The Role of Place: Labor Market Dynamics in Rural and Non-rural School Districts

WCER Working Paper No. 2017-4

Peter T. Goff and Ellie M. Bruecker

September 2017, 20 pp.

ABSTRACT: A considerable body of work has addressed teacher labor markets and the sorting of teachers within and among school districts. Many studies have focused on urban schools within teacher labor markets, but far less research has examined teacher supply and demand among rural school districts. This study examines the pool of applicants vying for teaching vacancies in 311 Wisconsin districts to determine how applicants differ across geographic categories, particularly with regard to education, experience, and geographic preferences. We find no evidence to support claims of a rural teacher shortage; however, applicants do appear to be averse to rural contexts. Some factors, such as enrollment in particular universities and rural student teaching experiences, increase applicants’ interest in rural vacancies. Similarly, districts’ proximity to educator preparation programs increases applicant pools for all locales, yet rural districts tend to be further from universities and have fewer programs within a 40-mile radius.

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keywords: rural schools, labor markets, teacher supply, shortage