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Rui Wang

Rui Wang.

While it is commonly believed that teachers take more absences than other professionals, few empirical studies have systematically investigated the prevalence of teacher absences in the US. This study documents the level of teacher absences and compares it with other college-educated workers. Using the Monthly Current Population Survey between the 1995 and 2019 school years, we conduct descriptive and regression analysis to estimate the level of teacher absences and the absence gaps between teachers and other college-educated workers. Additional regression analysis using data from the Leave Module of the American Time Use Survey is conducted to explain the gaps in absences between teachers and other observationally similar college-educated workers. The analysis reveals that 7% of teachers are absent at least once weekly, accounting for around 4% of their weekly working time. Compared to observationally similar college-educated workers, teachers take the same, if not less, amount of absences. Further investigation of teachers’ absence behaviour indicates that teachers report fewer demands for absences, have fewer paid leaves, and are more likely to attend work despite needing to be absent. We also find that individuals who prefer fewer absences tend to enter the teaching profession. This study adds to the emerging group of research examining the nature, determinants, and consequences of teacher absences using national-level data. Our findings imply that policymakers may be able to use more support programs to increase teacher attendance.

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Stephen B. Holt, Rui Wang, Seth Gershenson.

Teaching is often assumed to be a relatively stressful occupation and occupational stress among teachers has been linked to poor mental health, attrition from the profession, and decreased effectiveness in the classroom. Despite widespread concern about teachers’ mental health, however, little empirical evidence exists on long-run trends in teachers’ mental health or the prevalence of mental health problems in teaching relative to other professions. We address this gap in the literature using nationally representative data from the 1979 and 1997 cohorts of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY). In the 1979 cohort, women who become teachers have similar mental health to non-teachers prior to teaching but enjoy better mental health than their non-teaching peers, on average, while working as teachers. However, in the 1997 cohort teachers self-report worse mental health, on average, than the 1979 cohort and fare no better than their non-teaching professional peers while teaching. Overall, teachers seem to enjoy mental health outcomes that are as good or better than their peers in other professions.

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