Skip to content

Shi article on the unequal distribution of substitute teaching

Aug 31, 2020

More Than Shortages: The Unequal Distribution of Substitute Teaching

Jing Liu, Susanna Loeb & Ying Shi

Education Finance & Policy, August 2020

Ying Shi headshot

Ying Shi

Classroom teachers in the U.S. are absent on average approximately six percent of a school year. Despite the prevalence of teacher absences, surprisingly little research has assessed the key source of replacement instruction: substitute teachers. Using detailed administrative and survey data from a large urban school district, the authors document the prevalence, predictors, and distribution of substitute coverage across schools.

Less advantaged schools systematically exhibit lower rates of substitute coverage compared with peer institutions. Observed school, teacher, and absence characteristics account for only part of this school variation. In contrast, substitute teachers' preferences for specific schools, mainly driven by student behavior and support from teachers and school administrators, explain a sizable share of the unequal distribution of coverage rates above and beyond standard measures in administrative data.