‘Don’t eat romaine lettuce’

Virginia is the state with the largest teacher pay gap

In recent months, teachers in multiple states, including West Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona, and Colorado, have gone on strike to protest low wages and insufficient resources in public schools. With many states cutting school funding, teachers are experiencing economic pressure inside and outside of the classroom and are voicing their need for change.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual salary of teachers in U.S. public elementary and secondary schools is $58,950. Although teachers’ salaries have risen nominally over the past 50 years, when analyzed in “constant dollars” based on the consumer price index, salaries have actually been decreasing since 2009. For comparison, the average annual earnings for workers over the age of 18 who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in the U.S. is $77,526, resulting in a national teacher pay gap of -24%.

With this in mind, Credit Sesame wanted to see how the pay gap varied from state to state. Its researchers calculated the Teacher pay gap as the percent difference between the Average annual salary for teachers in each state (taken from the National Education Association, Estimates of School Statistics, 2016-17) and the Average annual earnings for all college graduates (calculated for each state using the U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 American Community Survey 1-year Public Use Microdata Samples). Then each state and the District of Columbia was ranked from the highest teacher pay gap to the lowest.

Based on the analysis, the teacher pay gap is in the teachers’ favor in only two states: Vermont and Alaska. The states with the highest teacher salaries are in the populous, heavily urban states of New York, California, Massachusetts, District of Columbia, and Connecticut, while the states with the lowest teacher salaries are in the mostly rural states of Colorado, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and South Dakota. States with lowest teacher salaries also tended to have higher teacher pay gaps.

Here are the states with the largest teacher pay gap:


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25. Idaho

  • Teacher pay gap: -23.5%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $47,504
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $62,060
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -6.8%


Photo Credit: William Scott / Alamy Stock Photo

24. New Mexico

  • Teacher pay gap: -24.1%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $47,500
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $62,615
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: 1.8%


Photo Credit: Steven Frame / Alamy Stock Photo

23. Kentucky

  • Teacher pay gap: -25.1%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $52,339
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $69,885
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: 0.4%


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

22. West Virginia

  • Teacher pay gap: -25.1%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $45,701
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $61,008
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -8.9%


Photo Credit: Tetra Images / Alamy Stock Photo

21. New Jersey

  • Teacher pay gap: -25.3%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $69,623
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $93,161
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -6.6%


Photo Credit: Enigma / Alamy Stock Photo

20. Connecticut

  • Teacher pay gap: -25.9%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $72,561
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $97,986
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -2.2%


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

19. Arkansas

  • Teacher pay gap: -25.9%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $48,616
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $65,575
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: 1.6%


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

18. Louisiana

  • Teacher pay gap: -26.2%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $50,000
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $67,767
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: 5.4%


Photo Credit: Jeff Zehnder / Alamy Stock Photo

17. Kansas

  • Teacher pay gap: -26.4%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $47,984
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $65,198
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -4.3%


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

16. South Carolina

  • Teacher pay gap: -26.8%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $48,598
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $66,430
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -6.0%


Photo Credit: Image Source / Alamy Stock Photo

15. Missouri

  • Teacher pay gap: -27.6%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $48,293
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $66,714
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -5.5%


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14. Georgia

  • Teacher pay gap: -27.7%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $54,602
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $75,515
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -7.1%


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

13. Alabama

  • Teacher pay gap: -28.4%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $48,868
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $68,241
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -7.1%


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

12. Mississippi

  • Teacher pay gap: -28.4%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $42,925
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $59,918
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -6.0%


Photo Credit: Tom Grundy / Alamy Stock Photo

11. South Dakota

  • Teacher pay gap: -28.4%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $42,668
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $59,577
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: 2.4%


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

10. North Carolina

  • Teacher pay gap: -29.9%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $49,837
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $71,098
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -11.8%


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

9. Tennessee

  • Teacher pay gap: -30.4%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $48,456
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $69,636
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -6.9%


Photo Credit: age fotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

8. Utah

  • Teacher pay gap: -31.1%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $47,244
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $68,547
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -5.7%


Photo Credit: Dave Newman / Alamy Stock Photo

7. Oklahoma

  • Teacher pay gap: -31.1%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $45,245
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $65,660
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: 0.9%


Photo Credit: Richard Theis / Alamy Stock Photo

6. Washington

  • Teacher pay gap: -31.8%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $54,147
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $79,418
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -8.0%


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

5. Florida

  • Teacher pay gap: -32.1%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $49,407
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $72,804
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -6.1%


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

4. Texas

  • Teacher pay gap: -34.5%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $52,575
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $80,261
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -2.4%


Photo Credit: Andrew Zarivny / Alamy Stock Photo

3. Arizona

  • Teacher pay gap: -34.7%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $47,403
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $72,636
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -10.4%


Photo Credit: Joe Ferrer / Alamy Stock Photo

2. Colorado

  • Teacher pay gap: -37.1%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $46,506
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $73,992
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -15.0%


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

1. Virginia

  • Teacher pay gap: -40.2%
  • Average annual salary for teachers: $51,049
  • Average annual earnings for all college graduates: $85,432
  • Teacher salary change 1999-00 to 2016-17: -8.1%

Methodology & full results

Teacher salary and salary change statistics are from the National Education Association, Estimates of School Statistics, 2016-17. Both are in constant 2016-2017 dollars. Average annual earnings for all college graduates was computed for each state using the U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 American Community Survey 1-year Public Use Microdata Samples (PUMS). Only adults over age 18 with a bachelor’s degree or higher were included in the analysis. The Teacher pay gap was calculated as the percent difference between the Average annual salary for teachers and the Average annual earnings for all college graduates.