No gains in wages for academics

By Razib Khan | April 12, 2010 5:06 pm

Study Finds a 1.2 Percent Increase in Faculty Pay, the Smallest in 50 Years:

Over all, salaries for this academic year are 1.2 percent higher than last year, the smallest increase recorded in the survey’s 50 years — and well below the 2.7 percent inflation rate from December 2008 to December 2009.

“A lot of faculty are losing ground, and the data probably underestimate the seriousness of the problems with faculty salary this year, because we’re only looking at full-time faculty and, as we’ve seen for several years, there’s an increasing number of part-time faculty, who are not included,” Mr. Curtis said. “Also, the survey doesn’t capture the effect of the unpaid furloughs a lot of faculty were forced to take this year, because the numbers we have are the base salaries agreed on at the beginning of the year, not the actual payroll results.”

Over all, the average salary for a full professor was $109,843, compared with $76,566 for an associate professor, $64,433 for an assistant professor, $47,592 for an instructor and $53,112 for a lecturer. At every type of institution in almost every class of faculty, men were paid substantially more, on average, than women.

Generally, administrative salaries at colleges and universities have been increasing far more quickly than pay for faculty members.

Ms. Wellman pointed out that because the costs of benefits, especially health care, are rising so rapidly, total compensation is not slowing as much as salary growth. “Unless we get control over the growth in spending on benefits,” she said, “we’re going to continue to crowd out the resources necessary to get faculty in the classroom.”

There is a distinction between salaries and total compensation. Additionally, I am a bit confused as to what’s going on with administrative costs. You can find the original report online, along with a lot of tables. Tables aren’t so informative at first glance, so I took table 9B and turned it into a line graph. The horizontal axis represents the academic rank, the vertical the average total compenstation within the rank. Each line represents the percentile that the institution is at in terms of average compensation. So that the top line represents the institutions at the 95th percentile in average compensation, and the bottom line the institutions at the 10th percentile. Finally, I added the values for the top and bottom percentiles so you could compare those more easily.


It looks like you’re seeing “winner-take-all” dynamics more at the elite institutions where the pay is high, as the dispersion across institutions increases at the level of full professors (the effect disappears if I do a log-transformation).

MORE ABOUT: Academics, Academy

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    About Razib Khan

    I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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