March 25, 2021

Measuring a Contract's Breadth: A Text Analysis

  • Joshua C. Hall

    Associate Professor, Department of Economics, West Virginia University
  • Bryan McCannon

  • Yang Zhou

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We use a computational linguistic algorithm to measure the topics covered in the text of school teacher contracts in Ohio. We use the topic modeling metrics in a calculation of the concentration of topics covered. This allows us to assess how expansive each contract is. As a proof of concept, we evaluate the relationship between our topic diversity measurement and the prevalence of support staff. This test is done on a subsample of the contracts in the state. If more specialized services are provided, then contracts must presumably be broader as they cover more employment relationships. We confirm a strong, statistically significant relationship between our measurement and the prevalence of these support staff. Thus, we have a valid measurement of contract breadth.

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