Race, Poverty, and Teacher Mobility

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



This paper provides new information about the interrelated issues of teacher turnover (both within and across school districts and inside and outside of teaching) and the importance of non- pecuniary school characteristics, such as race and poverty, using new administrative data on Georgia teachers and the elementary schools in which they teach. Simple descriptive statistics indicate that teachers are more likely to change schools if they begin their teaching careers in schools with lower student test scores, schools with lower income students, or schools that have higher proportions of minority students. A linear probability and a competing risks model of transitions out of first teaching jobs allow us to separate the importance of these highly correlated school characteristics. The estimates from the model imply that teachers are much more likely to exit schools with large proportions of minority students, and that the other univariate statistical relationships associated with student test scores and poverty rates are driven to a large extent by the correlations of these variables with the minority variable. Thus we find that, while the common notion that teachers are more likely to leave high poverty schools is correct, it occurs because teachers are more likely to leave a particular type of poor school - that which has a large proportion of minority students.