Associate Professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, University of Texas at Austin
It’s Who You Know: How Teachers Use Social Networks to Find Jobs in Decentralized Labor Markets
Teacher labor markets are evolving with the rise of charter schools and alternative teacher certification. These trends are transforming teachers’ access to employment and changing the way they search for and apply for jobs. As a result, these shifts may also change the role that teachers’ social networks—the ties they turn to for advice or connections to employers—play in the job-search process. In this talk, I present results from a recent study, using data from in-depth interviews with 128 teachers in New Orleans, Detroit, and San Antonio to examine how teachers use their social networks to find jobs in these cities. We find that teachers' social networks are a key driver of teachers' job mobility and work decisions in decentralized labor markets. We also find that the extent of fragmentation in a city’s labor market drives the use of networks, with networks becoming more important in settings where information on job openings is less centralized. Teachers’ preparation programs and career stage also influenced their use of social networks. A reliance on social networks in job searches also comes with drawbacks as tight networks can limit opportunities for teachers, and may reinforce inequities in the labor market. I conclude with a discussion of the implications for research and practice.