The impact of baby boomer retirements on teacher labor markets
by Daniel Aaronson, economic advisor and team leader of the microeconomics group, and Katherine Meckel, associate economist
This article explores the future of teacher labor markets. The authors find that teacher
hiring needs will rise over the coming decade largely because of retirements. However,
this increase will not be significantly different from that of past decades.
Chicago Fed Letter
ESSAYS ON ISSUES THE FEDERAL RESERVE BANK SEPTEMBER 2008
OF CHICAGO NUMBER 254
1. Share of teachers aged 50 and older, 1940–2000
Note: The final bar shows the share of all college educated workers (not just teachers)
aged 50 and older in 2000.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1940–2000, U.S. Decennial Census.
1940 ’50 ’60 ’70 ’80 ’90 2000 2000
One important consequence of the on-
going baby boom retirement is an un-
precedented loss in work experience.
An aging work force has caused partic-
ular unease in elementary and second-
ary education; some
school districts envi-
from increases in re-
tirement, as well as
other forms of turn-
over.1 Figure 1 uses
the 1940–2000 U.S.
Decennial Censuses to
plot one measure of
the fraction of teach-
ers 50 years and over.
That share rose from
18% in 1980 to 31%
in 2000. While the
2000 level is compa-
rable to the 1960 level,
the teacher work force
became notably young-
er in the 1960s and
1970s. By contrast, it is
quite reasonable to expect that the cur-
rent teacher age distribution will remain
intact in the near term. Moreover, the
teacher age distribution is more skewed
toward older employees than the college
educated work force in general (compare
the last two bars in figure 1).
While turnover will remain on the high
side of historical norms partly because
of an aging teacher work force, this in
itself is not cause for alarm. The question
is whether an increase in future turnover
has negative implications for student
performance. Some evidence suggests
it might, particularly in the common
scenario where an experienced teacher
is replaced with an inexperienced one.2
In this Chicago Fed Letter, we discuss sev-
eral aspects of teacher labor markets in
the coming decade. First and foremost,
we introduce our forecast of full-time
(defined as at least 35 hours) teacher
hiring needs.3 Our forecast links estimates
of demand for classrooms (or equivalently
teachers), obtained primarily through
U.S. Census projections of school-age
children, with the expected supply of
teachers returning from previous years.
We derive the latter from estimates of
turnover among full-time elementary
and secondary public school teachers,
by age, experience, and gender, using
the most comprehensive data source on
the occupational structure of schools—
the U.S. Department...