I didn’t believe it at first either, but digging into the data showed otherwise.
Let’s back up. When you do these statistics you have to do them carefully, because you have to compare the total compensation between different types of jobs. Benefits, health insurance, hours worked per week, etc.
EPI’s Jeffrey Keefe had a follow-up last week from his original research where he provides a chart of different types of public employees and their mean and median income, along with some distributional statistics.
One thing that jumps out is that, using his chart, the mean is only ~3% more than the median for unionized Wisconsin public workers. That’s a pretty tight and symmetrical distribution. Normally, if some people are being more rewarded than others to a large degree, then the mean should skyrocket above the median. For Police and Sherriff’s Patrol Officers, the median is actually higher than the mean, which you rarely see in labor markets.
Teachers make up around 70% of the people pulled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Keefe’s study. In order to dig deeper in teacher’s salaries, I went to the Statistical Information Center – School Staff and Salary Data from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. There’s a lot of cool information there. Scroll down to “Teachers”, and you can get the salaries and other information on over 400 districts.
I’m not going to control for all the important things that are necessary to do this right – education, age, gender, race, etc. Just looking at the raw numbers: The 2009 average salary across the averages for all districts is $48,267. The Census Bureau’s Median Household Income by State – Single-Year Estimates has the medium household income at $51,237. A random household is going to take home a larger salary than a teacher in Wisconsin.
1. Salary information skews high, so the average (mean) is higher than the median. The average teacher’s salary is lower than the median household in Wisconsin. Since the average household income in Wisconsin is going to be even higher than the median, this is a very low-ball estimate. (Can we get average household income by state?)
The more you control for things, the sharper this distinction will get. According to the Census, only around 22.4% of people in Wisconsin have a college degree. Since college education is expected for teachers, we aren’t even comparing the same education bucket and they are already behind.
2. If you take being “middle-class” as having a median wage, then being a teacher is not a middle-class job as it stands. A household with a teacher will need to put additional labor into the marketplace in order to have a median amount of wages.
3. If you take being “middle-class” as having a baseline bucket of security goods like health care and retirement, then teachers are doing better. Teachers will have better benefits than the median household – Keefe explains these numbers in detail. But when it comes to other college educated workers, they are going to get blown out of the water total compensation-wise. And these security goods are precisely what unions bring, and also what has the target over them in this recession.
4. How’s the growth rate of salaries? I added the 2010 salaries with the category for fringe benefits (which includes health care, retirement, and other benefits) and and compared them to the 2000 values. The overall yearly rate of growth on total compensation is 3.36%. Higher than inflation – the CPI is humming along at around 2.4% a year over the past ten years. I’ll leave it to education experts to determine how much value has been added in those ten years – Wisconsin certainly does well in educating its children – but it is worth noting that public educators have taken hits in this recent recession, and are willing to take an additional haircut.
But that’s not what this is about. It’s about preventing public unions from having any say. The public unions under attack are willing to take benefit and pay cuts. But conservatives want to use this crisis to make significant gains in ending public labor unions.