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teacher turnover, Great Recession, non-cognitive skills, local labor markets


An abundance of literature sheds light on which factors determine teacher turnover, but it has yet to consider the role that local labor market conditions may play in teachers’ turnover decisions and how these labor market conditions may influence the quality of teachers who might be retained. The effect of local labor market conditions on teacher turnover could be relevant especially in times of high economic instability like the Great Recession. To study the determinants of teacher turnover, we match the Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study (BTLS) with local unemployment rates from the USC Great Recession Indicators Database (GRID). We also build proxy measures of teachers’ conscientiousness with levels of survey effort on the baseline BTLS survey. Our results show that, in the absence of changes in unemployment, teachers who present lower levels of conscientiousness, by means of lower effort in the baseline survey, also present lower probabilities of teacher turnover during their first years of teaching.

However, higher conscientious teachers seem to be better retained when there is more instability in their local labor markets. Higher quality principals appear to help retain teachers, but they seem to be more effective at retaining those teachers who show lower levels of conscientiousness on their baseline survey.