We haven’t looked at Faculty salary data in awhile. Time for a gander.
Let’s compare data from the years 2009-2010 and 2014-15: a nice round five years. The data for 2009-2010 is from the old Statistics Canada UCASS survey, discontinued but recently revived; the 2014-14 data is from the National Faculty Data Pool, an organization set up by Canadian Universities to keep the UCASS going after it was defunded. I have restricted the sample to the 38 institutions which appear in both datasets. A few institutions chose not to participate in the NFDP exercise, most significantly Montreal, Laval, Sherbrooke, UNBC, Winnipeg, Brandon, St. FX, Cape Breton and Mount Saint Vincent; Victoria is excluded because its data is not available from 2009-10. On the whole, these missing institutions tend to have lower salaries than other universities in Canada, and as a result, the national averages that arise from this exercise are going to be somewhat higher than a true national average. So, focus on the change over time (which is very accurate, for institutions accounting for over 80% of professors across the country) and not the averages.
Got that? OK, good. On to figure 1, which shows average change in professorial salaries by rank. For purposes of comparability, the 2009-10 data is shown in 2014-equivalent dollars.
Figure 1: Average Canadian Professorial Salaries by Rank, 2009-10 and 2014-15, in constant 2014 dollars
So, what we see here is that across all ranks, faculty salaries for tenured and tenure-track professors have increased faster than inflation since 2009-10. The increase was largest for both full and associate profs at just over 5%, while for assistant professors the figure is just 1.1%. However, the average rise in real salaries across all ranks is a whopping 12.4% over five years – or roughly 2.3% per year on top of inflation (for comparison: economy wide, average wage rates over the same four years rose by just 1.5% or 0.3% per year). How is this possible? Simple: the professoriate is aging, and a greater fraction of professors are now in the upper (and better-paid) ranks than was the case five years ago. Progression Through the Ranks makes a huge difference.
Now, let’s compare Canadian salaries to American ones, using the annual American Association of University Professors’ Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession for 2014-15. This is tricky for three reasons. The first is the problem of differing exchange rates; I deal with this by using 2014 Purchasing Power Parity value ($1C = $0.85 US). The second is that the US has a much wider variety of institutions which get included in their national statistics: at the top end there are a lot of very rich private universities and at the bottom there are a lot of institutions which are what we would call community colleges, neither of which are included in the Canadian data. To deal with this I chose to compare professors at public doctoral institution in the US only with professors at 13 research-intensive universities in Canada for which the National Faculty Data Pool has data (i.e. U-15 minus Montreal and Laval).
The third and trickiest issue is how to account for the fact that American salaries cover 9 months of work while Canadian ones are for 12, with Americans free to top up their salary by up to 2 months’ worth of their regular salary (2/9 = 22%) with money from research grants (these are sometime called “summer salary”. To show a range of possible comparators, I show 9-month US base salaries, 12-month salaries for those with summer salary, and a weighted average of the two, based on data from the National Research Council’s Assessment from Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States suggesting that 69% of academic staff at research institutions hold research grants. Note that no data exists as to how often grant money gets used from summer salary; for lack of data I assume here that everyone who receives a grant takes the maximum two months, which almost certainly results in an overestimate for US salaries, so caveat emptor, etc.
With that in mind, Figure 2 provides the comparison of salaries across professors at public research universities in Canada and the US.
Figure 2: Canadian vs. US Professorial Salaries at Public Doctoral/Research Universities by Rank, 2014-15, in Canadian $ at PPP.
The quick conclusion from figure 2 is that base salaries in Canada are higher than those in the US, but that much of this goes away once research dollars are included, especially for full professors. However, across all ranks, Canadian professors at research universities not only have higher average salaries ($144,153) than American ones ($127,298), and that this result remains true even if we look only at American professors with research grants ($134,879).
Now on to figure 3 where we look at changes in salaries over the past five years. I’ve again restricted the comparison to research/doctoral universities, but for fun I’ve included US privates.
Figure 3: Real Change in Salaries, in Canadian at Public Doctoral/Research Universities by Rank, 2009-10 to 2014-15, Canada vs. US
Across all ranks at doctoral/research universities, Canadian research university professors’ salaries rose 13.3% after inflation. For US privates, the equivalent was 2.9% and at US publics it was negative 0.8%. At each individual rank, the differences are smaller (and in fact at the assistant professor level, rises in Canadian salaries are smaller than in the US). Why the difference? Well, mainly, it’s that in the two countries we are seeing two completely different demographic shifts. In the US, a decreasing percentage of professors are of “full” status, whereas in Canada it is increasing. Their lower ranks are growing, ours are shrinking.
I would just remind everyone that these stonking increases in compensation are occurring at a period which the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) continues to refer to as one of “austerity”. I therefore propose that CAUT get on the phone to their counterparts in Greece and explain this fascinating model of austerity in which the average professor is receiving annual raises equal to 1.5 to 2.5% above inflation, year after year. I bet they’d really get a kick out of it.