There is a massive gulf in teacher salary across the United States. According to salary listings published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Alaska has the highest annual average salary for high school teachers in the country at $85,420. That is over twice the amount their colleagues make in lowest-ranked Oklahoma, where the annual salary only averages $41,880.
Pay levels are generally worst in the south of the U.S. with Louisiana ($50,700), Alabama ($49,790) and Mississippi ($46,370) all joining Oklahoma in the bottom-10. In some cases, there are even pay differences of up to $25,000 between neighboring states. For example, high school teachers in California earn an average of $77,390 while their neighbors in Arizona take home just $48,050.
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The poor salary levels and lack of education funding in Oklahoma prompted teachers to strike for nine days last month and they demanded a $10,000 pay increase over three years. The situation shows little signs of improvement with a quarter of Oklahoma City teachers leaving their jobs every year while the state is struggling to find and keep qualified replacements.
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U.S. wages and salaries – statistics & facts
Of a much greater concern for many members of the general public is the degree of inequality among both genders and ethnic groups in regards to full-time wages and salaries. In 2016, the highest earning cohort was Asian men who on average earned 1,151 U.S. dollars per week. In contrast, Asian women earned 902 dollars per week. Equally as problematic are the apparent wage and salary inequalities between ethnicities, reflecting structural socio-economics issues or at the extreme racism in American society. The average Hispanic woman earned a mere 586 dollars per week.
Wage inequality in the United States – Statistics & Facts
Gender and racial wage gaps in the United States remain, even as they have narrowed in some cases over the years. The female to male earnings ratio in 1990 was 71.6 percent, indicating that a regular female worker earned about 72 percent of the amount a male employee in the same position did. In 2015, this ratio was at 79.6 percent, showing a trend towards closing the wage gap between males and females. Looking at gender and ethnicity combined, all groups, with the exception of Asian men, lagged behind white men in terms of median hourly earnings. For example, in the U.S., the median weekly earnings of an Asian male wage worker were 1,129 U.S. dollars in 2015, while Hispanic or Latino women had the lowest median weekly pay, at 566 U.S. dollars.
A college education is often seen as the equalizer when it comes to the gender and racial wage gap; however, the earning potential in various majors differs. In 2013, the most popular degrees with the highest earning potential were architecture and engineering with a median annual income of 83 thousand U.S. dollars. A major in elementary education had much lower earning potential with an expected annual income of 45 thousand U.S. dollars.
Another factor determining income is region, and the distribution of income within it. In 2015, the District of Columbia had the highest average wage in private industry at over 81 thousand U.S. dollars, and it had the highest inequality in income distribution with a Gini coefficient score of 0.54. The Gini coefficient is a statistical measure of inequality with zero representing perfect equality and 100 representing perfect inequality. On the opposite side, Hawaii with score of 0.43, was ranked as the most equal state. There is a general trend in the U.S. of increasing inequality between the poor and the wealthy. In the time period from 1990 to 2015, the Gini coefficient for household income has increased by 0.5 points.