As the Atlantic noted: “Many of these 45,000-plus educators in the U.S. are presumably using Airbnb to supplement their regular income, as teachers struggle with stagnant, if not declining, pay.”
This group of teachers brought in $160 million worth of supplemental income, the study noted, or about $6,500 per teacher. About a third of that money by average came in the summer, indicating that some teachers were using the service year-round.
The study did not examine why teachers were so highly represented among Airbnb hosts, but a slew of statistics underline their economic straits.
The average pay for elementary, middle and high school teachers is $55,000 to $57,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But teacher pay, compared with that of college graduates working in other fields, has steadily decreased, said Sylvia A. Allegretto, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley.
“Basically, teachers are falling further and further behind,” said Allegretto, who co-wrote a 2016 paper that examined the widening pay gap between teachers and other college graduates.
These economic frustrations spilled into public view this spring with strikes in states such as Oklahoma and West Virginia and protests in Arizona, where public education funding has sustained the deepest cuts.
Allegretto pointed out that teachers in Oklahoma hadn’t received a pay raise in 10 years before they went on strike. “That means you’re taking a pay cut every year because of inflation: Housing costs are going up. Rent is going up.”
Overall, teachers' weekly wages are about 23 percent less than those of other college graduates, Allegretto’s study noted. It found that the states with the largest pay gaps between teachers and other college-educated workers closely correlated with those that had teacher walkouts.
Wages overall for workers over the past decades have largely stagnated or grown worse, Allegretto said, making teachers' plights all the more notable. Federal statistics released in June showed that about 1 in 5 now work second jobs. They are also about five times as likely to work another job than the average full-time worker, the Atlantic reported.
“Where summer months maybe used to be considered a really nice side benefit of being a teacher 20 to 30 years ago, when you could make it on less income, that is sometimes now a burden,” Allegretto said.
Airbnb cited some of these statistics in the study’s introduction, noting teachers' declining salaries when adjusted for inflation as well as an Education Department statistic that found that 94 percent were paying for some school supplies themselves. It also featured quotes from teachers who were hosts, many of whom spoke of the similarity in values between teaching and hosting strangers and foreigners in their houses.
“I know that people have talked about this as a good thing,” Allegretto said. “This is not the public policy that we need to solve the crisis in teacher pay. Having them work more jobs because they’re not paid competitive salaries is not what we need. We need to invest in teachers’ salaries, and we need to invest in public schools.”
Uber, too, has made a similar pitch, the Atlantic noted, at one point even holding a promotion for teacher-drivers in Portland, Ore.
Arun Sundararajan, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, told the magazine that she thinks this response stems in part from criticism Airbnb has received about how it affects rental markets and exacerbates rent inflation and other negative effects of gentrification. The company has been facing resistance from activists and elected officials in several cities. In New York, for example, the city council recently passed a law making it easier to crack down on people who use the service illegally.
Companies such as Airbnb and Uber are trying to “promote the narrative that [hosts and drivers] are truly everyday people,” Sundararajan told the Atlantic. “Highlighting the number of workers who are teachers can be a particularly effective way of advancing that narrative.”
Christopher Nulty, an Airbnb spokesman, spoke to the Atlantic about some of the challenges teachers face.
“We certainly don’t think homesharing is a solution [for all those problems], but we do believe it’s an important tool for teachers,” he said.