Andrew Johnston

Institution: University of California at Merced

Andrew C. Johnston is an economics professor at the University of California, Merced. He researches topics in education, primarily on the labor market for teachers, including the causes of teacher shortages, how to attract and retain excellent teachers, the role of compensating differentials in promoting equal opportunity, and how compensation and working conditions shape the quality distribution of teachers.

His work has been published in the Journal of Political Economy, the Journal of Human Resources, and the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy. In 2016, he earned his PhD in economics from the University of Pennsylvania. His wife and children are his greatest joy.


Michael Bates, Andrew C. Johnston.

Why do employers offer pensions? We empirically explore two theoretical rationales, namely that pensions may improve worker effort and worker selection. We examine these hypotheses using administrative measures on effort and output in public schools around the pension-eligibility notch. Worker effort and output do not fall as workers cross the eligibility threshold, implying that pensions may not elicit additional effort. As for selection, we find that pensions retain low-value-added and high-value-added workers at the same rate, suggesting pensions have little or no influence on selection.

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Michael Bates, Michael Dinerstein, Andrew C. Johnston, Isaac Sorkin.

We study whether reallocating existing teachers across schools within a district can increase student achievement, and what policies would help achieve these gains.  Using a model of multi-dimensional value-added, we find meaningful achievement gains from reallocating teachers within a district. Using an estimated equilibrium model of the teacher labor market, we find that achieving most of these gains requires directly affecting teachers' preferences over schools. In contrast, directly affecting principals' selection of teachers can lower student achievement. Our analysis highlights the importance of equilibrium and second-best reasoning in analyzing teacher labor market policies.

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Andrew C. Johnston, Jonah Rockoff.

As unfunded pension liabilities grow, governments experiment with ways to curb costs. We examine the effect of a representative cost-cutting reform on the retention and productivity of workers. The reform reduced pension annuities and increased penalties for early retirement, projected to save 8 percent of revenues. We leverage administrative records and a discontinuity in the reform to estimate its effect on labor supply. The reform slightly increased worker retention, and we can rule out small attrition effects. The reform had no effect on worker output. The extensive and intensive margins of labor supply appear to be maintained under the reform.

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Andrew C. Johnston.

Human-capital formation in school depends largely on the selection and retention of teachers. I conduct a discrete-choice experiment with responses linked to administrative teacher and student records to examine teacher preferences for compensation structure and working conditions. I calculate willingness-to-pay for a rich set of work attributes. High-performing teachers have similar preferences to other teachers, but they have stronger preferences for performance pay. Taking the preference estimates at face value I explore how schools should structure compensation to meet various objectives. Under each objective, schools appear to underpay in salary and performance pay while overpaying in retirement. Restructuring compensation can increase both teacher welfare and student achievement.

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