School socioeconomic context and teacher job satisfaction in Japanese compulsory education
Sociologists in education have pointed out disparities associated with socioeconomic status (SES) in the Japanese compulsory education system that was once regarded as egalitarian. In addition to disparities between individual students, prior studies have empirically shown SES-based disparities among schools on important indicators such as academic performance. This study extends the literature on the disparities among schools in compulsory education by focusing on one critical but inadequately explored factor: teachers. Using nationally representative data of junior high school teachers from the Teaching and Learning International Survey administered in 2013 (TALIS 2013), this study investigates whether teacher job satisfaction, which is known to be related to turnover, varies among schools, and whether teacher self-efficacy, a major factor influencing job satisfaction, differently shapes job satisfaction among schools. In addition, the study assesses whether school-level SES explains the disparities among schools in teacher job satisfaction and in the effect of self-efficacy on job satisfaction. Results using multilevel mediation modeling show that disparities in these two factors are indeed affected by SES. Specifically, school SES influences teacher job satisfaction through the frequency of students' behavioral issues: teachers at higher-SES schools tend to face fewer student behavior problems, resulting in higher job satisfaction. Similarly, among teachers with the same level of self-efficacy, those at higher-SES schools have higher job satisfaction. These empirical findings indicate that teacher job satisfaction depends on the socioeconomic context in which teachers are embedded; the context influences teacher job satisfaction partly through students' behavioral issues and the differing effects of teachers' self-efficacy. Since the lower job satisfaction of teachers in lower-SES schools may lead to higher turnover rates, this situation calls for policy intervention to help teachers who face greater difficulties in the schools with less affluent students within Japan's "egalitarian" compulsory education system.