Run Away


Life is full of risks. The sky may fall one your head; your car swallowed by a sinkhole. There is even the risk of not taking the risk (in finding your fortune, or happiness in life). Some people avoid risk, some seek the thrill of it. There are therapeutic programs to help you deal with risk (1) and economic calculations to manage risks (4). Nevertheless, risk is what we can not control; a boiling mix of fear, fate, and unlikely occurrences. Fact is you have to life with it. Teachers too (3). Now, most of us would contend that teaching is not a very risky profession or rooted in uncertainties. Classroom life has its regularities and its (more or less) planned flow of activity. Could it be then that persons who like to avoid risks in their lives have to some extent a fascination for the profession? This issue was studied, from an economic perspective.
The study compared prospective teachers and economics students using a standard lottery task and looked at their risk preferences. It turned out that the future teachers were risk averse. The authors interpret their findings by saying that “policy makers should take into account teacher risk characteristics when considering reforms that may clash with risk preferences”
Now, two strange leaps occur in this study. First, and you do not have to be a statistician to notice, it may have been that another element was involved. For instance by observing that the group of teacher candidates was composed of females (75%) and the comparison group had 62% males. Could this have been an alternative interpretation for risk preference? Secondly, and more importantly, the study seems to suggest that policy makers should bear in mind that education reforms should not be too risky for teachers. Or, even worse, that teachers may obstruct reform because they feel it is too hazardous for them. The ultimate consequence might be: no risky reforms in education. Truly, a risky advice (2) .


Daniel H. Bowen, Stuart Buck, Cary Deck, Jonathan N. Mills & James V. Shuls (2015) Risky business: an analysis of teacher risk preferences, Education Economics, 23:4, 470-480,
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