What does the national data say about adjuncts?

The topic of adjuncts is getting some play finally. I’ve seen it bubbling up among the college Left for some time now, but now it is in the New York Times and big organizing drives are under way. In these pieces, I often see a variety of statistics thrown about, but never the statistics I am interested in.

Luckily, the American Association of University Professors compiled data a few years ago from the 2004 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (sample size: 26,108) that does include information that feeds my personal curiosity. Here are two highlights of particular interest to me and my lens of class analysis.

65 Percent of Part-Time Faculty Want to Work Part Time
So, according to this survey, 44 percent of faculty work part time at their institutions. Of those 44 percent, 65 percent said they actually wanted to be part time. So if you take those faculty out, just 15.4 percent of university faculty are involuntarily part time workers.

Of the part-time faculty who want to work part time, 72 percent said the reason they didn’t want to work full time was because they had another job that was primary. The AAUP describes accordingly:

This group of part-time faculty is disproportionately represented in the fields of business (10 percent) and education (13 percent). Almost 90 percent report that their other job does not involve teaching, and 71 percent report that their other job is full time. The typical member of this group appears to be a successful midcareer nonacademic, working in either business or education, who earns a more than adequate salary at a different, primary job and thus is willing to teach a course or two in addition to his or her main employment.

Although there is considerable diversity, it appears that the most dominant story of a part-time faculty member is someone working in some other job (say business) and teaching a class at the local university on the side.

The Average Household Income of Part-Time Faculty is $92,000
What’s interesting here is that while the average “basic institutional income” for a part-time faculty member is $11,160, their average personal income (which includes income from other sources) is $51,628, and their average household income is $91,798 (all presumably in 2004 dollars).

If it’s the case that the super-majority of part-timers want to work part-time and that the super-majority of voluntary part-timers work part time because they have other primary jobs, then looking just at their institutional income (as most stories do) seems to really miss the point. Adding in all the income sources reveals that on average they are still doing fairly well, puling down around $52k per year in personal income. The average total personal income of a part-time faculty member is 52.5 percent higher than the average income of all people in 2004.

This personal income then shoots to $92,000 in household income because of the incomes of spouses. This is one of the things people really miss out one when they ignore educational attainment when talking about class differences. A highly educated person has certain cultural and intellectual characteristics that are sought after by other highly educated people looking for mates. Due to assortative mating then and the general trend that higher educated people make more money, it is the case that even higher educated people who do not personally get into big money have a much better chance of finding their way into a household that is doing reasonably well. That appears to be going on here as well.

Edit: There is some recent data here of a slightly different sort. Unlike the data I draw upon above, this is not a representative survey. So it’s more of a curiosity than anything else. Sadly it does not provide mean incomes (in the summary tables at least) like AAUP does. But it does provide household income distributions, which allows us to figure out the median range of pay of survey respondents. The median household of a part-time adjunct faculty member pulls down $65,000 to $75,000 per year, according to this non-representative survey. h/t Katina Rogers