Teacher Pensions Blog

As we have written about before, female educators in Illinois earn on average $7,775 less than their male colleagues. This disparity in salary translates into average annual pensions that are $3,800 less valuable. In a recent blog post, I found that at least some of the salary and pension gap is derived from the fact that most female educators work in elementary schools, which have lower average salaries compared with high schools where most men work.

In this post, we will look into whether different rates of educational attainment among men and women contribute to the salary gap. This is an important question since in most school districts teachers can earn a significant salary increase, the so-called “master’s bump,” once they earn their master’s degree.

To do this, we looked at the rate of female and male educators who hold at least a master’s degree at each year of experience, and then we compared that trend to the salary data. In both cases, higher numbers correspond with a gap favoring male educators, while lower numbers represent a gap favoring female educators.

As shown in the graph below, there’s a gender salary gap (the orange line) even among educators with one year of experience, and the gap steadily increases over time, and growing to $12,567 among those with exactly 30 years of experience. The pattern on educational attainment (blue line), on the other hand, shows a different trend: women tend to hold master’s degrees at slightly higher rates at most experience levels.

Educational Attainment Rates do not appear to Influence the Gender-Based Salary Gap

Source: Author’s analysis of data from Illinois Teacher Service Record (TRS) 2012. Data adjusted for cost of living using the Comparable Wage Index.

These data show that men with six or fewer years of experience have slightly higher educational attainment, but after that the advantage goes to women. One might expect that with higher educational attainment, women’s salaries would be higher. But no, men have higher salaries at every experience level despite having worse educational credentials. The higher rate of educational attainment for women is insufficient to overcome other barriers to higher salaries, such as working disproportionately at the elementary level.

In the end, educational attainment does not explain why there is a large and persistent pay gap between male and female educators in Illinois. We will further explore other features and potential explanations of the gender-pay gap in future posts.