The Demographics of Teaching: Why Don't More Men Become Teachers?

In a recent New York Times article, Motoko Rich discusses the increasing gender imbalance in the teaching profession, a trend analyzed by Richard M. Ingersoll, a professor of education and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues in their report: "Seven Trends: The Transformation of the Teaching Force."

Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Education, Ingersoll, Merrill, and Stuckey examined the demographics of teaching and uncovered seven prominent trends suggesting that the teaching force is becoming: 1. larger; 2. grayer; 3. greener; 4. more female; 5. more diverse, by race-ethnicity; 6. consistent in academic ability; and 7. less stable.

Many traditionally male professions (doctors, lawyers, architects, ...) have opened up to women over the last several decades.  Surprisingly, this has not translated into fewer women entering teaching: "Both the number of women entering teaching and the proportion of teachers who are female have gone up. The SASS data, along with other NCES data, show that since the early 1980s there has been a steady increase in the proportion of teachers who are female, from 67 percent in 1980-81 to over 76 percent in 2011-12."

The increasing proportion of teachers who are female is not explained by a decline in males entering the
occupation, since "the number of males entering teaching has also grown, by 22 percent, which is also
faster than the rate of increase of the student population. But the number of females in teaching has increased at over twice that rate."

The authors offer three possible explanations:

  • Increasing employment opportunities for females in general, but also in the educational sector, both at the secondary level and in leadership.  
  • As the proportion of women entering the workforce has increased, so has the the proportion of all employed women who are teachers.
  • The workday structure (shortened days and summers off) makes caring for a family more manageable and teaching more appealing to women negotiating the dual roles of homemaker and breadwinner.

Ingersoll, Merrill and Stuckey conclude that this trend is worrisome:
"If the trend continues, soon 8 of 10 teachers in the nation will be female. An increasing percentage of elementary schools will have no male teachers. An increasing number of students may encounter few, if any, male teachers during their time in either elementary or secondary school. Given the importance of teachers as role models, and even as surrogate parents for some students, certainly some will see this trend as a problem and a policy concern. Moreover, an increasing proportion of women in teaching may have implications for the stature and status of teaching as an occupation. Traditionally, women’s work has been held in lower esteem and has paid less than male-dominated work. If the feminization of teaching continues, what will it mean for the way this line of work is valued and rewarded?"

Read more:
Frederique Laubepin

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