Do the characteristics of a school and its neighborhood affect whether prospective teachers apply to teach there? To answer this question, analysts attended three large job fairs for Chicago Public Schools in Summer 2006 and compiled extensive data on the preferences and demographics of the 4,000 attending applicants, as well as where they lived in relation to the schools in which they expressed interest. Here are four key findings: First, schools with a larger proportion of white or Asian students had more job fair applicants—a 10 percentage point increase in white or Asian students is associated, on average, with four more applicants per school. Similarly, an increase in free-lunch-eligible students of 10 percentage points is associated with four fewer applicants per school per job fair. Second, African American candidates are more likely to apply to schools serving African American populations, and Hispanic candidates are more drawn toward schools serving larger populations of students with limited English proficiency than they are toward schools with a majority of students of other races. Third, applicants with a degree in math or science appear to value student achievement more: they were more likely to apply to schools with larger proportions of kids meeting basic levels of proficiency than other teachers. Fourth, teachers tend to apply to schools close to home. Candidates are 40 percent less likely to apply to a school that is just three miles further from their homes. The analysts close with several recommendations intended to help lure more qualified teachers to disadvantaged areas, including getting rid of CPS’s residency requirement, which states that all CPS employees must live within Chicago city limits. (In some cases, applicants who lived in the suburbs, yet just five miles from a CPS school, were not eligible to be hired.) In all, the research confirms the conventional wisdom (location and demographics matter!), which is not always the case.

SOURCE: Mimi Engel, Brian A. Jacob, and F. Chris Curran, “New Evidence on Teacher Labor Supply,” American Educational Research Journal 51(36): pp. 36–72.

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