sectional data (e.g., Grissom & Keiser, 2011), the study utilizes longitudinal state administrative records to provide estimates of the effects of school leader demographics derived from observing teacher hiring and retention in the same school under leaders with different characteristics over time.

In particular, I make use of data on teachers, principals, and schools from a Midwestern state from 1994 to 2010. In the hiring analysis, I model the probability that a newly hired teacher (either novice or transfer) falls into a given race/ethnicity or gender group (e.g., black, Hispanic, female) as a function of principal characteristics, time-varying school characteristics (including student demographic composition), and year and, importantly, school fixed effects. In the retention analysis, I model the probability that a given teacher exits the school by next year as a function of teacher race/ethnicity and gender, principal race/ethnicity and gender, and the relevant interactions, again including control variables and year and school fixed effects. Secondary models consider teacher outcomes separately by such school characteristics as school level and locale (e.g., urban, rural). 

Results show that principal gender and especially race/ethnicity are important predictors of teacher labor market outcomes. Within the same schools over time, the switch from a male to female principal is associated with about a 1 percentage point increase in the probability that each new teacher hire is female. A switch from a white to a black principal is associated with a 7 percentage point increase in the probability that a new hire is black; a switch to a Hispanic principal increases the probability that a new teacher hire is Hispanic by 3 percentage points. Patterns for teacher retention are similar. Female teachers’ turnover propensities are somewhat lower in female-led schools. Black and Hispanic teachers are substantially less likely to leave schools led by principals with whom they share a racial/ethnic background (3 and 6 percentage points, respectively). These results suggest that attention to the distribution of principal characteristics across schools may be a strategy for altering the distribution of teachers but also raise concerns about the racial/ethnic and gender dynamics of teacher-principal relationships and of teacher labor decisions more generally.