Changing Faculty Employment at Four-Year Colleges and Universities in the United States

Liang Zhang, Ronald G. Ehrenberg, Xiangmin Liu

We use panel data models to examine variations and changes over time in faculty employment at four-year colleges and universities in the United States. The share of part-time faculty among total faculty has continued to grow over the last two decades, while the share of full-time lecturers and instructors has been relatively stable. Meanwhile, the share of non-tenure track faculty among faculty with professorial ranks has been growing. Dynamic panel data models suggest that employment levels of different types of faculty respond to a variety of economic and institutional factors. Colleges and universities have increasingly employed faculty whose salaries and benefits are relatively inexpensive; the slowly deteriorating financial situations at most colleges and universities have led to an increasing reliance on a contingent academic workforce.