When It Comes to Housing, Dallas-Area Teachers Feel the Crunch

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Illustration courtesy Photofox

Rents and home prices continue to rise (even with a slight cooling), and much like salaries across the country, the salaries of teachers in Dallas-Fort Worth have not kept pace with those rising housing costs, a new analysis by Apartment List revealed.

In DFW, almost 24 percent of primary-earner teachers were burdened by the cost of their housing — the teacher cost burden rate was 48.1 percent higher than the rate for households where the primary earner was a college-educated non-teacher. The median income of teachers in the area is 30.7 percent less than the median income of full-time non-teachers with similar education.

That number has improved somewhat, though. In 2000, college-educated workers earned 35.8 percent more than teachers. By 2017, they earned 30.7 percent more. Teachers paid almost 58 percent of their income toward housing costs in 2000, but that number has reduced to about 48 percent.

However, that’s still far more than the recommended 30 percent.

The area is not an outlier, either.

The median income across primary and secondary school teachers with Bachelor’s degrees is 27.4 percent less than that of non-teachers with Bachelor’s degrees,” said Chris Salviati, a housing economist at Apartment List. “Teachers with Master’s degrees earn 33.3 percent less than similarly educated non-teachers. These wage gaps are even more extreme for preschool and kindergarten teachers.”

However, DFW’s rate of cost-burdened teachers is higher than the national rate of 19.9 percent.

Nationally, the median income for teachers with bachelor’s degrees teaching grades 1-12 is $45,000, 27.4 percent less than their similarly-educated non-teacher counterparts. Teachers with graduate degrees typically earn about 33 percent less.

“Note that these figures are based on total earnings, including the money that many teachers earn from second jobs, making these gaps all the more distressing,” Salviati said.

Census data shows that in 2017, almost 79 percent of teachers work more than 50 weeks per year, and Apartment List estimates that the trope that teachers get the summer off is not actually the norm.

“We estimate that the share of teachers who reported being at work during the summer months increased by 46 percent from 1990 to 2017, rising from 41.7 percent to 60.7 percent,” Salviati said.

Teachers are also working more hours each week — 25.3 percent of teachers reported working more than 50 hours a week in 2017.

“It would be intuitive to assume that this additional work may be the result of teachers supplementing their incomes by spending more time at second jobs,” Salviati said. “However, despite working more, the average share of teachers’ total income coming from their primary teaching job has remained relatively stable over time. This implies that either (1) teaching jobs have become more demanding and the extra work that teachers are doing is at their primary jobs or (2) teachers’ side jobs have become less lucrative, and teachers need to work more at secondary jobs to supplement their incomes by a similar amount.”

For the purposes of the Apartment List study, cost burden rates were calculated from teachers who earn more than 50 percent of the income for their household. Cost-burdened households spend more than 30 percent of their gross income on housing.

“Just 52.9 percent of teachers are primary earners, compared to 81.4 percent of non-teachers with college degrees, speaking to the difficulty of supporting a household on a teacher’s salary alone,” Salviati said.

In 1990, the cost burden rate for teachers nationally was 15 percent lower than that of college-educated non-teachers. The rate fell for the latter group by 2.7 percent by 2017, but it increased for teachers by nearly 39 percent.

And it was worse for renters, where nationally the cost burden rate was 28.2 percent. Preschool and kindergarten teachers also suffered more, with a rate of 41.2 percent — more than double the rate of teachers as a whole.

Exacerbating the issue? The cost of being a teacher. In Texas, for instance, falling behind on your student loans puts your license at risk, which puts your ability to earn a living as a teacher at risk. Most teachers report spending up to $1,000 on school supplies and teaching supplies.

Last year, we did some back of the envelope math, and discovered it wouldn’t be hard for a teacher to come in at a deficit of $374 a month at least — and that was without things like replacing worn clothing, personal hygiene items, and entertainment.

Want to see the rest of the report? Click here.


Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson lives in a 1961 Fox and Jacobs home with her husband, a second-grader, and Conrad Bain the dog. If she won the lottery, she'd by an E. Faye Jones home. She's taken home a few awards for her writing, including a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Online News Association, the Education Writers Association, the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, and the Society of Professional Journalists. She doesn't like lima beans or the word moist.

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