Path dependence and sunk costs must be powerful forces. Why? Because I cannot imagine why people would continue to teaching as adjuncts, making, on average, $2700 per course. This means that to make a meager wage of $30k per year, one has to teach eleven classes. These jobs have few, if any, benefits, that they often require someone to drive all over a locale (adjuncts often do not get enough courses to teach at one place), and that these folks are essentially second-class citizens, left out of department meetings (bonus?). The high teaching load means that people cannot work their way into better jobs with more publications--they have no time to research and publish.
So, the question du jour is this: why do people do it for any length of time? I get it that one might want to try a year or two while struggling to find a tenure-track position or even a visiting assistant professor position (which has a more finite teaching load and benefits). Yet it seems unsustainable, so do folks do it for years? If so, is it because they are only looking for partial wages and a part-time job? It is a tough job market outside the academy, but there must be jobs that either pay more or require less time? Given that this is not a new problem or just a recession problem, I guess I wonder what folks were doing in 2005 adjuncting?
While there is much data on the trends, there is not so much on who is doing the adjuncting. How long does an adjunct professor stick with it? I could imagine a world where the folks who adjunct do so for a few years and quit and then are replaced by the next generation of folks washing up on the shores of a bad academic job market, but staying in such a spot for the long term? I just don't get it. I do not mean this to be a failure of empathy but perhaps a failure of imagination.