Using detailed data from North Carolina, we examine the frequency, incidence, and consequences of teacher absences in public schools as well as the impact of a policy designed to reduce absences. The incidence of teacher absences is regressive: when schools are ranked by the fraction of students receiving free or reduced price lunches, teachers in the lowest income quartile average almost one extra sick day per school year than teachers in the highest income quartile, and schools with persistently high rates of teacher absence were much more likely to serve low-income than high-income students. In regression models incorporating teacher fixed effects, absences are associated with lower student achievement in elementary grades. Finally, we present evidence that the demand for discretionary absences is price elastic. Our estimates suggest that a policy intervention that simultaneously raises teacher base salaries and broadens financial penalties for absences could both raise teachers' expected incomes and lower districts' expected costs.

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