By 2015, in any neighbourhood of San Francisco, it had become impossible for a single teacher to pay the median rent on a one-bedroom apartment; the average rent in the very poorest neighbourhood there rose to $3,500 a month. Californian teachers’ starting annual salaries were $50,000. After paying taxes and buying food, any teacher without recourse to wealth would inevitably find themselves in debt (Moskowitz 2015). However, travel a third of the way round the world in the opposite direction and you come to Tokyo, where rents have fallen by over 15% in the last ten years as landlord greed is better controlled (Smith 2014). In contrast, in the UK, rents in the city of Oxford, for example, are rising rapidly and will soon exceed £1,000 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. This will leave rent consuming a large majority of a newly qualified teacher’s income of £22,000 a year. Indeed, it leaves very little after taxes are deducted and clothes and food are paid for (Fransham 2015). Few newly qualified teachers stay long in the city, meaning that a very large proportion of teachers in Oxford’s schools are young and inexperienced.
Danny Dorling is professor of human geography at Oxford University.