Teacher Retirement Preferences and Behavior
Ettema, Elizabeth Anne
This dissertation focuses on teacher retirement systems. The defined benefit pension plans that cover K-12 public school teachers in most states face two major problems: they may not be financially sustainable as large numbers of teachers retire in the coming years, and they may not be serving to recruit and retain a high-quality teaching force. I propose that in order for pensions to serve as a policy lever to attract and retain high-quality teachers, three conditions must be met. First, teachers must understand their retirement plans and the incentives imbedded therein. Second, they must value these incentives. Finally, the incentives must be aligned with the desired pattern(s) of retirement behavior. This dissertation investigates the extent to which each of these conditions is being met using data from the Schools and Staffing Survey and Teacher Follow-Up Survey as well as original data collected via a survey and embedded focus groups. It also outlines how pensions could be reformed to be better aligned with desired retirement behavior to recruit and retain high-quality teachers.