Why do women become teachers while men don't?

David Carroll, Jaai Parasnis, Massimiliano Tani

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Across countries, almost all primary and pre-primary teachers are women while few men in the occupation tend to specialise in secondary schooling and administration. We investigate the decision to become a teacher versus alternative occupations for graduates in Australia over the past 15 years. We find that this gender distribution reflects relative returns in the labour market: women with bachelor qualifications receive higher returns in teaching, while similarly educated men enjoy substantially higher returns in other occupations. We also find evidence that schools which can, and do, make higher wage offers successfully attract more male teachers as well as more female teachers with a degree in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These results are consistent with the predictions of theoretical models of self-selection of intrinsically motivated workers.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages31
JournalBE Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • decomposition
  • education choice
  • occupational segregation
  • opportunity cost
  • teachers

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