The racial and ethnic diversity of the nation’s 6.6 million teachers has increased since 1990 but has not caught up with the diversity of their students, according to a U.S. Census Bureau analysis of employment and population data.
About one quarter of all teachers — who represented about 4% of U.S. workers — were non-White and 9.4% were Hispanic or Latino, compared with 16% and 4%, respectively, three decades ago.
In this story, we refer to diversity as the racial and ethnic composition of the populations described.
The recently released 2014-2018 Equal Employment Opportunity Tabulation (EEO Tabulation) offers demographic and employment characteristics of 236 occupations, including teachers, at many levels of geography.
The new data help illustrate changes in racial and ethnic diversity among specific teaching occupations at all levels of education from preschool to college. It also allows us to compare teacher diversity to the diversity of students in the grades that they teach.
Three Decades of Teacher Diversity
Nationally, the percentage of teachers who were Asian, Black or African American, or Hispanic or Latino increased across all teaching occupations since 1990, according to the analysis.
Among preschool and kindergarten teachers, the share increased by 15.6 percentage points between 1990 and the 2014-2018 period (Figure 1).
Similarly, the percentage of Hispanic or Latino elementary and middle school teachers more than doubled from 4.3% in 1990 to 9.5% during the 2014-2018 period.
College teachers saw one of the largest declines in White, non-Hispanic or Latino teachers with a 13-point drop
Among the same teaching group, the share of Asian teachers increased significantly from 7.7% in 2000 to 12.8% in the 2014-2018 period.
The percentage of Hispanic or Latino college teachers rose from 3.7% in 1990 to 7.1% in the 2014-2018 period.
Profile of Two Texas Counties
How does the racial and ethnic composition of teachers vary geographically and how does it compare with the populations they serve?
To answer these questions, we looked at the most populous counties in Texas: Harris and Dallas.
Because the EEO Tabulation examines workers in-depth where they live or commute to, it allows us to assess the current state of the educational workforce available in an area against the backdrop of an increasingly diverse student population.
This is particularly critical as some research suggests that teachers’ demographics may be contributing to the academic success of students of color.
Texas is an ideal example for this analysis because it has a large, diverse population and 26% of the population are children under the age of 18.
Texas is the second most populous state and was the third fastest growing state over the past decade, according to recently released census data.
The EEO Tabulation shows there were 618,590 teachers in the state of Texas in 2014-2018 — 94,650 in Harris County and 43,505 in Dallas County.
Comparing the racial and ethnic makeup of the state with that of Harris and Dallas counties underscores how both counties have a significantly higher share of non-White workers compared with all Texas workers (Figures 2 and 3).
However, among nearly all teaching occupations, both counties have a smaller percentage of Hispanic or Latino teachers than Texas as a whole.
These findings were not consistent for every type of teacher, however. Compared with Texas, college teachers in Dallas County, for example, were more likely to be White, while in Harris County they were more likely to be Asian or Black or African American.
Students More Diverse Than Their Teachers
Using data from the EEO Tabulation and the American Community Survey (ACS), we compared the diversity of teachers to that of students in Harris County and in its largest city, Houston.
The elementary, middle and high school teacher workforce in Harris County and the city of Houston was not as racially diverse as the population of students they served (Figure 4).
Hispanic or Latino preschool and kindergarten students represented between 48.7% and 53.3% of enrolled students in Harris County and Houston, respectively. But the share of Hispanic or Latino teachers in the same areas was around 27%.
The difference in diversity of students and teachers was more pronounced in high school.
In Houston, for example, 15.0% of high school students were White compared with 46.8% of teachers in 2014-2018.
The majority of high school students in Harris County or Houston were Hispanic compared to only about 16% of their teachers.
Comparisons in diversity can help business and local government leaders identify gaps in the diversity of their employees and those they serve.
What Is the Equal Employment Opportunity Tabulation?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Tabulation was designed to help federal agencies monitor employment practices and enforce various civil rights laws and has become a tool to explore diversity of the labor force.
Unlike other publicly available data, the EEO Tabulation includes information on detailed occupations in smaller geographies, providing key labor force statistics for 236 occupations and nearly 3,000 geographic entities.
Data users can compare the race and ethnicity of workers across geographies within specific jobs. More information on the EEO Tabulation and the latest data release are available on the Equal Employment Opportunity Tabulation webpage.
Clayton Gumber is a survey statistician in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division.
Julia Beckhusen is a senior economist in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division.