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[Apr 10, 2015] Tyler Cowen's Three-Card Monte on Inequality Beat the Press

Tyler Cowen used his Upshot piece this week to tell us that the real issue is not inequality, but rather mobility. We want to make sure that our children have the opportunity to enjoy better lives than we do. And for this we should focus on productivity growth which is the main determinant of wealth in the long-run.

This piece ranks high in terms of being misleading. First, even though productivity growth has been relatively slow since 1973, the key point is that most of the population has seen few of the gains of the productivity growth that we have seen over the last forty years. Had they shared equally in the productivity gains over this period, the median wage would be close to 50 percent higher than it is today. The minimum wage would be more than twice as high. If we have more rapid productivity growth over the next four decades, but we see the top 1.0 percent again getting the same share as it has since 1980, then most people will benefit little from this growth.

The next point that comes directly from this first point is that it is far from clear that inequality does not itself impede productivity growth. While it can of course be coincidence, it is striking that the period of rapid productivity growth was a period of relative equality. At the very least it is hard to make the case that we have experienced some productivity dividend from the inequality of the post-1980 period.

And many of the policies that would most obviously promote equality also promote growth. For example, a Fed policy committed to high employment, even at the risk of somewhat higher rates of inflation, would lead to stronger wage growth at the middle and bottom of the wage ladder, while also likely leading to more investment and growth.

While Cowen talks about immigration as being a question of low-paid workers who might drive down the wages of the less-educated, they are millions of bright highly educated professionals in the developing world who would be happy to train to U.S. standards and compete with our doctors, lawyers, and other highly-paid professionals, many of whom populate the one percent. This policy would also lead to both more rapid growth and greater equality. (We can repatriate a portion of the earnings of these professionals to their home countries to ensure they benefit as well.)

And, we can have a modest financial transactions tax that would eliminate waste in the financial sector while also reducing the income of many of the richest people in the country. Were it not for the political power of Wall Street, we undoubtedly would have put in place financial transactions taxes long ago. (We do still have very small taxes that are used to finance the operation of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission.)

It is also important to remember that the well-being of children depends to a large extent on the well-being of their parents. If the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity growth since 1968 (as it did between 1938 and 1968) it would be over $17 an hour today. The children of a single parent earning $34,000 a year would have much better life prospects than the children of a single parent earning $14,500 a year. In this sense there is a very direct relationship between inequality and mobility.

The long and short is that we know of many measures that can both reduce inequality and increase growth. And, if we want to make sure that everyone's children have a shot at a better standard of living in the future then we should make sure that their parents have a better standard of living today.

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Financial predators produce nothing of value
written by RandallK, April 05, 2015 10:49

The "take-over and loot" artists of Wall Street produce nothing of value and are burdensome to taxpayers - we support the agency which partly funds the stolen pensions - yet rake in more money annually than most wage earners.
What did collateralized debt products produce? Nothing, or close to nothing would be my answer.
We not only need to tax the sales of stocks and bonds, we need to bring back Glass-Steagall(sp?) and make a number of financial products illegal.
Then there's the matter of "too big to fail and too rich to jail," to correct.

Mobility for Whom, to Level What Playing Field Where - For Winners Take All
written by Last Mover, April 05, 2015 11:41

The concept of mobility helps us distinguish between "good inequality" and "bad inequality." Reductions in inequality can follow from a leveling in either direction - by elevating the poor or pushing down the wealthy. It is the plight of the poor that we most need to improve.
Somehow these discussions never get to the part where MNCs used their newfound global mobility to pit workers in different nations against each other in head to head competition and drive wages to subsistence levels in some cases.

That really gave workers a chance to perk up with new mobility opportunities to be more productive as they earned what they were worth, didn't it. After all, it wasn't like MNCs had a lock on the market and overpaid themselves with productivity gains they didn't actually earn, instead extorted with market power. LOL.

These discussions also conveniently ignore the intentional immobility of white collar professionals designed to shield them from competition, especially from abroad, like doctors and CEOs. Cowen would rather talk about reducing regulations on barbers, hairdressers and interior decorators so they can be more mobile and productive. LOL.

written by loneract, April 05, 2015 1:14

The Upshit seems to contain outright lies 2/3 of the time. Usually when Leonardt or Cowen is writing.

Marko, April 05, 2015 4:42

Tyler Cowen is right up there with Laffer , Mankiw , et al in his diligence at defending the perks of the 1%.

The goal is to shift the focus of attention away from anything involving those elites , typically by concentrating instead on poverty or mobility. They can imagine a system of high mobility and low poverty ( as measured relative to median income ) among the 99% in which the 1% captures an even larger share of the income pie than they do currently. Think of plantation slaves as the 99% and plantation owners as the 1% and you get an idea of what their ideal "win-win solution" looks like. High relative mobility and low relative poverty among the 99% , continued concentrated income and wealth flows to the 1%. Problem solved.

Summers is right , for once. The big action in inequality is in the trillion dollars of current gdp that used to flow to the bottom 90% of income-earners that now flows to the top 1%. Similar dynamics apply for wealth.

Ignore the misdirection and focus on the big problem : big money.

watermelonpunch, April 05, 2015 8:16

I'm not sure what that Tyler is rooting for here.

Is he saying that everyone ought to start at the bottom?
For example, someone with a science aptitude born into a wealthy family, ought to be forced to put off their education to mop floors for 2 years, to "earn their chops"?

Because that's the only way I can see his argument having an internal logic at all.

Otherwise, it just sounds like he's saying that people with various disabilities or other limitations, should rightfully (in his mind) be relegated to substandard living conditions struggling for survival with limited access to the benefits our civilization affords "their betters" ... as long as if a child born into that penury has some bit of a chance to "strike it big" if they have enough smarts & ambition & luck.

I fall back to the obvious ... that we - CIVILIZATION AS A WHOLE - NEED people operating the sewage treatment plants, fixing the roads, collecting the trash, cleaning hospitals, working on the farms, packaging & transporting foods etc., and wiping butts when people get too old & infirm to do it for themselves.
Civilization as a whole should be GRATEFUL there are those people who are willing & able to do those things, and recognize that people who do these vital things in society by paying them a fair wage.

In fact, I'd argue that some of these jobs are HARDER and require more aptitude that a lot of "higher jobs" Cowen thinks pay more out of "good inequality".

I'd like to see the branch manager at my bank try to swing the trash cans on my block like my city's garbage crew. (Or live in a neighborhood where the rubbish is piled up for that matter.)

How many accounts department managers would last 2 minutes on a roofing job?

I can think of one manager I knew at a company who would leave her dirty oatmeal dishes in the little bathroom sink all day. Under NO circumstances do I think that woman should ever be trusted to work in a hospital or kitchen.

And then the story I heard from someone about a warehouse manager who would throw fits yelling & start throwing things around when he'd get stressed out. Is that the guy you want alone with you wiping your butt in your hospice room when you're 92?

Would any of us want to buy food sold in a dirty grocery store? And how much luck is a doctor going to have to save your life in a filthy operating room?

Tyler Cowen's shell game is an insult to every citizen.
And it's a injury to every citizen with limitations whether they're born with them or acquire limitations by tragic accident or simply aging.

Richard H. Serlin, April 05, 2015 10:59

High Inequality and High Mobility = Very High Risk Lives

Well, Cowen is always happy to mislead for the libertarian/plutocratic cause, and he has to, as the truth gives no chance to his side in a democracy.

But this extreme inequality is fine of we have high mobility is so wrong, because high mobility is high chance to go up, and high chance to go down. If it's just high chance to go up, that's just growth (which is decreased when you don't invest in the 99+% to give as much as possible to the 1%, or 0.1%).

High inequality with a high probability of plunging into the abyss because of high mobility? That's just a terribly risky life for you and your family, and risk decreases utility and welfare. Who wants to live in a world made that dangerous. And certainly the high mobility that the rich will allow is among the 99%, not among the 0.1%.

bakho, April 06, 2015 5:33

If Cowen is truly concerned about mobility, he would promote policy to encourage mobility.
Improve childhood nutrition
Universal PreK
Health Coach Programs
Programs that would give teens facing double digit unemployment, their first job and on the job training.
Programs that would improve the skill set of youth who are not college bound.
Free Community college, etc.
Raising the MinWage
Less inequality in distribution of resources among communities

I have yet to see him promote any of these measures.

A little parity perhaps?
written by Kat, April 06, 2015 8:34

I just read an AP story about the plight of some poor, poor Americans that had property confiscated under the Castro regime. Congress is on the case-- after all the descendents of these "victims" are so poor they cannot even afford to repair their concrete steps. I did not see skills training mentioned as a fix for their plight.
I think if you thought really, really hard you might be able to come up with a few examples of the US government using its force to confiscate property or support the confiscation of the value of labor from a person. In these cases training is the key to redistributive justice.
And I have yet to see skills training as an answer to all the job creators who simply cannot make a go of it without subsidies and tax breaks.

written by Bloix, April 06, 2015 9:57

"We want to make sure that our children have the opportunity to enjoy better lives than we do."

I have never met an upper middle class parent who wants his kid to have "the opportunity" to have a better life. These parents do not say, "I want my child judged fairly on his merits, and if he winds up as a barista that's fine with me."

written by urban legend, April 06, 2015 2:19

All wage workers need to be organized. The elite forces have spent 200 or so years trying to give the public ill thoughts about labor unions, with but a very brief reprieve roughly between roughly 1934 and 1947 -- with Taft-Hartley "right-to-work" reinforced by the anti-union propaganda film, "On the Waterfront," signalling a return to corporate and corporate media-bashing of all collective bargaining activities. Those toxic forces are really feeling their oats right now, having even compromised the Democratic Party with fundamentally anti-worker people like Rahm Emanuel and Arne Duncan. Only the unions themselves, a few stalwart Democratic office-holders and some bloggers are offering resistance.

There have been embers of recognition that the engineered weakness of labor has coincided with -- and almost surely played a huge causative role in -- the disconnection between productivity and labor compensation. It is going to be a long and continuous, never-ending slog to start the country in the other direction. It's a simple story to make: labor union weakness = low wages = poor demand = weak economy for almost everyone, including small businesses. Hillary Clinton could campaign on that equation, even without attacking Wall Street (other than the dishonest players, whom she must make clear she will not defend), and present herself as the true champion of business because she, unlike the Republican candidates who pretend to be pro-business but actually are the opposite, will follow policies that will promote the growth of demand for their goods and services.

FDR proved you could talk common sense economics like this to the American people. Obama looked like he was campaigning on the equation, but it turned out he was only a little for it and was even actually against it in some respects. He made virtually no push-back against the negative propaganda about unions that has prevailed for three generations. Let's hope this time can be different. But it won't be different unless the people who understand the equation put heavy pressure on all Democratic candidates to think and talk that way.

written by Bob Hertz, April 06, 2015 7:45

I fully support all the posts that call for greater bargaining power for workers.

However, I do wish to point out that many many workers with tiny or nonexistent productivity gains have seen very nice increases in their incomes in the past two decades.

College professors and senior nurses and federal statisticians do very valuable work.
But most of them work fewer hours than they did 20 years ago and have fewer students or patients than 20 years ago.......yet this "EdMed" complex has had very nice wage gains, to say nothing of benefits that private sectors workers can only dream of.

If you rented a meeting hall and had a gathering where the only attendees would be those whose incomes had gone up faster than inflation, I do NOT think that the hall would be filled with persons who increased their productivity. I think it would be filled with persons who had credentials and connections.

accelerating inflation
written by Dishwasher, April 07, 2015 2:01

And many of the policies that would most obviously promote equality also promote growth. For example, a Fed policy committed to high employment, even at the risk of somewhat higher rates of inflation, would lead to stronger wage growth at the middle and bottom of the wage ladder, while also likely leading to more investment and growth.
I agree with you on doctors, lawyers, and other highly-paid professionals.

On minimum wage, to me a minimum wage is a second best solution, a wage subsidy or a basic income guarantee better distributes the burden of helping low income workers.

written by Dishwasher, April 07, 2015 2:23

Above I should have said isn't it accelerating inflation that helps debtors and wage earners and not just inflation? And it cannot continue to be accelerated without very bad consequences.

[Nov 16, 2013] In Public Education, Edge Still Goes to Rich By EDUARDO PORTER

"Money, to be sure, is not a silver bullet that will automatically lift the test scores of poor American children and close performance gaps. How the money is deployed is absolutely crucial. "
November 5, 2013 |

"There aren't many things that are more important to that idea of economic mobility - the idea that you can make it if you try - than a good education," President Obama told students at the State University of New York in Buffalo in August.

It is hardly a partisan belief. About a decade ago, on signing the No Child Left Behind Act, President George W. Bush argued that the nation's biggest challenge was to ensure that "every single child, regardless of where they live, how they're raised, the income level of their family, every child receive a first-class education in America."

This consensus is comforting. It provides a solution everyone can believe in, whether the problem is income inequality, racial marginalization or the stagnation of the middle class. But it raises a perplexing question, too. If education is a poor child's best shot at rising up the ladder of prosperity, why do public resources devoted to education lean so decisively in favor of the better off?

... ... ...

Andreas Schleicher, who runs the O.E.C.D.'s international educational assessments, put it to me this way: "The bottom line is that the vast majority of O.E.C.D. countries either invest equally into every student or disproportionately more into disadvantaged students. The U.S. is one of the few countries doing the opposite." The inequity of education finance in the United States is a feature of the system, not a bug, stemming from its great degree of decentralization and its reliance on local property taxes.

[Nov 13, 2013] QuickWire California Moves Toward Online 2-Year-College Portal By Lawrence Biemiller

From comments: "I understand that peoples lives are very busy, but isn't part of the whole college experience going to campus meeting people and networking"
November 12, 2013 | The Chronicle of Higher Education

Comments (3)

The board that oversees California's 112 community colleges approved a contract on Tuesday to spend $16.9-million on a "one-stop statewide online-education portal" that will let students take online courses from any of the state's participating two-year institutions. The Foothill-De Anza and Butte-Glenn community-college districts created a partnership to win the portal contract, money for which was included in Gov. Jerry Brown's 2013-14 budget.

More than half of California's community colleges now offer a degree or certificate online, Foothill-De Anza officials said in a news release, and more than a quarter of the state's community-college students take online courses. The goal of creating a single statewide system is to reduce overlap and take advantage of economies of scale, said Joseph Moreau, Foothill-De Anza's vice chancellor for technology.

Angela D.

I understand that peoples lives are very busy, but isn't part of the whole college experience going to campus meeting people and networking? I enjoy the internet, but I am not ready for this shift of technology. I don't think it will benefit us as a whole, we need human interaction.

The Middle Class Gets Wise By JONATHAN COWAN and JIM KESSLER

Perhaps we underestimate ourselves. Five years after the Lehman collapse triggered the deepest recession in eight decades, the middle class may be solving the vexing problems of income inequality and stalled wages on its own.

Faced with unemployment and dim job prospects, Americans made one significant change that should alter their fortunes and those of the middle class for decades: they went back to school. During the recession, there has been a sharp surge in the number of Americans who are getting a college degree.

For much of the last several decades young Americans, particularly young men, had shied away from college. As a share of the population, there were actually more male college degree holders among those ages 25 to 29 in 1976 than there were in 2006. Between 2000 and 2006, the share of all Americans ages 25 to 29 with a four-year college degree dipped by 0.7 percentage points, with men leading the decline, falling from 27.9 percent to 25.3 percent.

Americans have now reversed that decline by going to school in unprecedented numbers. In 2011, there were 3.2 million more people enrolled in higher education than there were in 2006. This 18 percent increase in enrollment was the largest such jump since the end of the Vietnam War.

In the last six years, American higher education institutions conferred nearly 3.5 million more degrees (from associates to Ph.D.'s) than they did over the six years before that. By last year, 29.8 percent of men and 37.2 percent of women ages 25 to 29 possessed four-year college degrees. This blows past previous highs.

Educational gains during the recession were not reserved for the young. By 2010, there were nearly 8 million students over the age of 25 enrolled in higher education institutions, 1.2 million more than in 2007. Degrees conferred at all levels of education for all races, ages and genders are up from six years ago.

The knock on the American work force is that when it comes to brainpower, it has fallen behind our international competitors. In a recent survey of 23 countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, American adults were mediocre in both math and reading. In "The Undereducated American," Anthony P. Carnevale and Stephen J. Rose assert that the United States has been underproducing college graduates since the 1980s, creating a labor force unable to match the needs of employers.

But is college still worth it today? It's not just that college graduates are riding out the meager recovery living in their parents' basements; the fear is that they will permanently underperform in the labor market. This seems unlikely. The recession has followed familiar labor patterns, with unemployment rates among college graduates roughly half those of high school graduates, just as in every recession since the mid-1970s.

In time, these young college graduates will find work and they will earn pay that is significantly higher than what they would have earned had they not gone to college.

How can we be so certain? Because the more education you have, the more you earn. In 2012, two-year-degree holders earned close to $7,000 more per year than their high-school-diploma-only counterparts. Someone with a four-year degree earned roughly $15,000 more than that same someone with an associate degree. A professional degree reaped nearly $35,000 more than a four-year college degree, according to the Department of Labor.

What this means is that the income mobility problem that drives policy makers nuts disappears for those who get a degree. Over the past few decades, those born into the middle three income quintiles were more than twice as likely to reach the top income quintile if they possessed a college degree compared with those who did not. The steepest mobility gains came from those in the second poorest quintile. Nearly two-thirds of these working-class Americans jumped to the richest quintile (37 percent) or the next richest quintile (27 percent) on the basis of earning a college degree.

But we still face serious obstacles if we want to turn this recession-led college resurgence into one of the dominant economic trends of the 21st century. First, almost 60 percent of adults over the age of 25 still do not have any degree beyond a high school diploma. For men in particular, this is a problem. When inflation is accounted for, the peak earnings year for men with a high school diploma was 1973. We're living in a fantasy if we think that 40-year trend is about to change.

Likewise, college graduation rates are still far too low. Even now, 46 percent of students enrolled in a four-year college will not have a degree after six years.

And then there are the record levels of student debt. For people under 35, student loans are the second largest source of debt behind mortgages. College tuition has increased faster than inflation every single year since 1981.

So what can we do? Anya Kamenetz, the author of "Generation Debt," has put together some excellent ideas for Third Way, the centrist policy organization where we both work. Let's start by reducing the number of college administrators per 100 students, which jumped by 40 percent between 1993 and 2007. We should demand a cease-fire to the perk wars in which colleges build ever-more-luxurious living, dining and recreational facilities. Blended learning, which uses online teaching tools together with professors and teaching assistants, could also help students master coursework at less cost.

There are 37 million Americans with some college experience, but no degree. So pegging government tuition aid to college graduation rates would entice schools to find ways of keeping students in class. And eliminating some of the offerings of rarely chosen majors could bring some market efficiencies now lacking in education.

The most commonly discussed solutions to the problem of income inequality seem unlikely to get to the heart of the problem. Yes, we could raise additional taxes on the wealthy, but we just did that. Bumping up the minimum wage would help, but how high would lawmakers allow it to go? We should look instead at what Americans are already doing to solve this problem and help them do it far more successfully and at less cost.

Jonathan Cowan is president of Third Way, a centrist policy organization, where Jim Kessler is the senior vice president for policy.

[Oct 22, 2013] 'An Industry of Mediocrity' -

How America prepares its teachers has been a subject of dismay for many years. In 2005 Arthur Levine, then the president of Teachers College at Columbia University, shocked colleagues (and himself, he says) with a scathing report concluding that teacher preparation programs "range from inadequate to appalling." Since then the outcry has only gotten more vociferous. This summer the National Council on Teacher Quality described teacher education as still "an industry of mediocrity."

The heartening news is that the universities that have so long resisted pleas to raise their standards are now beginning to have change pushed on them from outside. Governors (including New York's Andrew Cuomo, last month) are raising admission standards for state education colleges. Philanthropies like the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, which Levine now runs, have been pouring money into reform. And academic entrepreneurs like Kenny are arising to compete with the established schools.

Higher Education and the Opportunity Gap

As Jesse noted: "I think the slogan for the US might become 'we reject your reality and substitute our own.' "

Economist's View

A quick one on a moderately long travel day:

Higher Education and the Opportunity Gap, by Isabel V. Sawhill, Brookings: America faces an opportunity gap. Those born in the bottom ranks have difficulty moving up. Although the United States has long thought of itself as a meritocracy, a place where anyone who gets an education and works hard can make it, the facts tell a somewhat different story. Children born into the top fifth of the income distribution have about twice as much of a chance of becoming middle class or better in their adult years as those born into the bottom fifth (Isaacs, Sawhill, & Haskins, 2008).

One way that lower-income children can beat the odds is by getting a college degree.[1] Those who complete four-year degrees have a much better chance of becoming middle class than those who don't - although still not as good of a chance as their more affluent peers.

But the even bigger problem is that few actually manage to get the degree. Moreover, the link between parental income and college-going has increased in recent decades (Bailey & Dynarski, 2011). In short, higher education is not the kind of mobility-enhancing vehicle that it could be. ...


How about adding IQ to this analysis. There are clear studies linking IQ with success and being hereditary. I just think we choose to overlook some basic differences in human beings that are uncomfortable even though they are known by all of us. I know this impacts a bunch of people's careers that do a bunch of useless studies. Sorry

Watermelonpunch -> The Blorch...

After watching "Camp 14" & hearing about Shin's experience growing up in a North Korean prison camp... I'm thoroughly convinced that a lot of the cultural ideas we have about humans in communities and morality and how to relate to other people, are definitely influenced by deprivation.

On another blog, someone just told me about something they learned about a generational study about Holocaust survivors and their children & grandchildren and interesting effects on their behaviour.

We do not live in a vacuum.

Watermelonpunch -> Wayne...

This line of thinking has been thoroughly questioned, if not totally debunked, by a lot of recent evidence.

In other words, IQ is heredity, probably mostly in the same way riches are.

I don't think it's fair to say studies that show a positive correlation of genetics on IQ levels are useful, and studies that show external inherited conditions have a correlation with IQ levels are "useless".

Put down the cherry picker. My father lost use of his pinky finger from a cherry picker blade accident. I take that as a lesson. ;)



>How about adding IQ to this analysis. There are clear >studies linking IQ with success and being hereditary.

I think that the level of degradation of the US elite (as demonstrated by current events) clearly contradicts this hypothesis ;-)

At the same time you post might demonstrate noted by Jesse: "I think the slogan for the US might become 'we reject your reality and substitute our own.' "

Actually "the level of rejection of reality" almost like "the level of rotation" of elite (aka the level of meritocracy) might be an important metric of the health of the society. I now start to see some subtle logic in Stalin's "purges" ;-).

[Oct 01, 2013] Interview Ask President Anant Agarwal About edX and the Future of Education - Slashdot

Anant Agarwal is a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and the President of edX. A massive open online course platform founded by MIT and Harvard, edX offers numerous courses on a wide variety of subjects and is affiliated with 29 different institutes of higher education. Mr. Agarwal has agreed to take some time out of his schedule and answer your questions about edX and the future of learning. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.

[Aug 22, 2013] Obama Takes on the College Cartel by Rick Newman

Yahoo! Finance

President Obama's summer "bus tour" has been sort of a snooze, with Obama touting a bunch of old ideas he knows a fractious Congress is unlikely to pass. But his new effort to revamp the whole market for higher education is new and ambitious, and it targets a problem affecting millions of middle-class families.

Related: Why College Grads Get Stuck With Lousy Jobs

"College has never been more expensive," Obama declared during today's campaign-style speech in Buffalo. "Higher education cannot be a luxury. It's an economic imperative."

Maybe so, but higher education has been one of the last protected industries in America, even if most universities are technically nonprofits that supposedly serve the public interest. More people are going to college, since a college degree is directly linked to higher lifetime pay and a more rewarding career. But the supply of slots at four-year schools is relatively fixed, which is one big reason why the cost of higher ed has been rising by considerably more than inflation. Readily available student loans, many backed by the government, have only added to the gusher of money flowing into higher ed. The overall supply-and-demand dynamic has given universities the sort of pricing power typified by cartels and oligopolies.

Students (and their parents) haven't necessarily been getting their money's worth. Taking on debt to pay for education makes sense when you can graduate into a decent job that allows you to start paying back what you owe. But with jobs scarce, as they are now, the equation breaks down. The total amount of student debt has tripled since 2004, to nearly $1 trillion, with the average borrower owing more than $26,000. That's a huge bill if you're barely earning minimum wage as a barista or retail clerk.

Related: Yes, Despite the Student Loan 'Crisis,' College IS Worth It

Obama wants students to get a better return on their investment, so he's proposing a new "college scorecard" that would be published by the Dept. of Education and rate colleges by the value they offer to students. Here are some highlights of the plan:

What's refreshing about Obama's higher-ed reform plan is that the administration can do some of these things right away, without partisan bickering or tortured efforts to pass controversial legislation. The Dept. of Education can set up a college rating scheme without any need for Congressional approval, for instance. That alone could force universities to start paying more attention to the needs of their customers, if the way they react to rankings published by U.S. News & World Report, the Princeton Review and others is any guide. University administrators typically complain that such rankings are an abomination --while making sure their schools rank as high as possible. It's a good bet that most schools would change whatever they could to earn the best possible rating on the government's scorecard.

Linking financial aid to a school's rating would require new legislation passed by Congress, as would an expansion of "pay as you earn." Obama aides argue that the overall reform plan ought to have bipartisan appeal, making it more likely to get through a cantankerous Congress than other Obama proposals. It certainly has populist appeal, since it's hard to argue against measures that make college more affordable for middle-class students and their parents.

Still, Washington is the place where good ideas go to die, and some universities may lobby against the new measures or try to get them watered down. So while costly colleges may get a presidential thrashing, tuition may remain higher than many students can afford. Perhaps there should be a scorecard rating Washington's effectiveness.

[Aug 22, 2013] Barbara Garson How to Become a Part-Time Worker Without Really Trying

naked capitalism

Jim in SC says:

The quality of jobs out there has diminished terribly. It makes so much more sense to be self employed if this is possible in your field.

I think it is incredibly short sighted that so many say: 'study nursing', 'study in STEM fields', and so on. All of these are seeing a glut, too. At our local technical college, many people pursuing RNs are $40,000 in debt and get bounced out of the program because the requirements are very strict. Fail one test, and you're gone. Ironically, even though the technical colleges were created to train students in 'technical' fields, I saw very few grads in those fields at a recent graduation.

The quality of K-12 education is such that everybody gets in the remedial track, and that slows down progress towards technical degrees. Meanwhile, the cost of tuition has gone from $100 a semester in 1980, to $2,000 a semester today. What are we doing?

[Aug 21, 2013] For-Profit College Scams Hurt Students and Taxpayers By Lauren Lyster

We've all heard about the cost to students of rising college tuition and student loan debt.

But what's the cost of exploiting those trends as a school, and systematically deceiving college students by advertising phony job placement rates to boost enrollment and revenue?

Well, apparently it's just over $10 million. That's how much one of the largest for-profit college corporations in the U.S. has agreed to settle with the state of New York for, over such claims.

Of the dirty deeds that Career Education Corporation (CECO) committed, Huffington Post reports the New York Attorney General's investigation revealed examples like counting students as "placed" in a job if they were involved for a day at a community health fair, even if they weren't hired. Or, they counted a criminal justice graduate, for example, as employed in that field because he or she processed parking ticket data, and so dealt with the courts. And employees of these schools received bonuses for achieving certain job placement rates, which were inflated as much as 50% according to the settlement.

Related: America's Student Loan Crisis: Generation I.O.U.

The surprises about this industry may not end there if you're just getting up to speed.

In the above video, we discuss the top five startling facts you may not know about for-profit colleges with Jeff Selingo, editor-at-large of The Chronicle of Higher Education, a news source for faculty and administrators in the field.

  1. For-profit education companies get 86% of their revenues from taxpayer dollars. That's according to the findings of a Democratic Senate panel, looking at 15 publicly traded companies in 2009.
  2. Veterans are big business. For-profit colleges claim about 37% of post-GI Bill education benefits, about the same amount as public schools. Yet, they received twice the amount of money per veteran student as public schools, at $10,000 per student versus $5,000 per student respectively. That's according to the Government Accountability Office.
  3. For-profit schools account for 13% of students but almost half of all student loan defaults, according to Department of Education data compiled in the same Senate report cited above.
  4. The graduation rate for students at these schools is almost half that of other types of colleges. The Department of Education found that for full-time, first-time students graduating within six years, for-profits saw a graduation rate of 28.4% compared to 56% for public schools and 65.4% for non-profit schools.
  5. It's not just about delivering education, but also shareholder value. The Senate panel cited above also reported 76% of for-profit college students attend schools that are publicly traded or owned by private equry firms.

    In response to some of these issues, there has been a crackdown on for-profit schools. President Obama signed a 2012 executive order taking action so these schools can't target service members as aggressively, for instance. In addition, the government is trying to hold these schools accountable for student loan repayment of their graduates.

    Selingo tells The Daily Ticker it's probably too early to tell if some of these refroms are really having an impact. However he does think "many of the abuses have now been exposed and... we're now starting to see for-profit universities be slightly better players in this field."

    That said, just earlier this month the New York State comptroller released an audit finding that more than half of "private career schools" in the state are ignoring reporting requirements on job placement and graduation rates, with schools operating without licenses and "alarmingly little oversight."

[Aug 21, 2013] LA area Port Traffic Import Traffic Increases in July

Calculated Risk

skk wrote on Fri, 8/16/2013 - 8:19 pm (in reply to...)

burnside wrote:

skk, what led you to Bulliet?


All stories are local.. the oft repeated joke I've had whenever I've met Persian | Iranian individuals - I always say to them - give us back our Elgin Marbles Peacock throne.. - that Nadir Shah nicked from India in 1745? - then in the late 70s - I knew Persian students in England who were part of the PMOI, old fogies of the Tudeh party, then then -Khalq .. so I've always had an interest in Persia - and the awareness of a x-connect.

o yeah girls are always involved in this -

one flattering moment in Istanbul in the late-2000s.. in the tourist area, suddenly I'm mobbed by 4 young women who tell me they are from Persia and love Indian bollywood stars - who shoo away my wife and then get their boyfriends to take pictures of them with ME !

heyy I'd better understand this place - if I'm gonna get mistaken for a film star hell YEAH..

so I listened to this..

W3710 History of Iran to the Safavid Period - Audio - Download free content from Columbia University on iTunes

and the rest as they say is.. history.

skk wrote on Fri, 8/16/2013 - 8:51 pm (in reply to...)

burnside wrote:

why this particular lecturer

he is humorous - self-deprecatory, aware that he needs to give MORE than the textbooks - bloody hard worker too IMO and not ashamed to mention it. - above all his lectures are full of the META-aspect of what he's talking about - separating fact from opinion, especially in his field - so the lectures are not at all chapter and verse from the course textbook. its something else entirely - its the sort of lectures I knew when I was at college.

he knows an awful lot too.

[Aug 20, 2013] Top Economics Graduate Programs are Not as Good as You Think'

August 16, 2013 | Economist's View

"The median Harvard student has after six years only 0.04 AER equivalent publications":

Top Economics graduate programs are not as good as you think, Economic Logician: Along with business schools, Economics is where pedigree matters most in the placement of PhD students to academic positions. Students from top ranked (or considered such) programs have a job almost guaranteed in research universities, and students from lower ranked universities find it very hard to break into such universities no matter what their performance is. ...

John Conley and Ali Sina Onder find that while there is indeed a steep gradient across program rankings, there is an even steeper gradient within programs. They use student rankings within programs and cohorts and their publication output after six years, that is, when they are up for tenure. Looking at AER equivalents, they find that the top Toronto student is equivalent to the number three from Berkeley, for example. And to illustrate how steep the gradient is, the median Harvard student has after six years only 0.04 AER equivalent publications, despite coming from the #2 program. This means that more than half of Harvard students are not tenurable in any research-oriented institution.

I see two major conclusions from this:

  1. Stop worrying so much about where PhD students are graduating from. It is OK to hire students from lower ranked programs as long as they excelled in those programs.
  2. Even the top places should acknowledge that not all students should take research positions and need to prepare them for other ones, like industry, government or purely teaching jobs. These students are screwed twice: they are sent to tenure-track positions that they will never get tenure in, and they are woefully unprepared for the jobs they should take.

We have endowed chairs held by people from Berkeley and Princeton, and they are publication monsters, but we have also done extraordinarily well finding the "diamonds in the rough," i.e. hiring the top students from the second-tier of graduate schools. The best among them are every bit as good.

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Dryly 41:

I have long believed that Ivy league schools were overrated. After all, George W. Bush not only got into Yale on the basis of his legacy, he got out of Yale on the basis of his legacy. He then took the LSAT's, his Yale academic record such as it was, and, his political influence and applied to the U. of Texas law school and was rejected. He then got into Harvard Business school and became our first MBA president(after 5 GOP Supreme Court judges appointed him) and second businessman after Herbert Hoover. Further, if ethics, morals, or, the Golden Rule are taught in any Ivy league Business school, law school, or, economics department it's very difficult to discern based on the conduct of Wall Street Banksters.


That the quality of professors is measured almost exclusively by publications reminds me of the "prof scam" meme.

Teaching undergrads is a lot like being a nurse for lepers, someone has to do it but no one from a top school really wants to do it.

The Blorch -> save_the_rustbelt...

"Teaching undergrads is a lot like being a nurse for lepers, someone has to do it but no one from a top school really wants to do it."

[Hire and illegal alien to do it. They'll do it for cheap.]

Cameron Hoppe:

We know from peer-reviewed objective studies that the curricula at Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Yale....on down the line, are not significantly different from plain-old jane-old public universities. Anyone who doubts this can easily find the curricula and content pretty easily on the internets. A person who graduates with high grades from a public university is just as well educated as someone who went to a "top-tier" institution.

The whole "tenure-track" thing ain't much different than the corporate world. Go through the job postings of any major company and you will find several positions that require a degree from a "top tier" university. Like I said, we know the quality of the education is no different.

When universities, firms, and government agencies deliberately seek and select folks from the ivy league, excluding all others, they are not looking for skillset. They are looking for folks with powerful connections and the ability to control extraordinary resources. They are only looking to sustain and exploit extant status systems, not to improve their organizations in a meaningful way.

The Blorch -> Cameron Hoppe...

You're a cynical bastard. No?

david s -> The Blorch...

People who are cynical have been paying attention.

Cameron Hoppe -> The Blorch...

Say what you like. The difference between you and me is I don't hide behind "anonymity".

hiring manager -> Cameron Hoppe...

One reason for putting something like "top tier university" is an effort to do some screening of the number of applicants. It isn't that I think a big name university teaches more effectively, but that they have already screened their pool of students, and a bit of a speed-bump confidence check for the applicants.

I'll gladly look at the resume of someone from a "lesser" school -- I didn't go to an Ivy either -- but I don't want my job listing to be a dumping ground for every CS student from every school in a couple hundred mile radius.

I accept that I may miss a diamond in the rough because of that. Mining for diamonds may not always be the best use of my time.

Cameron Hoppe -> hiring manager...

A diamond in the rough? If one is looking to run a good, profitable business one would think competence would be enough. Your company's goal is access to the nepotocracy. You ought to have the guts to admit it to yourself at least.

hiring manager -> Cameron Hoppe...

Come now.

By the same logic, you should admit that my goal is not necessarily the same as the goal of the company I work for. So it is quite possible that hiring someone with connection to the nepotocracy would actually be counter to my goals. They may be too independent from me to enhance my own agenda.

Of course, by the same logic, _your_ goals are probably not discussion, but rather sneering cynicism. Not saying it is a better or worse goal than any other, but it does rather make discussion pointless.

Cameron Hoppe -> hiring manager...

Sneering cynicism? But you have no evidence that I'm wrong, now do you.

I've lived in this country far too long to believe that opportunity, income, wealth, etc. have much to do with skill, knowledge, or work ethic. They are almost entirely a function of social status. You know it, I know it, everybody freakin knows it. I have yet to see any evidence to the contrary.

Dryly 41 -> Cameron Hoppe...

Yes, but, over time the genes wear out as the legacy succession precedes; e.g. Prescott to George H.W. to George W.

Cameron Hoppe -> Dryly 41...

I have yet to see that good genetics is the basis of human status systems.

ezra abrams:

So the quality of a Economics Professor is strictly proportional to the number of papers * journal ranking ? Pathetic. As Tyler Cowen remarks, markets in everything: clearly, bribery of top journal editors is worth a *lot*; why isn't there an established bribery scale ?

My postdoc advisor, a brilliant man, was chair at a decent place. He told me that the people he put up for tenure, molecular biologists, during the tenure process, would face a committee of professors from all different fields. Since the chemists and english and history profs couldn't tell the difference between a really important paper and filler, they would just weigh the stack..

I mean, the Research University is, what, since 1950, almost 60 years old, and counting papers is all ya got ?

John M -> ezra abrams...

When they count papers, do they count ones such as Reinhart and Rogoff's 90% debt paper? Or the Ehrlich death penalty study? Both were not merely erroneous, but were based on bad methods.

Or would they count them negatively?

Well, of course, you answered that question in general. But if someone actually pointed out the facts to the committee for a particular paper, then?

Dryly 41 -> John M...

You could include Jason Richwine's Harvard Phd dissertation on Hispanic eugenics as equally infamous.


At first I was going to jump in and write about nepotism, including in HR, and about the irony of government cutbacks to education leading to poorer outcomes via nepotsim/elitist hiring. But then I remembered that truly innovative work takes longer to publish or is not published at all. I think the math brains who are always boasting about themselves should design a ranking system that measures the true worth of a paper so that stories about academics weighing papers will stop.

[Jul 14, 2013] Coding Camps for Kids Rise in Popularity by Christina A. Cassidy

ACM TechNews

Associated Press (06/25/13) Christina A. Cassidy

Coding camps for children are becoming increasingly popular amid an expanding initiative to widen access to computer programming and inspire more youths to seek computer science degrees. For example, the iD Tech Camps have grown from 200 students in 1999 to 28,000 students this year. The camps use interest in gaming to build bridges to computer programming and other science, technology, engineering, and math careers. Beginning courses use photo, illustration, and gaming software to create simple arcade-style games. "We get it down to the basics so they can make their own game," says iD Tech Camps instructor Melissa Andrews. Courses for older children include designing apps and learning programming languages such as Java and C++.

The goal is to build self-confidence and spark interest in learning how computers work.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama said programming should be a required course in high school. "Given how pervasive computers and the Internet is now and how integral it is into our economy and how fascinated kids are with it, I want to make sure they know how to actually produce stuff using computers and not just simply consume stuff," he said.

[Jul 12, 2013] Math and Science Popular With Students Until They Realize They're Hard

July 11, 2013 | Slashdot

Posted by timothy

First time accepted submitter HonorPoncaCityDotCom writes "Khadeeja Safdar reports in the WSJ that researchers who surveyed 655 incoming college students found that while math and science majors drew the most interest initially, not many students finished with degrees in those subjects. Students who dropped out didn't do so because they discovered an unexpected amount of the work and because they were dissatisfied with their grades.

"Students knew science was hard to begin with, but for a lot of them it turned out to be much worse than what they expected," says Todd R. Stinebrickner, one of the paper's authors. "What they didn't expect is that even if they work hard, they still won't do well."

The authors add that the substantial overoptimism about completing a degree in science can be attributed largely to students beginning school with misperceptions about their ability to perform well academically in science. ""If more science graduates are desired, the findings suggest the importance of policies at younger ages that lead students to enter college better prepared (PDF) to study science.""

[Jun 28, 2013] Why College Grads Get Stuck With Lousy Jobs

It's tough being a young worker in today's difficult job market. But if your parents tell you it was even tougher when they were your age, don't roll your eyes and write them off. They might just be right.

A common predicament among recent college grads is the difficulty finding professional work that matches their qualifications. Some hold out and refuse to take a job for which they're overqualified, which is why the unemployment rate for recent grads, at about 6%, is higher than the rate for college grads as a whole, which is only about 4%.

Related: Sen. Sanders: Student Loan Rates Won't Double

A bigger problem, however, is underemployment. Many new diploma holders need a paycheck, no matter how small, so they take jobs that don't require a college degree, such as retail clerk, waiter, barista, or medical technician. Nearly 45% of college students who graduated during the last five years count as underemployed in this manner, according to new data compiled by economists at the New York Federal Reserve.

That sounds high-but it was even higher during the mid-1990s, when the economy was also recovering from a recession. Back then, the underemployment rate among recent college grads was nearly 50 percent, or a few points higher than it is now. That's peculiar because the 1990-1991 recession was mild, whereas the 2007-2009 recession we're still recovering from was severe. By most other economic measures, the recent recession was the worst since the 1930s.

There was nothing unusual about the economy in the 1990s that punished college grads. In fact, it was typical back then for recent grads to toil beneath their standing, as it were, before finding better work and starting a career. "It's not unusual for a significant share of college grads to be working in a job that doesn't require a degree," says Richard Dietz, a senior economist at the New York Fed. "Even during the best of times, some underemployment tends to persist."

The unusual part may be what happened starting in the mid 90s: The technology industry exploded, attracting millions of younger workers who would naturally be more drawn to new fields than older workers would be. By 1999, the underemployment rate for college grads fell to 35%, the lowest level in the 20+ years the Fed examined. It went back up after the dot-com bust in 2001, but was still below 40% when the latest recession started at the end of 2007.

The burden of a low-paying post-college job may be heavier today, however, because students tend to carry more debt used to pay for school. The percentage of 25-year-olds carrying student loans has risen from 25 percent to 43 percent during the last 10 years, according to Fed data. Of those with loans, the average balance has nearly doubled to about $20,000. Some students graduate with $50,000 in loans, or more. Proceeds from the tip jar aren't likely to cover those monthly payments.

With age comes relief, however. Both the unemployment and underemployment rate tend to drop and then flatten out as recent college grads approach 30. The percentage of 23-year old college grads who are underemployed today is about 55 percent, for instance. The Fed's data suggests that by the age of 33, only about one-third percent of recent grads will be underemployed. That's roughly the historical average.

Technology jobs still favor younger workers over older ones, with fields such as social media and app development-poorly understood by most people over 40-growing faster than other industries and offering a lot of good jobs. That could give recent grads with the right credentials the kinds of opportunities that would make prior generations envious.

Not everybody graduates with a technical degree, of course, but research shows that a college degree in just about any field is still better than no degree. "A college education is still a very good thing to have," says Dietz. It just takes some grads longer to recognize the benefits than others.

[Jun 20, 2013] Men are disappearing from the workforce By Tami Luhby

It's more line workforce is disappearing from men...
Jun 19, 2013 |

Men have been steadily disappearing from the workforce for more than half a century.

In the 1950s, nearly every man in his prime working years was in the labor force, a category that includes both those who are employed and those actively applying for jobs. The "participation rate" for men ages 25 to 54 stood at 97.7% in early 1956, but drifted downward to a post-war record low of 88.4% at the end of 2012. (It ticked up very slightly at the start of this year to 88.6%.)

So where have all the men workers gone?

Some went into prison. Others are on disability. And still others can't find jobs and have simply given up looking.

The trend is particularly pronounced among the less educated. As the job market shifted away from blue-collar positions that required only a high-school degree to more skilled labor, many men were left behind, labor analysts say. It's harder these days to find well-paying jobs in manufacturing, production and other fields traditionally dominated by men without college diplomas.

But college men are leaving, too. The participation rate of those older than 25 and holding at least bachelor's degree fell to 80.2% in May, down from 87.2% in May 1992.

"The proportion of guys doing nothing has risen," said Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The cycles of national economic prosperity since World War II have done little to stem this downward slide. In fact, even when the unemployment rate hit a 30-year low in the early 2000s, the share of men in the workforce continued its steady decline.

The Great Recession accelerated the trend, pushing the participation rate for men in their prime working years below 90% for the first time. It has yet to recover, even as the general economy improves.

Here's a closer look at the reasons why men are dropping out of the labor force.

The decline of men in the labor force has broad implications for families, taxpayers and the economy. Fewer employed men means more people on the dole and fewer taxpayers to contribute to the nation's economic growth.

Also, fewer of these men are in stable family relationships, contributing to growth of single-parent households. That fuels the widening income inequality gap and stunts the upward economic mobility of the next generation.

[Jun 14, 2013] Paul Krugman Sympathy for the Luddites

Economist's View

Benoit Essiambre:

As a millennial, all my friends seem to be disproportionately affected by high unemployment (I fully blame central banks for their lack of aggressivity, FU inflation hawks). The people I know are mostly over-educated and underemployed. Their advanced degrees are being wasted.

I wonder if the government shouldn't reduce funding of pre-work life education, maybe shortening the overall process by a year or two and instead fund a year or two of continuing education or skills upgrading for those who need it later in life.

Before working, I had been in school from age 6 to 26, a twenty year period. For some people doing PhDs, specialized medical degrees or post docs (for lack of other employment opportunity) they've been at it for 25 to 30 years. This is an excessive amount of studying before starting work and some of them have little to show for it besides debt and certificates



First of all education has its own great value. So those are lucky enough to get high education are in way privileged people, no matter whether they are fully employed or not. So I completely disagree that "Their advanced degrees are being wasted. " Because a large part of any advanced degree and general education which make you a different, better social being. Able to understand things that other can't. It is a bid advantage in itself.

The second point is that many specialties, such as programming, require life long education as the field is constantly changing. In other words, your ability to continue your education has primary importance in your professional life.

So they are more like professional sport: to stay on the top you need to be in perfect physical and mental shape and that takes almost all your time to keep up even if you have talent. And at some age you just can't keep up with the intensity required and need to find something else.

Or the situation is even worse: when you became reasonably good, you also became unreasonably old. There are a lot of areas where now 20-25 years or more of work plus intensive self-study (or periods of work intermixed with full time study) are required to achieve high level. One example is software architect. So you became more or less OK only at 40 or 45. And intellectually past your prime and barely able to keep up with more recent technologies (and understand that most of them are fake ;-).

It might be that the society became way too complex. And this "over-complexity" represents danger in itself, multiplied by social problems related to neoliberal model of capitalism that is dominant now.

So it is an open question whether the current model of society with its narrow overspecialization and reliance on more and more complex technology is sustainable.

[Jun 09, 2013] Google, Microsoft and Facebook Are More of a Threat to Privacy Than the US Government byFrank Schaeffer

It looks like along with threat of cooperating with the government, Google and other companies also represent a different threat then the government: they promote "computer as an obsession" mentality in children.
June 7, 2013 | Patheos Hosting the Conversation on Faith

It's amazing that there are naive people who worry about government intrusion into our privacy when we already gave away our civil rights to the billionaires in Silicon Valley. The NSA is taking note of our calls and emails, but anyone – me included! - who uses the internet and social media has already sold out our privacy rights to the trillion dollar multinational companies now dominating our lives and – literally – buying and selling us.

The NSA isn't our biggest worry when it comes to who is using our calls, emails and records for purposes we didn't intend. We are going to pay forever for trusting Google, Facebook. Microsoft, AOL and all the rest. They and the companies that follow them are the real threat to liberty and privacy.

The government may be wrong in how it is trying to protect us but at least it isn't literally selling us. Google's and Facebook's et al highest purpose is to control our lives, what we buy, sell, like and do for money. Broken as our democracy is we citizens at least still have a voice and ultimately decide on who runs Congress. Google and company answer to no one. They see themselves as an elite and superior to everyone else.

In fact they are part of a business culture that sees itself not only above the law but believes it's run by superior beings. Google even has its own bus line, closed to the public, so its "genius" employees don't have to be bothered mingling with us regular folk. A top internet exec just ruined the America's Cup race by making it so exclusive that so far only four groups have been able to sign up for the next race to be held in San Francisco because all but billionaires are now excluded because this internet genius changed the rules to favor his kind of elite.

Google and Facebook have done little-to-nothing to curb human trafficking pleading free speech as the reason their search engines and social networks have become the new slave ships "carrying" child rape victims to their new masters internationally. That's just who and what these internet profiteers are.

Face it: the big tech companies aren't run by nice people even if they do make it pleasant for their workers by letting them skateboard in the hallways and offering them free sushi. They aren't smarter than anyone else, just lucky to be riding a new tech wave. That wave is cresting.

Lots of us lesser mortals are wondering just what we get from people storing all our private data. For a start we have a generation hooked on a mediated reality. They look at the world through a screen.

In other words these profiteers are selling reality back to us, packaged by them into entertainment. And they want to put a computer on every desk to make sure that no child ever develops an attention span long enough so that they might actually read a book or look up from whatever tech device they are holding. These are the billionaires determined to make real life so boring that you won't be able to concentrate long enough pee without using an app that makes bodily functions more entertaining.

These guys are also the world's biggest hypocrites. The New York Times published a story about how some of the top executives in Silicon Valley send their own children to a school that does not allow computers. In "A Silicon Valley School That Doesn't Compute" (October 22, 2011) the Times revealed that the leaders who run the computer business demand a computer-free, hands-on approach to education for their own children.

As the article noted, the chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom Waldorf school in Los Altos. So do top employees and owners of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard. Blackboards, not laptops are what the billionaire makers of laptops for other children demand for their own. These elite computer industry savvy parents want to delay their children's engagement with technology. "The school's chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud, clay, walks in nature, books, books and more books. Not a computer to be found! No screens at all." They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school frowns on their use at home and asks parents to comply.

As the Times noted, research suggests that schemes to expand home computer access will lead to wider gaps between test scores of advantaged (no computers) and disadvantaged (tech hooked) students. These conclusions were confirmed by a study in 2009 that found education was being disrupted by "technology obsession."

Researchers at the Cranfield School of Management found that increased use of the internet and mobile phones were undermining pupils' capacity for independent study and promoting poor grammar. Yet many mothers and fathers believe they are failing as parents if they're unable to provide state-of-the-art computers and tech toys, pads, phones and the rest for sons and daughters.

Meanwhile many policy makers who have been lobbied by the tech plutocrats, like President Obama, say high tech is the best thing we can do for children. "But" as the Times noted, "the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don't mix."

When all the hype is stripped away the tech companies are as moral as the oil companies are and have our best interest at heart just like big tobacco does. They will sell our civil rights to the highest bidder. Just ask Chinese human rights workers about how our American companies like Microsoft are complicit with the regime there.

It is time to wake up America: The people making billions out of us because we use the internet are already a threat to privacy. The battle is already lost because we trusted these greedy oligarchs and think they are cool and we believed them and made them into rock stars. Our government is a side show when it comes to threats to privacy.

[Jun 01, 2013] Public Colleges are Often No Bargain for the Poor

Remember all those calls from both conservatives and liberals for (sufficiently) equal opportunity? How's that working out?:

Public colleges are often no bargain for the poor, by Renee Schoof, McClatchy: Many public colleges and universities expect their poorest students to pay a third, half or even more of their families' annual incomes each year for college, a new study of college costs has found.
With most American students enrolling in their states' public institutions in hopes of gaining affordable degrees, the new data shows that the net price – the full cost of attending college minus scholarships – can be surprisingly high for families that make $30,000 a year or less.
The numbers track with larger national trends: the growing student-loan debt and decline in college completion among low-income students.
Because of the high net price, "these students are left with little choice but to take on heavy debt loads or engage in activities that lessen their likelihood of earning their degrees, such as working full time while enrolled or dropping out until they can afford to return," Stephen Burd wrote in a recent report for the New America Foundation...

There's a graphic in the article that shows the "Average net annual cost of public 4-year schools for in-state students in families earning $30,000" (scroll over a state to see the cost). For Oregon, it's $10,701 according to their calculations.

[May 28, 2013] Do Big Cities Help College Graduates Find Better Jobs

From comments: "If a job requires a degree, but not a specific major or narrow range of majors then the requirement is just a filtering tool. Such filtering tools can be legal ways to discriminate based on race, age, and class."
The Big Picture

Although the unemployment rate of workers with a college degree has remained well below average since the Great Recession, there is growing concern that college graduates are increasingly underemployed-that is, working in a job that does not require a college degree or the skills acquired through their chosen field of study. Our recent New York Fed staff report indicates that one important factor affecting the ability of workers to find jobs that match their skills is where they look for a job. In particular, we show that looking for a job in big cities, which have larger and thicker local labor markets (that is, bigger markets with many buyers and sellers), can give workers a better chance to find a job that fits their skills.

Theoretical research in urban economics suggests that the large and thick local labor markets found in big cities can increase the likelihood of job matching and improve the quality of these matches. These benefits arise because big cities have more job openings and offer a wider variety of job opportunities that can potentially fit the skills of different workers. In addition, a larger and thicker local labor market makes it easier and less costly for workers to search for jobs.

Our research focuses on whether college graduates located in big cities are better able to find jobs that match the skills they've acquired through their college education. We utilize newly available census data that identify both an individual's level of education and, for college graduates, undergraduate college major. We construct two measures of what we call job matching for those with a bachelor's degree. Our first measure, which we refer to as college degree matching, determines whether an undergraduate degree holder is working in an occupation that requires at least a bachelor's degree. Our second measure, which we call college major matching, gauges the quality of a job match by identifying whether a person is working in a job that corresponds to that person's undergraduate major. For example, consider a college graduate who majored in Communications. If this person worked as a public relations manager, an occupation that both requires a college degree and relates directly to a Communications major, we would classify this person as matching along both measures. By contrast, if this person worked as a retail salesperson, he or she would be classified as not matching along either measure.

What percentage of college graduates match along these two dimensions? As the chart below shows, we find that close to two-thirds of college graduates in the labor force work in a job requiring a college degree, while a little more than a quarter work in a job that is directly related to their college major.


In our staff report, we estimated the relationship between the size and density of a metropolitan area and the probability of job matching to examine whether big cities help college graduates match into better jobs. Estimating these relationships turns out to be quite challenging because biases may result if either the workers or job opportunities in big cities are systematically more or less conducive to job matching. To address this difficulty, our analysis controlled for a wide array of worker characteristics, such as age, gender, marital status, and college major. We also controlled for characteristics of the metropolitan area in which these individuals were located, such as industry structure and differences in economic performance.

The chart below shows our estimates of the probability of job matching across the urban spectrum for each of our measures. The horizontal axis measures the size of a metropolitan area in terms of population and is marked in percentiles. (The correlation between metropolitan area size and density is quite high, so the results along either dimension are similar.) To put these percentiles into perspective, St. Cloud, Minnesota, which has a population of about 190,000, is at the 25th percentile; while Chicago, with a population of more than 9 million, lies above the 95th percentile.


Our estimates suggest that both types of job matching are more likely in the larger and thicker local labor markets available in big cities, with job matching benefits concentrated at the top of the distribution. For example, the probability of a college graduate working in a job requiring a college degree increases from 61.1 percent to 64.5 percent when the population size of a metropolitan area increases from the 50th percentile to the 99.9th percentile. This implies that college degree matching is about 6 percent more likely in a place like New York City than in a place like Syracuse, New York. For the same movement across the urban spectrum, the probability of a college graduate working in a job related to his or her college major increases from 26.7 percent to 29.1 percent, implying that college major matching is about 9 percent more likely. Thus, the larger and thicker local labor markets of big cities appear to help college graduates find better jobs by increasing both the likelihood and the quality of a job match.

Given the expense of college and the potential difficulty faced by graduates in finding a job that utilizes the skills obtained through higher education, improving the chances of finding a good job is clearly important. Our work suggests that living in a big city can help.

The views expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the authors.

[May 27, 2013] The Five Biggest College Myths

A public college or university will cost close to $9,000 a year for tuition and fees for in-state students and $21,000 for out-of-state students, according to the College Board. A private college or university will run about $28,000 per year on average, and many cost more. Add room and board and the costs are close to $50,000 for four years at a state institution and $168,000 at a private one.

Related: America's Student Loan Crisis: Generation I.O.U.

Jeff Selingo, editor at large of The Chronicle of Higher Education, and author of College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students, says America's higher education system is broken because the enormous costs don't justify the results. He appeared on The Daily Ticker special "Generation I.O.U." event and shared his the biggest myths surrounding college:

William & Mary Economics Professor Robert Archibald, co-author of the book Why Does College Cost So Much?, tells the panel that within Virginia's public university system, community college students who take a particular curriculum and get a particular GPA are guaranteed to move onto a four year-school and "for economic reasons a lot of students are taking that path." Selingo says community colleges are a good choice for students who don't know what they want to do. Once they figure that out, they can transfer to a four-year college.

Selingo's advice to students and parents when shopping around for a college: "Ask what are the chances of a someone like me graduating from your institution in two or four years or whatever it might be."

[May 23, 2013] Overdue Student Loans Reach Record as U.S. Graduates Seek Jobs By John Hechinger

"The employment rate for young adults who are college graduates is 87 percent, compared with 64 percent for those with only a high-school diploma"

Eleven percent of student loans were seriously delinquent -- at least 90 days past due -- in the third quarter of 2012, compared with 6 percent in the first quarter of 2003, according to the report by the U.S. Education Department. Almost 30 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds aren't employed or in school, the study found.

The research is being released amid concern in Congress and President Barack Obama's administration about rising college costs and $1 trillion in outstanding student loans, the largest category of consumer debt besides mortgages. Borrowers say the burden is affecting their choice of jobs and their ability to buy homes and get married.

"Today's economy puts young graduates in a difficult position," Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which published the report, said in a statement. "A college diploma no longer guarantees a direct pathway to the middle class, making it harder to justify the expense of a degree."

Still, college graduates have an edge in the job market, showing the need for higher education, Buckley said. The employment rate for young adults who are college graduates is 87 percent, compared with 64 percent for those with only a high-school diploma, the report found.

Presidents at Public Universities Make Millions as Tuition Soars By Bernice Napach

If you run university as a business, it's businessmen who get to the top. And they run the university into the ground by running it as a corporation.

[May 13, 2013] | Daily Ticker

College costs have been rising nearly 5% a year for the past 10 years-more than double the rate of inflation. The annual cost for a four-year public college or university is now almost $9,000 a year for in-state residents and $22,000 for out-of-state residents, according to the College Board. Private colleges charge two or three times as much.

All these schools face rising costs for health insurance, technology, faculty and infrastructure but public institutions also suffer from a decline in state and local government financing.

Still, that doesn't seem to have hurt the paychecks of the presidents of public universities. Their median pay packages jumped 5% to $441,392 for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, and a growing number of those presidents took in more than $1 million, according to an analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The millionaires club include:

Are these academics paid too much at a time when students not only are paying more for college but graduating without a job or at least a good-paying one?

"It feels like a big disconnect," says Michael Santoli, senior columnist for Yahoo! Finance. "I don't know if this should be a focal point for why college costs are out of whack….but probably, along with health insurance, a big driver for why costs go up," says Santoli, about the rising pay for public college presidents.

Related: Only 150 of 3500 U.S. Colleges are Worth the Investment: Former Secretary of Education

Underlying higher college costs is a "complete insensitivity to price," says Santoli.

On the demand side: "No one is turning down the top universities because they can't quite afford it," says Santoli. On the supply side: these institutions "can't increase the number of customers…they enroll the same number every year."

That leaves price as their only lever, says Santoli.

But is the higher cost worth it?

"A lot of people would say the return on your investment is well worth it," says The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task. " The unemployment rate for college grads today is about 4%. If you don't have a college degree it's a lot higher than that January), but for recent grads the unemployment rate is "unfrighteningly high."

According to the U.S. Labor Dept. the unemployment rate for those 25 years or older with a four-year college degree was 3.9% in April; for high school graduates it was 7.4%.

But, according to the latest data from the BLS, recent college graduates who earned a bachelor's degree had a 13.5% jobless rate.

Despite modest improvement since the most recent peak in October 2009, the unemployment rates of recent college graduates remained above the rates prior to the 2007–2009 recession. And the median weekly earnings of college-educated, full-time workers have dipped, to $1,141 after adjusting for inflation in 2012, from $1,163 in 2007.

[Mar 12, 2013] Tabarrok on MOOC: Interesting but....

Over at Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok has an extremely interesting post comparing education and music performance. At its core is an analogy: the student's experience of learning is like the listener's experience of hearing music. Best of all possible worlds is having direct, personal exposure to the best: being in the best classroom with the best professor or in the club or concert hall with the best musicians. But recorded music has become the vast majority of all music because live music by great performers is too expensive to provide more than the occasional listening experience for most people. Moreover, the flexibility and repeatability of recordings gives the listener many more choices in when, where and how to listen. No reasonable person would want to ban or even discourage recorded music. So why not embrace digital dissemination of education?

Again, this is a great post and an aid to thinking clearly. My concern is that the analogy is wrong, however. Educating students is not like entertaining or inspiring a musical audience; it is like educating musicians. Education is about creating something-an ability to accomplish certain feats of understanding, technique and problem-solving. This is also true about educating musicians in particular. Could music instruction be carried out separate from direct contact with music teachers? For centuries it has, in part. That's what all the books of etudes were about. (I learned a lot about music and the piano from working through the first half or so of Bartok's Mikrocosmos.) But only in part.

What this tells me is that there is a big future for online education. I think the methods are still rather primitive, in fact, and its value will become clearer when people learn how to employ the technology more creatively-and as the technology itself advances. But to learn is to create something, and there is no reason to believe just yet that this process can be entirely solitary, separated from the give and take between teacher and student or student and peers. Digitize this and we can revisit this question.

[Mar 11, 2013] Grand Rapids teachers say paycheck cuts qualify them for food stamps

Tina Ratliff never expected her teaching career would qualify her for public assistance.

The second-grade teacher at Grand Rapids Public Schools' Burton Elementary was among nearly 150 teachers summoned by their union's crisis team to pressure school officials Monday, March 4 to settle a pending contract and do something about applying a state law limiting what school districts and other public employers pay for employee health insurance premiums.

Since Feb. 15 when the district began deducting back health insurance premiums over what it's allowed to pay under the state's Publicly Funded Health Insurance Contribution Act of 2011, Ratliff said morale among teachers has suffered dramatically and a sort of depression has set in. Some are losing $300 per pay check.

"I am a five-year teacher who brings home $555.39 for two weeks and who currently qualifies for a Bridge Card," Ratliff told the school board Monday to loud applause from her colleagues. "How is this possible?"

Some two dozen teachers told similar stories during nearly an hour of often emotional testimonials. Some told of renting rooms in order to keep their homes while others said they simply can no longer pay their bills.

"You can see it in people's eyes and in the way they hold themselves," Ratliff said after Monday's meeting. "We don't know what to do.

"I did everything I was supposed to," Ratliff added. "I went to the university, I moved to North Carolina to get a job and I felt lucky to be able to come back to GRPS and teach but now I could make more money as a substitute."

School board President Wendy Falb conceded hearing that teachers are suffering was emotional, but added the district is constrained by financial realities. She said it's especially hard not to be able to respond with negotiations on a new teacher contract underway.

"It's hard to be seen as the enemy when you're working extremely hard to do your very best for everyone in the district," Falb said. "You want to be able to dispel myths, to respond to inaccuracies but you can't during negotiations."

Paul Helder, president of the Grand Rapids Education Association, said emotions among his members may have been higher had they known about the district's most recent offer made Monday morning. Though district officials said they couldn't talk about negotiations ongoing since last spring, Helder said the district is offering a new pay scale and about a $1,000 per employee increase, with no percentage or step increases during the next three years.

Teachers said the union is seeking a 2 percent pay hike.

"The offer they made today is for three years, no step increases, nothing whatsoever for the two years after that and it doesn't even cover the increased health care costs," Helder said. "It is in effect a cut in compensation."

The two sides plan to meet again Wednesday and while both sides agree talks are more amicable than in recent years under former Superintendent Bernard Taylor, they differ on whether discussions have been productive.

"We are continuing to try to reach an agreement as fast as we can," said Julie Davis, the district's executive director of business and finance and someone who has been on the district's negotiating team. "We understand that GREA members have been without a contract since August."

Also looming is a March 27 deadline when the state's new so-called Right to Work law takes effect. The law makes it optional whether union members pay dues.

Helder declined to speculate whether the district is stalling to pressure union negotiators as the deadline nears, though he said discussions got off to a slow start last spring as the district repeatedly said it wasn't ready. Right to Work can't take effect under an existing contract approved before the deadline.

Helder added it's been frustrating negotiating with staff he says have claimed they're not empowered to make certain decisions. He said it's been disappointing school board members – some who the union helped elect – haven't been at the negotiating table.

"Sometimes it's better that everyone have their separate roles during contract negotiations," said school board President Falb. "I'm confident the bargaining team has heard our concerns and is following our direction."

'College Costs & Enrollment for Low-Income Students'

A follow up to the recent posts on college costs:
College Costs & Enrollment for Low-Income Students, by Owen Zidar: According to data compiled by Avery & Hoxby, effective college costs are much lower for low income families at the most selective schools compared to other schools. Despite this fact, many low income students aren't applying to the most selective schools and end up getting lower quality education and higher student debts on average. This outcome compounds a previously mentioned problem that many potentially high scoring students don't take the SATs and don't end up enrolling in college at all. …

Cameron Hoppe:

I grew up in low income areas, and was very low income myself. Like, homeless at times low income. The Valedictorian at my HS had perfect grades, above a 4.0 gpa. She lettered in 2 sports, drama club, edited the school newspaper, scored 33 on the ACT, not sure about the SAT (it's down my memory hole).

She applied to several "selective schools". All turned her down, saying she was an "average applicant". What would have made her above average? A little legacy admission perhaps?

Elite wealth and elite education in the US are designed to ensconce those born into them and to exclude those who were not. "Selective Schools" are a willful part of a deliberately exclusionary system. Mr Zidar of all people ought to be able to recognize this.

anne -> Cameron Hoppe...

The Valedictorian at my HS had perfect grades, above a 4.0 gpa. She lettered in 2 sports, drama club, edited the school newspaper, scored 33 on the ACT, not sure about the SAT (it's down my memory hole). She applied to several "selective schools". All turned her down, saying she was an "average applicant"....

[ I do not know what a 33 means, percentiles are what are important, but this makes no sense at all on the surface. A student of such accomplishment, so far as we understand, would be highly, highly sought after by many fine schools.

I suggest we do not understand the issue here, since we do not have the applications. ]

mrrunangun -> anne...

Social climbing via education can be psychologically stressful. Poor kids can find it difficult to find a comfortable and constructive way of making a place for themselves in a social milieu that is very different from the impoverished background they are used to. The support and encouragement of nearby family can be helpful in developing and maintaining the confidence and perseverance necessary for this kind of success. An urban or minor state university close to family support may be more comfortable prospect for a seventeen year old decision maker than a club school.

There is also the problem of well-meaning relatives who discourage a kid from reaching too high in the belief that the kid will find she doesn't belong there in one sense or another and find only disappointment.

Some kids who reach for the brass ring succumb to loneliness and depression or to oppositional behaviors inappropriate to the situation which result in loneliness and isolation unless there is an oppositional group to belong to. Others succeed, thank God.

Fred C. Dobbs -> Fred C. Dobbs...

US tallies of (Boston-area) colleges net costs bring surprises via @BostonGlobe

A college "score card," unveiled last week by the US Department of Education to help families compare the affordability and value of colleges, contains a bit of sticker shock: An average net price of $18,277 a year to attend Harvard University, compared with $32,493 for Northeastern University. ...

(I'm pretty sure Northeastern is way less selective, however.)

Fred C. Dobbs -> Fred C. Dobbs...

Harvard recently accepted 5.9% of 34k applicants, Northeastern accepted 34.5% of 43k applicants.

Presumably there are going to be a lot of kids who won't spend $75 to apply to Harvard, with very low probability of getting in. (Ask for a fee waiver, though. They are available.)

Fred C. Dobbs:

There are a lot of great colleges in the US and at least some of them are relatively affordable, without being horrifically selective.

Go see 'Colleges That Change Lives'

(And these are only a few of the very good, non-super-selective colleges out there. Do NOT borrow a ton of money to go to college unless you're heading to Wall Street or some other ultra-lucrative career.)

Fred C. Dobbs -> Fred C. Dobbs...

NEW YORK, February 5, 2013 - The Princeton Review today released its annual list of the nation's "Best Value Colleges" – a project the education services company originated in 2004 and has reported since 2009 with USA TODAY.

The 2013 list identifies 150 colleges (75 public and 75 private) The Princeton Review designates as "Best Values" based on assessments that examined more than 30 data points covering academics, cost, and financial aid. The Company chose the 150 schools from 650 colleges and universities at which it conducted institutional and student surveys for this project in 2011-12. ...

(There are some bargains on this list. Not all, for sure. The trick is to find them.)

Public College Tuition Soars By Most Ever (Or Searching For Deflation In All The Wrong Places)

College tuition is up 1200% in 35 years
03/06/2013 | Zero Hedge

For those who, like Time magazine and its exhaustive treatise on soaring healthcare costs, are shocked and confused how it is possible that prices for some of the most rudimentary staples, among them basic medical care and college tuition, have exploded we have the answer. In fact, we had the answer in August 2012, when we showed our "Chart Of The Day: From Pervasive Cheap Credit To Hyperinflation."

As the title, and chart, both imply, the simple reason why college tuition is up 1200% in 35 years, while healthcare fees have soared by a neat 600% or double the official cumulative inflation, is two words: "cheap credit."

That is also the reason why the BLS and the Fed can get away with alleging inflation is sub 2%: because the actual cost for any of these soaring in price services is never actually incurred currently, but is deferred with the only actual outlay being the cash interest, which as everyone knows is now at the ZIRP boundary thanks to 4+ years of ZIRP and three decades of the "great moderation."

Which is why we are confident it will come as no surprise to anyone, especially not those who have no choice but to follow the herd and pay exorbitant amounts for a generic higher education that has negligible utility at best in the New "Okun's law is broken" Normal, that tuition at public colleges jumped by a record amount in the past year!

[Mar 02, 2013] Meritocracy Gelman's Sixth Column by Ron Unz

According to Hillel, whose estimates are accepted everywhere, Ivy League undergraduates are 23% Jewish, implying that they are some 3,000% more likely to be enrolled than non-Jewish whites of a similar age.
March 1, 2013 | The American Conservative

For reasons best known to himself, Columbia University statistics professor Andrew Gelman has now seen fit to publish his sixth(!) lengthy blogsite column discussing or sharply critiquing my analysis of Ivy League university admissions. Just like most of his previous ones, he seeks to rebut my particular claim that there is a highly suspicious degree of Jewish over-representation in elite college enrollment.

Unfortunately, this latest 3,100 word piece contains new little substance beneath the paired photos of President Obama and House Speaker Boehner. He continues to avoid the overwhelming bulk of the quantitative evidence I had provided in my 30,000 word Meritocracy analysis, instead producing a mass of obfuscatory verbiage mostly disputing the accuracy of a couple of my scattered sentences here and there, while characterizing my motivation as that of an ideological "political activist" following a pattern of "stubbornness" rather than "scholarly discourse." I'm no expert in psychoanalysis, but I believe Gelman's reaction might be a classic example of what I think Freud called "psychological projection."

As I had previously mentioned, after our initial blogsite debate became heated I sent Gelman a detailed private note outlining my own quantitative framework and suggesting that he do the same, thereby allowing us to determine exactly where we agreed and disagreed and narrowing down the scope of our dispute. His response was that he hadn't really investigated the issue himself and therefore didn't have any contrasting estimates of his own. But he asked for permission to publish our private exchange on his blogsite, which I readily granted.

I suggest that neutral observers read this Unz/Gelman exchange for themselves, and decide whether his response is as vacuous as it seems to me, even with the substantial P.S. he afterwards appended. I believe it also provides a good indication of which of us is playing the role of the dispassionate researcher. Indeed, Gelman's complete refusal to engage with my data alarmed one of his agitated and anonymous commenters, who accused Gelman of pursuing an "escape route," adding "Now that you've gotten into the fight don't run away." Perhaps this sort of angry accusation from his erstwhile supporters helps to explain Gelman's added P.S., plus his two subsequent columns on the subject.

Under normal circumstances it would be perfectly reasonable for Gelman to claim that he is just too busy or uninterested in the topic to produce his own quantitative estimates to compare against my own. But given that he's now written well over 10,000 words about my article across six separate postings, that claim begins to grow rather doubtful.

It is obvious that unavoidable emotional attachments, including those of an ethnocentric nature, may easily cloud one's analytical thinking. For example, my initial substantive response in the original comment-thread with Gelman had been as follows:

I had claimed that across the combined NMS lists, the Jewish estimates produced by the sampling technique of Weyl Analysis almost exactly matched those produced by direct inspection, thereby validating the latter approach. You devoted a major section of your column to debunking this claim by pointing out that Weyl Analysis actually produced a substantially higher Jewish estimate than my direct inspection for the 8 states you listed. However, you neglected to note that Weyl Analysis also produced a substantially *lower* estimate for the other 17 states I used. This is exactly what one would expect of any sampling technique, and is fully consistent with my claim that the overall averages converged across the very large sample of 25 states. Your blogsite does describe you as an award-winning Ivy League statistics professor, does it not?

America's national elites in academics, finance, media, and politics are today drawn overwhelmingly from Harvard (which rejects some 95% of all applicants) and the rest of the Ivy League. These universities publicly claim that they admit applicants less on objective academic merit than on broad "holistic" factors, which are known only to them. This policy is partly to ensure that their student body is fully "diverse" and reasonably reflects America's overall population.

According to Hillel, whose estimates are accepted everywhere, Ivy League undergraduates are 23% Jewish, implying that they are some 3,000% more likely to be enrolled than non-Jewish whites of a similar age. You challenge the Hillel figures, suggesting that they are probably incorrect. However, Jews constitute roughly 1.8% of the national college-age population, and unless the true enrollment figure were that low, Jews would be considerably overrepresented. Given the extremely large gap between 23% and 1.8%, I tend to doubt Hillel's numbers are off by nearly a factor of 13.

The least troubling possible explanation for the 3,000% overrepresentation of Jewish students is that Jewish academic performance is so enormously greater than that of white Gentiles, they are admitted by the Ivies at correspondingly greater rates, even though the Ivies publicly discount academic performance as an overriding factor in admissions. The best means of testing this "Jewish out-performance" hypothesis is to estimate the number of Jewish students ranked as NMS semifinalists. But unless an unreasonably large fraction of top-performing Jewish students actually have completely non-Jewish names, this approach fails. I would suggest that the burden of proof is upon those who argue that Jewish students are actually 3,000% more likely to be high-performing than their non-Jewish classmates.

Let us consider the following thought-experiment. The number of college-age Mormons in America is roughly the same as the number of college-age Jews. Suppose an astonishing fraction of all top Ivy League officials were either Mormons or married to Mormons, while a leading Mormon campus organization reported that young Mormons were 3,000% more likely to be enrolled in the Ivy League than young non-Mormons. To avoid dark suspicions, one would surely attempt to locate some solid evidence that Mormon students were 3,000% more likely to be top-achievers than non-Mormons, or perhaps were 3,000% more likely to apply to the Ivy League.

To which he responded in part:

Regarding your last point, nobody has shared with me the data you discuss on Mormons. My impression is that Mormons mostly live far away from Ivy League schools and are less likely to apply to them and that Mormons are not represented in the same proportion as Jews in the various groups that you looked at in your article. But, again, I haven't looked at these numbers.

Readers may draw their own conclusions from this. I've been told that Gelman originally studied physics, but perhaps he never encountered the term "thought-experiment."

Turning to a far more substantive matter, a couple of very prominent academic scholars, both of Jewish background, have indicated that they found my quantitative evidence of Jewish over-representation at the Ivies reasonably persuasive, but were puzzled at the actual mechanism. After all, relatively few admissions officers are Jewish, and although a huge fraction of the top university officials have that ethnicity, it seems very implausible that they would actually order their subordinates to maintain a particular level of Jewish enrollment.

My short answer is that I just don't know. But if I were forced to provide a speculative hypothesis, it would be along the following lines.

First, consider the evidence that most admissions officers are of shockingly unimpressive academic quality, partly because the job usually pays quite badly. For example, my article had mentioned that the head of admissions at one of America's most prestigious liberal arts colleges had previously been employed as an animal control officer, and I provided numerous similar examples.

Next, let us consider the revealing 1999 Princeton case, in which it was discovered that Jewish admissions had been gradually drifting downward for the previous decade or two. The decline partly reflected the changing demographics of the college-age population and was less severe than the decline in non-Jewish white numbers at Harvard, Yale and the rest of the Ivy League, but nonetheless provoked a massive national media firestorm, in which Princeton's top officials-who were themselves both Jewish-apologized for their university's apparent "anti-Semitism" and agreed to drastically reform the obviously flawed admissions process. Presumably, many or most of the responsible admissions officers were terminated, and had to go back to catching raccoons for a living.

The world of elite admissions officers is an extremely small one, and it seems likely that admissions officers at all the other Ivy League and highly selective schools immediately took that lesson to heart, recognizing that any substantial decline in Jewish enrollment might have career-ending consequences. This would certainly lead to the results we now see in the data.

Consider the analogous reasons that industrial production statistics were very often unreliable in Soviet Russia. Although officials were probably not ordered to fabricate their numbers, they quickly discovered that those who reported insufficiently positive results risked being purged.

I strongly suspect that if Princeton's 1999 admissions officers had attempted to persuade Prof. Gelman or his agitated commenters that their sharply declining admission of Jews was simply due to the objective academic weakness of their Jewish applicants, those arguments would have fallen on unsympathetic ears. And it is far more pleasant to sit in a warm university office selecting America's future ruling elites than having to wander around the Northeastern countryside during wintertime in search of a possibly rabid dog.

[Mar 01, 2013] The Real Reason Journal Articles Should Be Free

March 01 | Slashdot
Bennett Haselton writes "The U.S. government recently announced that academic papers on federally-funded research should become freely available online within one year of publication in a journal. But the real question is why academics don't simply publish most papers freely anyway. If the problem is that traditional journals have a monopoly on the kind of prestige that can only be conferred by having your paper appear in their hallowed pages, that monopoly can easily be broken, because there's no reason why open-access journals can't confer the same imprimatur of quality."

Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts on the great free-access debate.

[Feb 26, 2013] A few Comments on New Home Sales

2/26/2013 | Calculated Risk


Why women leave academia and why universities should be worried | Higher Education Network | Guardian Professional

A recent report reveals that only 12% of third year female PhD students want a career in academia. Curt Rice looks at the reasons why and warns that universities' survival is at risk

Isn't it too obvious? the academic career has the same structure as having a family, demanding a tremendous effort from mostly the female at practically the same time. check out how much work is done in academics 15-20 years after tenured has been achieved, pretty much nothing compared to the work demanded pre-tenure.

The structure of the tenure track should be modified if they want more women in academics imho. Or female academics should be encouraged to marry stay-at-home dads, just the way many male academics pair with stay-at-home moms.

[Feb 16, 2013] Equal Opportunity, Our National Myth by Joseph E. Stiglitz

President Obama's second Inaugural Address used soaring language to reaffirm America's commitment to the dream of equality of opportunity: "We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own."

The gap between aspiration and reality could hardly be wider. Today, the United States has less equality of opportunity than almost any other advanced industrial country. Study after study has exposed the myth that America is a land of opportunity. This is especially tragic: While Americans may differ on the desirability of equality of outcomes, there is near-universal consensus that inequality of opportunity is indefensible. The Pew Research Center has found that some 90 percent of Americans believe that the government should do everything it can to ensure equality of opportunity.

Perhaps a hundred years ago, America might have rightly claimed to have been the land of opportunity, or at least a land where there was more opportunity than elsewhere. But not for at least a quarter of a century. Horatio Alger-style rags-to-riches stories were not a deliberate hoax, but given how they've lulled us into a sense of complacency, they might as well have been.

It's not that social mobility is impossible, but that the upwardly mobile American is becoming a statistical oddity. According to research from the Brookings Institution, only 58 percent of Americans born into the bottom fifth of income earners move out of that category, and just 6 percent born into the bottom fifth move into the top. Economic mobility in the United States is lower than in most of Europe and lower than in all of Scandinavia.

Another way of looking at equality of opportunity is to ask to what extent the life chances of a child are dependent on the education and income of his parents. Is it just as likely that a child of poor or poorly educated parents gets a good education and rises to the middle class as someone born to middle-class parents with college degrees? Even in a more egalitarian society, the answer would be no. But the life prospects of an American are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in almost any other advanced country for which there is data.

How do we explain this? Some of it has to do with persistent discrimination. Latinos and African-Americans still get paid less than whites, and women still get paid less than men, even though they recently surpassed men in the number of advanced degrees they obtain. Though gender disparities in the workplace are less than they once were, there is still a glass ceiling: women are sorely underrepresented in top corporate positions and constitute a minuscule fraction of C.E.O.'s.

Discrimination, however, is only a small part of the picture. Probably the most important reason for lack of equality of opportunity is education: both its quantity and quality. After World War II, Europe made a major effort to democratize its education systems. We did, too, with the G.I. Bill, which extended higher education to Americans across the economic spectrum.

But then we changed, in several ways. While racial segregation decreased, economic segregation increased. After 1980, the poor grew poorer, the middle stagnated, and the top did better and better. Disparities widened between those living in poor localities and those living in rich suburbs - or rich enough to send their kids to private schools. A result was a widening gap in educational performance - the achievement gap between rich and poor kids born in 2001 was 30 to 40 percent larger than it was for those born 25 years earlier, the Stanford sociologist Sean F. Reardon found.

Of course, there are other forces at play, some of which start even before birth. Children in affluent families get more exposure to reading and less exposure to environmental hazards. Their families can afford enriching experiences like music lessons and summer camp. They get better nutrition and health care, which enhance their learning, directly and indirectly.

Americans are coming to realize that their cherished narrative of social and economic mobility is a myth.

Unless current trends in education are reversed, the situation is likely to get even worse. In some cases it seems as if policy has actually been designed to reduce opportunity: government support for many state schools has been steadily gutted over the last few decades - and especially in the last few years. Meanwhile, students are crushed by giant student loan debts that are almost impossible to discharge, even in bankruptcy. This is happening at the same time that a college education is more important than ever for getting a good job.

Young people from families of modest means face a Catch-22: without a college education, they are condemned to a life of poor prospects; with a college education, they may be condemned to a lifetime of living at the brink. And increasingly even a college degree isn't enough; one needs either a graduate degree or a series of (often unpaid) internships. Those at the top have the connections and social capital to get those opportunities. Those in the middle and bottom don't. The point is that no one makes it on his or her own. And those at the top get more help from their families than do those lower down on the ladder. Government should help to level the playing field.

Americans are coming to realize that their cherished narrative of social and economic mobility is a myth. Grand deceptions of this magnitude are hard to maintain for long - and the country has already been through a couple of decades of self-deception.

Without substantial policy changes, our self-image, and the image we project to the world, will diminish - and so will our economic standing and stability. Inequality of outcomes and inequality of opportunity reinforce each other - and contribute to economic weakness, as Alan B. Krueger, a Princeton economist and the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, has emphasized. We have an economic, and not only moral, interest in saving the American dream.

Policies that promote equality of opportunity must target the youngest Americans. First, we have to make sure that mothers are not exposed to environmental hazards and get adequate prenatal health care. Then, we have to reverse the damaging cutbacks to preschool education, a theme Mr. Obama emphasized on Tuesday. We have to make sure that all children have adequate nutrition and health care - not only do we have to provide the resources, but if necessary, we have to incentivize parents, by coaching or training them or even rewarding them for being good caregivers. The right says that money isn't the solution. They've chased reforms like charter schools and private-school vouchers, but most of these efforts have shown ambiguous results at best. Giving more money to poor schools would help. So would summer and extracurricular programs that enrich low-income students' skills.

Finally, it is unconscionable that a rich country like the United States has made access to higher education so difficult for those at the bottom and middle. There are many alternative ways of providing universal access to higher education, from Australia's income-contingent loan program to the near-free system of universities in Europe. A more educated population yields greater innovation, a robust economy and higher incomes - which mean a higher tax base. Those benefits are, of course, why we've long been committed to free public education through 12th grade. But while a 12th-grade education might have sufficed a century ago, it doesn't today. Yet we haven't adjusted our system to contemporary realities.

The steps I've outlined are not just affordable but imperative. Even more important, though, is that we cannot afford to let our country drift farther from ideals that the vast majority of Americans share. We will never fully succeed in achieving Mr. Obama's vision of a poor girl's having exactly the same opportunities as a wealthy girl. But we could do much, much better, and must not rest until we do.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, a professor at Columbia and a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and chief economist for the World Bank, is the author of "The Price of Inequality."

JaaaaayCeeeee Palo Alto, Ca

Joe Stiglitz reports clearly how we can improve our economy, economic standing, rate of innovation, size of our tax base, and our economic stability, policies analogous to those that created the American Dream, in the first place.

Since the American Dream is a hopeless fantasy for most now, due to specific policy choices, I wish his facts were news everyone hears. Joe Stiglitz is right that this country can't afford to deceive itself that it is the land of opportunity, nor afford to ignore the policies that would make us such a country again.

Kevin Brock Waynesville, NC

From the article: "After 1980, the poor grew poorer, the middle stagnated, and the top did better and better."

What watershed event happened in 1980? The election of Ronald Reagan, shortly followed by "supply-side" tax and regulatory policies, a heightened attack on public education at all levels, and general acceptability of the notion that "big government "(including public schools and universities) was the enemy of the public. That pretty much explains everything.

Larry Figdill Charlottesville

Universities may be partially guilty of the increased cost of education, but a MAJOR driver at public universities has been the shifting of costs by the states to the individual. There have been huge cutbacks in state support of public universities and in turn the universities charge higher tuition to make up the difference. Yes there have been other problems, such as burgeoning administrations and associated costs

Jim Waddell Columbus, OH

I put the blame for the high cost of higher education directly on the universities themselves. They have taken the increased availability of student loans over the past few decades and used it to raise tuition at rates well in excess of inflation. No wonder college is increasingly unaffordable. I don't have a magic solution, but I'd like to see strict limits on how much students could borrow based on academic progress. Maybe loans should only be available to pay for completed courses and progression towards a degree, with colleges funding the tuition up front.

[Feb 13, 2013] Low Mobility Is Not a Social Tragedy? by

February 13, 2013 | Economist's View

How would you respond to Greg Clark?:

...Many commentators automatically assume that low intergenerational mobility rates represent a social tragedy. I do not understand this reflexive wailing and beating of breasts in response to the finding of slow mobility rates. The fact that the social competence of children is highly predictable once we know the status of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents is not a threat to the American Way of Life and the ideals of the open society.
The children of earlier elites will not succeed because they are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and an automatic ticket to the Ivy League. They will succeed because they have inherited the talent, energy, drive, and resilience to overcome the many obstacles they will face in life. Life is still a struggle for all who hope to have economic and social success. It is just that we can predict who will be likely to possess the necessary characteristics from their ancestry.

Quickly: I don't buy that individuals in all of these groups have an equal chance to reach their potential, whatever that might be. I do buy that the barriers that prevent an equal chance to realize potential have been present for a long, long time.

Jason Dick :

It sounds like he's assuming that genetics almost completely determine a person's capabilities, or at least that the children of rich parents really do deserve to be rich more than the children of poor parents do.

Either way he's either completely incorrect or just plain evil.

Back in the real world, we can be quite sure that nearly all of a person's capabilities are set by environment, not genetics. This means, basically, that anything less than complete and utter intergenerational mobility is a failure to establish equality of opportunity.

Dan Thorn

The first thing I would say is that I can't believe he put this in writing.

Perhaps Greg Clark is forgetting about reversion to the mean. It sounds like he is suggesting that success is the result of natural selection, that children are endowed not with the wealth of their successful parents but with their characteristics.

This is unlikely to be the course of nature. Just as children of tall parents tend to be nearer to average in height than their parents so too you would expect children of exceptional talent of any kind (in this case the talent for success) to on average be nearer to average than their parents.

He also confuses nature and nurture. He is correct that in general children of the elite tend to be better prepared to be elite. But this is a curiously circular argument. In fact isn't he just describing the problem? one of the reasons you don't have social mobility is because people tend to remain in social circles they have been raised in.

In any case, he makes the issue sound benign because he only examines those who come from a lineage of success. Those who are successful are not the worry, the worry is that if you can predict social failure for an individual based on their family's circumstance or history that IS a social tragedy. I doubt Clark would argue that society should be indifferent to producing failure predictably with out making some effort at improving outcomes.

Dan Kervick -> Dan Thorn:

I'm glad he put it in writing, because it's obviously the way a huge number of people feel. For every blunt, Bell Curve-toting ahole like Murray and Clark, there are 10 hypocritical and well-educated liberals who believe the same things and pretend not to. In the new age of innatism, Pinker, etc., all the cool kids believe that their success springs from having the right genes. That's why there is no significant egalitarian movement or agenda in modern liberal culture.

Instead we just have meritocratic "equal opportunity liberalism". The only tragedy someone like Barack Obama sees in modern American life is that not every little black girl in Chicago has the same opportunity as a little white boy in Newton, Massachusetts to compete fairly to become a captain of industry where she too can take down tens of millions or more in annual financial rewards, rob and abuse her employees, and hire politicians to protect her from prosecution when she defrauds investors.

But once you have a "level playing field", where everyone gets the same kind of starting gate in the great capitalist game of exploitation, domination and subordination, then its all good.

I don't understand this obsession with "social mobility." If we are measuring things by economic class, then if people are moving from lower deciles to higher deciles, other people have to be moving from higher deciles to lower deciles. If you are a social Darwinist, then I guess that kind of flux floats your boat. But aren't there any people left who think the problem is all those classes in the first place, and the dramatic economic differences between them?

Steve Bannister :

Clark is arguing this at least partly because he is invested in his "genetic" explanation for the Industrial Revolution "A Farewell to Alms." Didn't buy it then, don't buy it now.

Jake :

Sounds remarkably similar to the pre-Progressive era late 19th/early 20th century moral superiority of the rich stuff, a la Andrew Carnegie and J Pierpont Morgan, etc.

It does seem we've come full circle. I think the best way to respond would be to focus on the difference between economic and social mobility - two related yet distinctly separate phenomena, which Clark appears to conflate in his post.

hapa :


"The children of earlier elites will not succeed because they are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and an automatic ticket to the Ivy League. They will succeed because they have inherited the talent, energy, drive, and resilience to overcome the many obstacles they will face in life. Life is still a struggle for all who hope to have economic and social success. It is just that we can predict who will be likely to possess the necessary characteristics from their ancestry.


"social mobility isn't important because when it doesn't exist, it makes rich people look AWESOME."

Addisababy :

That's some Social Darwinism, don't you think? Holy moly.

All you have to do is change "elites" to "whites" or "Aryans" and it reads of a different age. Some of you may find me a little alarmist, but this "genetically more capable" argument has been tried before.

ken melvin :

Tell you what: Let's pit the likes of GWB, Mitt, ... against those of Clinton, Obama, second gen Vietnamese, ... and test this guy's theory.

DrDick :

Obviously this is from a child of privilege. Why do we care about a lack of mobility? To begin with to give everyone some stake in the system. If there is no realistic chance of advancement (or the perception of such), then there is no incentive to strive or care. It is also the case that we waste valuable social talent without it.

My mother's family were Ozark hillbillies. My grandfather dropped out of the 6th grade and was farming sixty acres of flint rock and post oak with a horse team in the late 1960s (when he was in his seventies).

My mother and her siblings all went to college and both uncles went on to graduate school. One was a chemist with a masters who developed a new method for transferring pigments to plastic, which became the industry standard in the late 60s and 70s. The other got a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Cal-Tech, led the team that designed the instrumentation for the Surveyor lunar soft lander and retired many years ago as senior vice-president for satellite telecommunications at Hughes Aircraft.

Eric377 -> DrDick:

This seems a nice story. But what does it mean? Why would the success of children of some group of parents inhibit the incentives to strive or care in children of other parents? I do not think it can in any serious way.

Dan Thorn :

Ok, you can't make this up, here's a snippet from his own faculty page:

"I grew up in Scotland, ... My grandparents came from Ireland to work in the coal mines and steel mills of the Clyde Valley, as part of the great diaspora of the Irish triggered by Ireland's failure to industrialize in the nineteenth century."

I suppose suggesting he work on a little synthesis of his various ideas may be another thing to mention to him.

Edward Lambert :

Inheriting talent? ... or does he mean inheriting financial resources?

Does he have any idea of cultural incentive structures & the advantages of having money?

Steve Bannister -> Edward Lambert:

um, um, this is almost embarrassing given the esteem which I normally hold for economic historians. Inherited capitalistic genes.


So Greg Clark is in favor of 100% inheritance tax since those kids skills will put them back on top?

Nicholas Pisano :

Here is how I reply: read a book; in this case Stephen Jay Gould's "Mismeasure of Man." Clark might learn something. In particular, that his post is all the proof that we need that the scions of elites, in most cases, are idiots.

Steve Bannister :

Let me back off just a tad on Clark...I cut academic work quite a bit of slack (meaning I am like Mikey, I'll read anything put in front of me), especially from a well-known author. I know how hard it is to do right.

But when I read "A Farewell..." I just could not believe what I was reading concerning the genetic thing. Not the least because I have what I think is a much more convincing story.

But, Clark always has data, and I think much of it is good and useful. So that is my slack for him.

Eric377 :

There are some real tragedies in this world, but American social mobility isn't a serious one. Clark is pretty much dead on with his analysis here.

We do not want an aristocracy in America, but I find nothing surprising or objectionable that the children of highly successful Americans in turn are routinely among the most successful of their cohort. You might as easily worry about countries where this is not the case.

D. C. Sessions -> Eric377:

"You might as easily worry about countries where this is not the case."

If the USA's lack of social mobility is due to our having already sorted out the proper caste for each of us based on our genes, what do you suppose accounts for much older and more settled countries (e.g. Denmark or the Netherlands) which also have greater intergenerational social mobility?

Steve Bannister :

But you needn't listen to me. For those of you who enjoy an academic shearing exercise, I commend Robert Allen's 2008 Journal of Economic Literature review of Clark's book. Actually, more of a disemboweling. An evisceration. Allen is masterful in his history, and merciless in his scorn.

Reply Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 01:49 PM

DrDick :

"We do not want an aristocracy in America, but I find nothing surprising or objectionable that the children of highly successful Americans in turn are routinely among the most successful of their cohort."

Your first clause is contradicted by your second. What the children of the privileged inherit is less ability (see Bush, George) than aristocratic privilege.

Apinak :

Two Words- Paris Hilton.

Ed Koch :

[i]The children of earlier elites will not succeed because they are born with a silver spoon in their mouth...

Life is still a struggle for all who hope to have economic and social success.[/i]

What part of "being born with a silver spoon in your mouth" is not encompassed by "economic success?"

Steve Bannister :

Oh, and new research shows a healthy correlation between diminished social mobility and increased income inequality. Why should we not be surprised?

gordon :

Ah, I've been waiting for eugenics to make a comeback, and apparently here it is.

I wonder if it's possible to have eugenics without racism - the last time around, you'll remember, there was a lot of racism in it. I tend to think it's possible, but we'll see.

And Dan Thorn (upthread) is right about circularity: "We're on top because we're superior. We must be superior, you see, because we're on top".


I recently bought a copy of the Economist to read on a half hour train ride-having stopped buying it years ago as it had become so predictable (and their Kindle price was crazy). So I got as far as the "leader" on meritocracy before I junked it. Same stuff as this. Only the solution was to get rid of the mortgage interest tax deduction (maybe they could find an economist who knows what happens when housing prices fall in America?).


Money, income or wealth, at least has a degree of objectivity to it. If you start using other criteria, you had better make sure they are objective or you risk making the argument circular.


I would like to defend Greg Clack.

I think that Greg Clack point is that the number of gifted children is limited and that exceptionally gifted children have some chance for upper move in almost all, even the most hierarchical societies (story of Alexander Hamilton was really fascinating for me, the story of Mikhail Lomonosov was another one -- he went from the very bottom to the top of Russian aristocracy just on the strength of his abilities as a scientist). In no way the ability to "hold its own" (typical for rich families kids) against which many here expressed some resentment represents social mobility. But the number of kids who went down is low -- that's actually proves Greg Clack point:

(1) Studies of social mobility using surnames suggest two things. Social mobility rates are much lower than conventionally estimated. And social mobility rates estimated in this way vary little across societies and time periods. Sweden is no more mobile than contemporary England and the USA, or even than medieval England. Social mobility rates seem to be independent of social institutions (see the other studies on China, India, Japan and the USA now linked here).

Francisco Ferreira rejects this interpretation, and restates the idea that there is a strong link between social mobility rates and inequality in his interesting post.

What is wrong with the data Ferreira cites? Conventional estimates of social mobility, which look at just single aspects of social status such as income, are contaminated by noise. If we measure mobility on one aspect of status such as income, it will seem rapid.

But this is because income is a very noisy measure of the underlying status of families. The status of families is a combination of their education, occupation, income, wealth, health, and residence. They will often trade off income for some other aspect of status such as occupation. A child can be as socially successful as a low paid philosophy professor as a high paid car salesman. Thus if we measure just one aspect of status such as income we are going to confuse the random fluctuations of income across generations, influenced by such things as career choices between business and philosophy, with true generalised social mobility.

If these estimates of social mobility were anywhere near correct as indicating true underlying rates of social mobility, then we would not find that the aristocrats of 1700 in Sweden are still overrepresented in all elite occupations of Sweden. Further, the more equal is income in a society, the less signal will income give of the true social status of families. In a society such as Sweden, where the difference in income between bus drivers and philosophy professors is modest, income tells us little about the social status of families. It is contaminated much more by random noise. Thus it will appear if we measure social status just by income that mobility is much greater in Sweden than in the USA, because in the USA income is a much better indicator of the true overall status of families.

The last two paragraphs of Greg Clark article cited by Mark Thoma are badly written and actually are somewhat disconnected with his line of thinking as I understand it as well as with the general line of argumentation of the paper.

Again, I would like to stress that a low intergenerational mobility includes the ability of kids with silver spoon in their mouth to keep a status close to their parent. The fact that they a have different starting point then kids from lower strata of society does not change that.

I think that the key argument that needs testing is that the number of challengers from lower strata of the society is always pretty low and is to a large extent accommodated by the societies we know (of course some societies are better then others).

Actually it would be interesting to look at the social mobility data of the USSR from this point of view.

But in no way, say, Mark Thoma was a regular kid, although circumstances for vertical mobility at this time were definitely better then now. He did possessed some qualities which made possible his upward move although his choice of economics was probably a mistake ;-).

Whether those qualities were enough in more restrictive environments we simply don't know, but circumstances for him were difficult enough as they were.

EC -> kievite...

"the number of gifted children is limited"

I stopped reading after that. I teach at a high school in a town with a real mix of highly elite families, working class families, and poor families, and I can tell you that the children of affluent parents are not obviously more gifted than the children of poor families. They do, however, have a lot more social capital, and they have vastly more success. But the limitations on being "gifted" are irrelevant.

According to an extensive study (Turkheimer et al., 2003) of 50,000 pregnant women and the children they went on to have (including enough sets of twins to be able to study the role of innate genetic differences), variation in IQ among the affluent seems to be largely genetic.

Among the poor, however, IQ has very little to do with genes -- probably because the genetic differences are swamped and suppressed by the environmental differences, as few poor kids are able to develop as fully as they would in less constrained circumstances.

kievite -> EC...

All you said is true. I completely agree that "...few poor kids are able to develop as fully as they would in less constrained circumstances." So there are losses here and we should openly talk about them.

Also it goes without saying that social capital is extremely important for a child. That's why downward mobility of children from upper classes is suppressed, despite the fact that some of them are plain vanilla stupid.

But how this disproves the point made that "exceptionally gifted children have some chance for upper move in almost all, even the most hierarchical societies"? I think you just jumped the gun...


The early boomers benefitted from the happy confluence of the postwar boom, LBJ's Great Society efforts toward financial assistance for those seeking to advance their educations, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act which opened opportunities for marginalized social groups in institutions largely closed to them under the prewar social customs in the US. The US Supreme Court is made up of only Jews and Catholics as of this writing, a circumstance inconceivable in the prewar America. Catholics were largely relegated to separate and unequal institutions. Jews' opportunities were limited by quotas and had a separate set of institutions of their own where their numbers could support such. Where their numbers were not sufficient, they were often relegated to second rate institutions.

Jewish doctors frequently became the leading men in the Catholic hospitals in Midwestern industrial towns where they were unwelcome in the towns' main hospitals. Schools, clubs, hospitals, professional and commercial organizations often had quota or exclusionary policies. Meritocracy has its drawbacks, but we've seen worse in living memory.


Ah! Social Darwinism 2.3.

(Not that its adherents actually believe in Darwinism. ;))

hapa -> Min:

and sort of a social satisficing thing... "there's really enough people at the top, aren't there? and they're pretty amazing people, come to think of it. maybe if there were demand for more people at the top, we'd need to do something about it." not a situation where supply creates demand.


As if the echoes of the 1920s and 1930s were not already strong enough, here is another dash at eugenics, and the principles of the ubermenschen.


The appropriate response to Greg Clark is to point and laugh. Farewell to Alms is awful (see review cited above). This article is awful. This is Newt Gingrich-level contemplation of evolutionary psychology. That Clark's taken seriously is a reproach to the academy.


Actually, I believe hereditary elites evolve to become stupider and less competent, because there are fewer selective pressures on them to maintain their intelligence and competence. Those qualities they do compete on are those qualities valuable for competition within the bubble of their fellow elitists, and become increasingly detached from the proper reality of governance.

Indeed, the ability of that elite itself to govern becomes compromised, as the same individuals are able to, indeed forced to, take roles in different conflicting institutions whose vital tension is necessary to sustain the balances of power within that society. An example of this is the revolving door between the SEC and the banks the SEC is supposed to regulate.

Further, hereditary elites tend to become incestuous and inbred, and thus, far from being genetically superior, tend towards genetic inferiority compared to the classes they rule. And the lower classes, because of the greater pressures imposed on them by the elites, are subject to even greater selection than in a more mobile society.

I believe there is no surer sign of a society's eventual decline and fall, from forces both within and without, than the isolation and insulation of their elites. And sooner rather than later.

Vigorous and competitive societies have all had a great deal of social mobility. Its loss is bad for all, even the elites.

Xylix -> greg:

An amusing hypothesis, but a flawed one. Evolution in long lived life forms (humans) is too slow, especially when a crude force like natural selection is in play. These things take hundreds, if not thousands, of years. This fatal flaw is made worse by the fact that over such broad periods of time the genetic cauldron tends to be too well mixed. The only plausible time this could come into play is in cases of extreme inbreeding.

However if you rebuilt this hypothesis on cultural/meme based evolution instead of genetic evolution, something interesting might pop out.

greg -> Xylix:

OK Xylix, though I think you'd be surprised by what even a few generations can do, perhaps especially when matters of 'breeding' come into play.

And although I was admittedly unclear, I was attempting to describe cultural evolution in the first paragraph, as contrasted to genetic, in the third. Stupidity is only part nature.

cm -> greg:

But isn't this the case for all elites? The hereditary (in the sense of passing posts/elite status down to biological children) part is not necessary. What you are describing is the bubble of (deliberate) insulation from social feedback.

kievite -> greg:

Greg said:

"Actually, I believe hereditary elites evolve to become stupider and less competent, because there are fewer selective pressures on them to maintain their intelligence and competence"

Usually any elite allows some level of rotation and provides some opportunities of selected few from lower classes to join it. But I would agree that the maintenance of a rotation of elite is very important factor in long-term survival of particular society. Look at the aristocracy of Great Britain as a example.

But non-hereditary elite can degrade as well. Look at the level of degradation of the USSR elite as a good example of this process. Ideological constrains might well serve as a strong adverse selection factor. The top layer of the USA Republican Party is probably another good example on strong negative influence of "adverse selection" on elite due to ideology constrains.


What I find disturbing is that Greg Clark is only saying out loud what is implicit in quite a bit of thinking amongst the one percent, vis a vis the 47 percent. Not to mention the Republican party's policies.


The quoted passage is both offensive and imbecilic. Of course, it's probably just his inherited traits..

Julio -> Julio:

In the context of the whole article, where he points out that success may have non-monetary dimensions, the passages are not quite as bad. Still, his dismissal of inherited advantages is (I'm being kinder this time) extremely superficial.


EVEN if the society were completely meritocratic - which it isn't - low social mobility would still be a tragedy, because it would mean a lack of connections between people of means and competances and people lacking both. Ghettos ARE the very definition of a social tragedy.

reason -> reason:

Note how this ties in to what cm said.

And note how it relates to another untouched theme. That a hypercompetitive society selects against introverts - so that introverts remain a relatively wasted resource. Today we live an extrovert society - if you like a society of form over substance. I'm not sure it will end well. Maybe we need a new subject - economic sociology.

EC -> reason:

Check out Turkeimer et al. (2003) on how IQ among the affluent is inherited, while IQ among the poor is mainly a function of poverty, presumably because the natural variation is suppressed at the high end.


Genetic determination has replaced divin right as an inequality justification myth a long time ago. Nothing surprising there. Its not true of course for various reasons.

The most obvious one being that even people who excell at any aptitude tests and have poor/low educated parents have no chance while those with rich parents who perform medicore till bad usually get quite far. This goes on and on. Those who do manage to translate aptitude into school performance despite discriminatory gradeing policy still have no chance to get any further. More subtile aspects are things like bad early childhood expirience caused by poverty even when its just relative one, which does lower apitutde and is not genetic at all.

reason -> hix:

Nutrition affects IQ.

EC -> hix:

Turkheimer et al., 2003: IQ among the poor is largely determined by poverty, while among the rich it's genetic.

Noni Mausa:

I find it interesting that this is the opposite of the usual Horatio Alger argument that a poor but industrious boy can someday rise to ownership of the steel mill, or whatever, and that if the poor do not do this, it's their own fault for not being industrious enough.

Which is it? Are they poor
a) because of inborn traits (therefore it can't be changed and they are blameless but contemptible) or
b) because of insufficient effort and grit (therefore they are to blame, and still contemptible)

Using both arguments without noticing they conflict tells us something about those who use those arguments. In a mathematical model, the inborn flaw and the effort flaw would cancel each other out, leaving us with the true argument, viz: "The poor are contemptible."


The problem with the logic is the complete denial of all of the unacknowledged, often intangible advantages that elites are able to lock in for their kids. For example, not being hungry the last week of the month when you go to school (IMHO a very low, shameful bar), or it not even occurring to you on the way to school that a melee will break out or you will be the subject of intimidation backed by violence.

You can't tell me that growing up without these challenges makes you strive more, nor can you tell me that this strife translates into greater success in life. At least, I'd like to see data on this.


The problem with Greg Clark's opinion is that it is just that - an opinion. In no way does it rise to the level of a testable scientific hypothesis.

Ironically, the notion that these beliefs could be tested just like any other hypothesis was done in recent memory - the movie "Trading Places", where it was given a comedic treatment. Actually test the fitness of a so-called elite? Why, it's just not done! Not in modern times at any rate.


{Low Mobility Is Not a Social Tragedy?}

Depends upon how you view it.

A Martian visiting our planet knowing its history might think the US had regressed to the Agricultural Age of the 12th century where Monarchs, Aristocrats and the Landed-gentry called the shots. Income Disparity was rampant - lives were worth nothing. Serfs could be bought and sold.

Of course, that is not the US today - or is it? Serfs cannot be bought and sold, but some people indeed can be. What's your price? Financiers have proved that amply enough during the Toxic Waste scandal.

Generous inheritance taxation will assure that all the money that has "trickled upward" will stay there for some time to come. Even if the US were to enact severe progressive taxation on the upper-crust plutocrats tomorrow.

Which aint gonna happin.

Tom in MN:

Funny to mention the Ivy League, a bunch of schools that do legacy admissions: this is an automatic ticket, as a degree from one of these schools opens doors to jobs that state U kids don't get. If you want to complain about what is keeping your (white) child out of an Ivy League school, it's not some minor amount of affirmative action, it's legacy admissions that perpetuate inequality.

Lafayette -> Tom in MN:

For the summary of a study of mid-career salaries of graduates from different 4-year universities, see here:

Was the difference in ROI (tuition 'n board) really worth it?

For the fuller study (1000 schools), see here: - where you will find far more discrepancy in salary levels (highest 137K to lowest 42K)- for the graduates in this data set, the typical (median) mid-career employee is 42 years old and has 15 years of experience.

One can do some interesting sorts on the data ...


Education and Tax Credits:


Earnings Over Time by Education Level and Gender, figure 1.6, here:


How many of these people went to an Ivy League school?:

From, "Today's ranking of the world's richest people"

hix -> Lafayette:

I am rather pleasantly surprised there are that many billionaires with a middle class background. Buffet and Gates are upper 0,01% kids. The Kochs barely rise above putting all the money they inherited into an index fund, despite their claims to the contrary.

Kamprad Ortega and the Albrechts were genuinly middle if not working class. Either way, i could not care less if those billionaires are "equal opportunity billionaires". No one should be allowed to accumulate that much money. If a person can acumulate that much wealth it is always a sign of market failure and it threatens the functioning of democracy.

Lafayette -> hix:

{No one should be allowed to accumulate that much money. If a person can acumulate that much wealth it is always a sign of market failure and it threatens the functioning of democracy.}

Yes, indeedy.

The Tax Code is warped and incentivising in the wrong manner. The accumulation of wealth is an Old World habit, one the New World has easily adopted and the Old World has tamed equitably.

Adelson and the Koch Bros. (et al) have accumulated far too much money to be of an economic benefit to the nation. But, as I never tire of saying: Until Americans learn that they live in a collective society, then the rampant "individualism" as personified by an excessive/aberrant competitive desire to "win" (meaning amass a fortune), then nothing can change.

Of course, one should have the right to earn a megabuck. But hundreds of megabucks? Uh, uh.

That wealth does not recirculate in the economy - it is handed down from generation to generation; some of which prolong the cycle, many however that dissipate the fortune and themselves.

How many Rolls-Royces can you buy? How many beach-front mansions in St. Tropez or the Caribbean? How many chalets in Davos or Kitzbuhl? How many penthouses in NYC. How many cocktail parties can you give?

All of that wondrous display of wealth is for what? The insensate benefit of a comparative handful of families who disregard the fact that 15% of American families are forced to live below the poverty threshold.

That notion is both antiquated and retarded. What matters is the well-being of most fellow citizens and not the phantasmagoric lifestyle of a few.



There are all sorts of inbred (in us, in society, in business) discrimination. Of note, sexual, racial or religious.

There is another one, however, that I feel is crucial. It is payscale. And, no, I don't mean that all blue/white-collars should make the same salary. That's stoopid.

But, it is unacceptable that the Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors of a public company should share out the Net Profit by deciding who in TopManagement gets what stock-dividends (from preferred stock), what bonuses and what stock-options. And, to an extent, what perquisites of position (an apartment here, a golf-course there).

They do so, because it is customary, that is, they've always done so. Why?

Because there is no regulatory law that prevents discrimination based upon hierarchical position.

If one meets their objectives of a Job Plan, they are contributing to the success of the company. Why should they not share in its profits?

Not equally, for sure. Been there, done that, doesn't work.

But equitably. Never been there, never done that and we don't know how well it will work.

We keep our eyes fixated on the Minimum Wage and every decade or two throw the minions a small rise. But we know, today, that 15% of American families are living below the poverty line - and many of them earn a minimum wage.

Some companies in Europe (Germany of note) passed a law that created two positions on Board to represent Labor Interests. That's fine but it does not go nearly far enough.

We need, as a nation, a BigHunk of law that describes and circumscribes the relation between Labor and Management - including the right to unionize and the right to not join a union. That puts two elected members of the staff on the Board. That will interfere when a dispute starts budding and not wait till it explodes in a strike.

Most importantly, it will define the objectives of the company, which will "trickle-down" through all salaried levels and show up in a Job Plan. If an individual meets those requirement in their work, then they should have the right to share in the profits by means of stock-options or bonuses - again, equitably but not equally.

In a word, we've got to get our act together as regards total remuneration equitability.

Mobility is not only about from where we come, but to where we are trying to get.



No, I'm not writing about sleighbells in the snow.

Rather, I'm citing a study by the LSE on social mobility: {Researchers from the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) have compared the life chances of British children with those in other advanced countries for a study sponsored by the Sutton Trust, and the results are disturbing.

Jo Blanden, Paul Gregg and Steve Machin found that social mobility in Britain - the way in which someone's adult outcomes are related to their circumstances as a child - is lower than in Canada, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. And while the gap in opportunities between the rich and poor is similar in Britain and the US, in the US it is at least static, while in Britain it is getting wider.

A careful comparison reveals that the USA and Britain are at the bottom with the lowest social mobility. Norway has the greatest social mobility, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Germany is around the middle of the two extremes, and Canada was found to be much more mobile than the UK.

Comparing surveys of children born in the 1950s and the 1970s, the researchers went on to examine the reason for Britain's low, and declining, mobility. They found that it is in part due to the strong and increasing relationship between family income and educational attainment.

For these children, additional opportunities to stay in education at age 16 and age 18 disproportionately benefited those from better off backgrounds. For a more recent cohort born in the early 1980s the gap between those staying on in education at age 16 narrowed, but inequality of access to higher education has widened further: while the proportion of people from the poorest fifth of families obtaining a degree has increased from 6 per cent to 9 per cent, the graduation rates for the richest fifth have risen from 20 per cent to 47 per cent.

The researchers concluded: 'The strength of the relationship between educational attainment and family income, especially for access to higher education, is at the heart of Britain's low mobility culture and what sets us apart from other European and North American countries.}

Food for thought?

greg byshenk:

Some comments have noted that Clark's argument is ambiguous between a "nature" and a "nurture" interpretation of 'inherited'. I suggest that it -depends- -upon- that ambiguity.

If the argument is based upon 'inheritance' as some form of genetic determinism, then it works as an argument. If success (by whatever measure) is the result of innate ability, and if that ability is solely the result of "ancestry", then society really does contain natural elites and it would be a mistake to try to change that. Better to let "alphas" appreciate being alphas and "deltas" learn to appreciate being deltas, for the social sorting is as it should be, and cannot actually be changed.

The problem for this version of the argument is that, as other comments have noted, it is not well-supported by the evidence. Abilities are not purely innate, and are not strictly determined by one's ancestry.

On the other hand, if the argument is based on 'inheritance' as encompassing learning, social capital, and all the other factors that might fall under the heading of "nurture", then it does seem to have evidence in its favour. Unfortunately, in this version of the argument, the conclusion does not follow from the premises. That is, if ability is not strictly genetic, then surely it -is- a "tragedy" that society throws away the ability of its non-elite members.

In short, the ambiguity serves to hide the fact that the argument is self-refuting. It is valid only if its premises are false.

[Feb 12, 2013] Student Loan Bubble Forces Yale, Penn To Sue Their Own Students

02/05/2013 | Tyler Durden

We have not been shy about exposing the massive (and unsustainable) bubble of credit being blown into the economy via Student Loans from the government. We have not been afraid to note the dramatic rise in delinquencies among these loans - and the implications for the government. However, as Bloomberg reports, it appears the impact of this exuberance has come back to bite the colleges themselves. In what can only be described as a vendor-financing model, the so-called Perkins loans (for students with extraordinary financial hardships) have seen defaults surging more than 20%. The vicious circle, though, has begun as the ponzi of using these revolving loan funds to 'fund' the next round of students is collapsing thanks to the rise in delinquencies. Schools such as Yale, Penn, and George Washington are becoming very aggressive at going after delinquent student borrowers. While financially hard-up graduates complain of no jobs, the schools are not impressed: "You could take a job at Subway or wherever to pay the bills ... It seems like basic responsibility to me," but perhaps that is the point - avoiding responsibility is seemingly rewarded in the new normal.

[Feb 10, 2013] What's the Cost and Financial Value of College?

I am biased from my own experience, but nobody will ever convince me that college is a bad investment.
Without college, I'd probably be doing what my dad, brother, and grandfather did, work in a tractor store selling parts, and if I was lucky, some day get promoted to sales. College was my ticket out of the small farming town I grew up in, but if it wasn't for the low tuition at California state schools at the time, I probably wouldn't have made it. (Tuition was around $100 per semester, and I could earn enough to pay tuition, dorm fees, etc. working on farms in the summer and at a tractor store selling parts to cranky farmers during school. I also worked at a gas station for a while at minimum wage, and my boss/owner was a real, genuine ass, but I needed the money).

I can't say if it was worth it to society to subsidize my education -- this blog is one result of that investment -- but it was certainly worth it to me and to this day I have not forgotten what the state of California did for me. (I really, really, hated working at tractor stores and the gas station, nobody should have the power over people my boss at the gas station had over me -- he tried to screw me out of overtime, that sort of thing, though once I threatened to report him to the labor board his tune changed a bit -- and the thought of doing jobs like that for the rest of my life was a huge motivation in college. When I'd get to the tractor store in the morning, I'd write "480" on a notepad, that was how many minutes I had left until I could leave eight hours later, and then I'd tick the minutes off the rest of the day. I can remember just wanting one thing, to have a job where I didn't watch the clock all day long, to get lost in my work somehow -- it's hard to explain how much I hated those jobs -- and I was lucky enough to find that.)

I am biased from my own experience, but nobody will ever convince me that college is a bad investment.

However, with tuition rising, access to college for naive kids like I was back then is a real issue. It's hard to explain just how naive I was, but when your parents only went to junior college for a year (and then got married at age 19 because you were on the way), and your high school is too small to have advisors to fill in the gaps, it's easy to make bad choices. I had no clue, for example, about how to finance education at a UC school, e.g UC Davis or Berkeley -- my parents simply said "we can't afford that" when I raised the issue, and with no co-signers for loans, and no knowledge about how to get a loan without a parent to co-sign -- it was different then -- the path to anywhere but Cal State Chico was, as far as I could see, closed. I might have found a way if Chico hadn't been so cheap, it would have gone through a JC, but likely not, and I am very grateful there was a path through a four year college for kids like me to take. Still, it was hard to get to a decent graduate school from Chico despite a economics/statistics/math major and nearly perfect grades my last three years, a UC school would have provided much more opportunity, but it was enough to get me here. I only hope that kids today have at least the same opportunity I had, and hopefully even better choices, but I'm not at all sure that they do:

What's the cost and financial value of college?, Peter Dizikes, MIT News: What's the right price for a college education? And what is its value?

Those are crucial questions at a time of rising student debt and high unemployment. But a group of scholars and policymakers at an MIT forum on Thursday suggested that one thing about college remains clear: Expensive though it can be, higher education pays off for Americans as a whole.

Indeed, the much-discussed idea of an "education bubble" - that college costs have soared too high to make a degree worthwhile - is a "dangerous myth that leads people to make bad choices," said David Autor, an MIT labor economist who has extensively studied the relationship between education and earnings.

Instead, Autor said, the best evidence shows that a college degree leads to a lifetime earnings increase of $250,000 to $300,000, even after subtracting the cost of higher education. Those returns, Autor noted, apply to graduates regardless of their undergraduate majors: Humanities students benefit just as science, engineering or business students do.

And all evidence suggests education remains a key to social mobility in America, noted Janice Eberly... Moreover, Eberly said, "These benefits accrue not only to individuals but society more broadly,"...

The forum's moderator and organizer, James Poterba ... noted in his introductory remarks that higher education is "an extremely important sector of the U.S. economy," representing about 3.5 percent of the national GDP - but one with an even larger impact on the country's fortunes, given its centrality of knowledge and its impact on innovation-based growth to the economy.

Yet excellence in higher education requires a solid foundation of secondary education, observed Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard University. And while high school graduation rates in the United States soared in the first half of the 20th century, they have been virtually stagnant since about 1970.

"College completion just cannot advance much when high school completion does not," Goldin said.

For those who do go to college, the amount of student-loan debt they accrue has increased, as Autor acknowledged: At graduation, today's public-university graduates hold $32,000 in student debt, on average, while graduates of private, nonprofit schools owe $46,000, on average. Going into debt always entails risk, Autor said, while asserting that the worst-case scenarios, of students with massive debt and low income, attract disproportionate media attention.

In reality, virtually all college students, Autor said, will emerge with useful work-force skills. ...

A retweet of this link:

Don't ask is it worth it, ask who can afford it? MT "@markthoma: What's the cost and value of college? - MIT…" - Paul Vigna (@paulvigna) February 8, 2013


I despise my family for not keeping the family industry and property on Miami Beach.

I forgive them. I saw my father rise above the challenges in his later life and make something of himself, it is typically off the sweat of another being.

I even saw my uncle leech off my labor while I delivered untold furniture to untold households who paid rent a center prices.

Regardless, Mark you are worth every nickel and dime and I mean that.

Plus, the cost of education is going up due to a variety of factors, but not instruction.

Let the administrators eat shit and take away from the cost of instruction.

I will take a bullet for you. You are a good man.


Education is still worth it. It is the administration bloat that you need to worry about.

Darryl FKA Ron -> Mike...

Education is still worth it. It is the administration bloat that you need to worry about.

[I certainly must agree on this. There is a lot of room for pedagogy improvement in K-12. I don't blame the teacher's though nearly as much as the conflicted notions under which they are trained and must endeavor to perform their duties.

John Taylor Gatto has done a thorough job of describing the conflicted evolution of pedagogy, but, IMO, he falls well short of adequately explaining how teachers should be trained to teach. In my mind we have departed from the natural learning development paradigm so far that the trip back is lost in a far off fog of misplaced perceptions that we have inherited from making so much progress heading in the wrong direction. ]


In the early 90s, I went to JC on wages from a video rental store and then UCLA on student loans. The loans wouldn't have been horrible except that I was a French major (great money maker that)and I did my senior year in France, and the loans had to finance that. However, I was doing 24 units per semester plus summer school, so I actually got a 4 year degree from UCLA having spent only one calendar year at the school and one in France (Univ. of Grenoble).

I got very good grades so I got a couple fellowhips plus being a TA to finance my graduate education at UCSB, where I actually made money (summer school teaching FTW).

Going to JC probably hurt my chances getting into an ivy league school for graduate school. But oh well.


Education equals employment, atleast according to statistics:

strengthens your argument!


where is the commitment to hire?

where is the commitment to properly fund & equip the affordable schools, and the secondary schools, and below?

if these educations are so great, so critical to national productivity, why are individuals paying out of pocket? why not pool the risk, and tax according to means to pay for it?

once upon a time i'd listen to anyone drone about the importance of education, even as they supported it with half-measures, but now they're actually actively turning labor markets into a shambles; and lying about graduates' readiness for work, aka 'structural unemployment'; so screw their speechifying.


Why in heaven's name must we put a money-figure on Education? We can "count it" so the attribute has identifiable value.

Education has an intrinsic value far beyond its ability to obtain a larger paycheck.

Is there not a value to the fact that Education enlightens the mind and allows one perspective, judiciousness, balance and foresight? (Presumably, but it depends upon where you go to get all that.)

And is that value not more important than just a salary?

And if it is, how does one explain the Dumbing Down of America when we graduate so many high-school laureates into tertiary education? Or how Americans cannot see the terrible damage being done by the T-Party in Congress?

And, if we do graduate most students with a high-school degree how can anyone understand the lack of Civic Duty by which half the electorate refuses to vote?

Go figure ...

Darryl FKA Ron -> Lafayette...

And if it is, how does one explain the Dumbing Down of America when we graduate so many high-school laureates into tertiary education?

[Two part answer:

1. Zip codes

2. Families

Then of course you could also question how smart that the smart people really are if you place any value on economic results?

Might you say that smart is as smart does?]

Lafayette -> Darryl FKA Ron...

Funny enough, but the answer does not even address the question.

It is difficult to understand how the T-Party (and the Replicants in general) could have any believability with the electorate given what they have spoken before the media or even encapsulated in a policy document.

They are beyond belief ... positioning themselves in the land of dogmatism and fundamentalism (when it comes to insisting that we must all beckon to Gods will).

Ive seen brainless twerps on the Right in Europe, but never wrapped in the national flag with a bible under one arm. And the ones on the Right here who favor lower taxation to incentivize entrepreneurship would never want to undo the National Health Systems in order to reduce government debt.

It is difficult to comprehend their theory of the market economy - little regulation so they can game a oligopoly-markets thus maximizing profits - and when they make a grievous error gaming then the American tax-payer must rush to their rescue. (At least Obama had the chutzpah to fire the incompetents who were driving GM into the ground.)

And they walk away smiling at the rest of us (What suckers!, they must be saying to themselves). Because they know full well that without massive increases in taxation, they will keep garnering nearly 50% of the total income generated by the American economy.

Nice work, if you can get it ...

Darryl FKA Ron -> Lafayette...

Maybe you have been in France so long that you are having trouble reading English?

If you want an answer to this question:

" Or how Americans cannot see the terrible damage being done by the T-Party in Congress?"

THen you really have been in France too long. This is America buddy. Part of the answer is the same as before: zip codes and families. This is to say that bird brains of a feather flock together in T-Partyville neighborhoods mostly within a certain race, class, and a fairly narrow age cohort. Gerrymandering and electoral demographics does the rest. With sufficient brinksmanship then you get minority rule. That does not mean that the majority of Americans do not realize it. They just have not marshalled a counter measure to it yet.

When it comes to educational success for a few though, then that is the same answers. The zip codes where they went to school and the families that raised them.

Danger, danger Will Robinson. Lost in France.

Lafayette -> Darryl FKA Ron...

{This is to say that bird brains of a feather flock together in T-Partyville neighborhoods mostly within a certain race, class, and a fairly narrow age cohort. Gerrymandering and electoral demographics does the rest.}

Sound right to me.

But that argument does not take into account lack of Civic Duty and generalized apathy. Voter turnout stats show that: (Scroll down to the bottom to find the US ... is this the sort of performance we should expect from the Greatest Democracy on earth? Superlatives. We eat and sleep superlatives.

This does however: {That does not mean that the majority of Americans do not realize it. They just have not marshalled a counter measure to it yet.}

We, the sheeple, are being suckered by plutocrat class that manipulates voter turnout, not just by gerrymandering (which encrusts a two-party system into place), but by means of manipulating certain portions of the population to vote and thus derive close margins that can swing either way in a national election (of the PotUS or Congress).

Darryl FKA Ron -> Lafayette...

Sure. Apathy and despair and the attendant lack of participation are the real enemies.

Lafayette -> Darryl FKA Ron...

{Danger, danger Will Robinson. Lost in France.}

Americans abroad have a more objective opinion as regards the US and its political construct.

The Dems Abroad certainly do, because they can see and feel the lack of Social Justice over there compared to the one they live in over here.

Jealous, are you .... ?

Darryl FKA Ron -> Lafayette...

The Dems Abroad certainly do, because they can see and feel the lack of Social Justice over there compared to the one they live in over here.

[Sure, but it is the subjectivity that you miss out on. The objective bottom line is clear. What everyday citizens are really thinking you have get first hand.]

Jealous, are you .... ?

[Perhaps, but why does that matter. This is where the work needs to be done.]

Lafayette -> Darryl FKA Ron...

Sure, but it is the subjectivity that you miss out on. The objective bottom line is clear. What everyday citizens are really thinking you have get first hand

Yes, OK. But the point I am trying to make, and have been doing a considerable time in this forum, is that THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE.

And that alternative has been taken by a great many countries; in fact, more than have not taken it. The absurd cost of Privatized Health Insurance is almost unique to the US in modern, developed democracies.

There are more than 150,000 Yanks living in France and a great many are here on retirement.This means that they do not have French national health-insurance. I dont know how many times, at meetings of American Clubs, I have been asked the question, How do I get on French Health Care Insurance?

Easy answer, Divorce your spouse and take on a French one! Not so easy to do, however.

And those who do have it, because they work here, would not leave it.

Look, life is about finding the Best Solution Possible. Not attaching oneself to dogma and refusing any alternative thought/notion/idea/ to exist. Which is what a great many Americans are doing.

I know the confusion the expression Dumbing Down America may create. It means that people are simpletons and/or they are reduced to simpletons. Neither is of course accurate.

For a great many of us abroad there are attributes of the American way-of-life that are astonishing. The lack of mastery of the English language. The pandemic of Obesity. The obsessive dependence upon Religion to find meaning. The fascination foraccumulated riches as significant of personal achievement.

I dont understand any of these sociological proclivities. Your may be right after all: I am lost in France.And, if that is indeed the case, I am not the only Yank lost here. Or elsewhere in the EU - meaning quite a number of us.

On the other hand ... I have taught International Business courses and, any student who asks directly, I tell them to get the hell out of France and pursue their career elsewhere - namely, the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, the US or Australia.

One must become nowadays eclectic in ones choices ...

Lafayette -> Darryl FKA Ron...

And here is a real story about the smartening up of America:

To: [email protected]

Darryl FKA Ron -> Lafayette...

Lots of opportunity here in America. Individual success stories abound.

Alex -> Lafayette...

"how does one explain the Dumbing Down of America"?

They don't, because it's not happening. Look at NAEP scores. They're up for 4th and 8th graders, sometimes by several grade levels, since the 1970's. And they've kept on climbing through the 2000's, despite/because of NCLB. 11th grade testing hasn't shown the same trend, but that's probably because the dropout rate is sinking like a rock (around 12% in 1990 but 7% in 2010) and students who would have dropped out are now taking the NAEP in 11th grade.

The Dumbing Down of America is happening because of the media, and one of their favorite brain-dead beliefs is that America has the worst school ever. Because glibertarians hate public education, and DC loves it some glibertarian thought.

America got some of the best scores on the TIMSS and PISAA tests that just came out (right behind some micro-countries and a few East Asian countries but well above most other large, OECD countries)! Teaching has advanced! And more is being taught! And more ARE being taught! It's a cause for celebration! America is awesome!

Instead I have to put up with uninformed Europeans trash-talking American education because they're aided and abetted by uninformed Americans. They like to think they're good at educating the future generation, we like to think we're bad. But no one, absolutely no one, likes to look at the data.

Darryl FKA Ron -> Alex...

"But no one, absolutely no one, likes to look at the data."

Overall, the U.S. comes out as an average performer in reading (rank 14 in OECD) and science (rank 17) but the U.S. drops below the OECD average in mathematics (rank 25).

[Insofar as the dumbing down affect, most of that preceded most of the data that you can kind on the internet. Mensa qualifying test scores are higher for SAT scores taken after 1969 (or maybe beginning in 1969) because the SAT tests had to be dumbed down to shift the scales for the lower performing students after about 1967. If you go back a bit before the seventies, then we were number one or close, despite our own efforts to dumb down public education circa 1942, so that school children would not be susceptible to modern philosophies, especially Marxism. Place this on top of the fact that our public education system from the beginning of compulsory public education was modeled after the Prussian system, which was an update of the Egyptian system, which meant that it was designed to create a submissive and servile populace willing and ready to serve as soldiers, and then factory workers in the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, free will being what it is, teachers exceeded the system design points and it was necessary to repeatedly squash free will and higher thought processes through innovations in education from the likes of Frederick Taylor to ensure the system was efficiently dehumanizing.

If you want to understand the history and principles of pedagogy then check out John Taylor Gatto, but understand that IMO Gatto is a victim of the system that he denounces, having an entirely too narrow view of the possibility of solutions. This is not to say that Gatto's solution is not satisfactory to some extent, but that it is not the only possible solution either.


Education is definitely "worth it" and more should be done to bring down the cost by shifting away from an individual debt driven approach to financing higher education toward the public provision of higher education. See for example JW Mason's "Public Options: The General Case"

That said, the BLS's three largest occupational categories by themselves accounted for more than one-third of the workforce in 2010 (49 million jobs), and they will make an outsized contribution to the new jobs projected for 2020. They are:

(1) Office and administrative support occupations (median wage of $30,710);

(2) Sales and related occupations ($24,370); and

(3) Food preparation and serving occupations ($18,770)

Other occupations projected to provide the largest number of new jobs in the next decade include child care workers ($19,300), personal care aides ($19,640), home health aides ($20,560), janitors and cleaners ($22,210), teacher assistants ($23,220), non-construction laborers ($23,460), security guards ($23,920), and construction laborers ($29,280).

Education is great, but the reality is higher education is only going to serve about 1/3 of the population to get high paying jobs for the foreseeable future. More important is making sure the bottom 2/3 have access to any job at all and raising the wages for the jobs that already exist for the bottom 2/3.


Education has had great payoffs (for individuals as well as aggregate society) in the post-WW2 industrialization and rapid technology advancement. The country needed large numbers of STEM educated and trained people to pull this off. But I would offer the thesis that a good part of the payoff was from aggregate economic growth, not education as such.

Now we still need many people with education and training to maintain and incrementally develop the state of the art. But with higher productivity, efficiencies of scale etc., the "good" jobs are in relative decline, more jobs are maintenance/operations staffed from a well-supplied skill base, and higher ed has drifted more towards a social sorting function. Where it was earlier a sure ticket to a good job, it is now more of a lottery ticket to the same.


My experiences echoed Mark Thoma's. I was a first generation college student with parents who did not even graduate from high school. I had no knowledge of how to navigate the world of scholarship and financial aid. I got a 4.0 in a JC, where I paid $80 per semester;transferred to a state college and paid $1200 per semester. My teachers encouraged me to pursue graduate school. Being practical, I went for an MBA and after working for a while, returned for my PhD. Being an idealist, I committed to teaching at public intuitions. Though some days I banged my head and cursed my ideal self, knowing that I am helping to create opportunities for someone just like me keeps me going.


Memories of the situation in the past are worse than useless, they are harmful. That was then, this is now.

In the current situation, I am much worse off for having gone to college. I am making the same amount of money I was before (w/o accounting for inflation), plus I have outstanding debt to deal with.

So, as I said, the degree may one day make me enough money to be worth it, perhaps only after dropping more coin on an equally overpriced graduate degree (what's a little more debt?!), but as for now it is not.

So, frankly, y'all can go stuff your fairy tales of college past. They don't answer.


The problems I have with Autor's and Goldin's arguments are:

(a) They appear to be post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacies: They don't show *how* college increases earnings, or if they increase earnings over high school education because we've offshored all the jobs high school grads can do. It could just be credential inflation.

(b) There's no evidence the wage boost exists for every cohort. People from Prof. Thoma's generation might have benefited greatly from college and added real productivity to the economy, but that might not be true for today's graduates who compete in a national economy riddled with unearned incomes going to the top.

(c) They don't appear interested in ensuring that those who aren't particularly bright have a good alternative to college. The skill-biased technological change argument assumes that it's impossible to improve the lots of Morlock material movers, so we *have* to train them to be Eloi lawyers (and ignore the Morlocks who happen to have law degrees).

Darryl FKA Ron -> LSTB...

today's graduates who compete in a national economy riddled with unearned incomes going to the top.

[That is your root cause analysis. All that I can add is that the particulars of the capital gains bias on after tax returns on capital is what brought it to this point. The secondary effect of the capital gains bias is the short term bias, the speculative gains bias, and the consolidation of tradeable equity firms bias. The dividends tax credit was rescinded in 1954 by a Federal government under complete Republican control. When Democrats regained control of the government in 1960 they were either too stupid to revert to the progressively assessed tax credit on dividends or too beholding to Wall Street and the FIRE sector. So, this what nearly sixty years of creative destruction organized by big finance will get you.]

Charlie Baker -> Darryl FKA Ron...

"When Democrats regained control of the government in 1960 they were either too stupid to revert to the progressively assessed tax credit on dividends or too beholding to Wall Street and the FIRE sector."

I think the evidence favors "beholden." By 1960 the Democrats saw that they were losing a number of industrial sectors to the GOP, and saw that they could make a play for the Financial sector, under the guise of promoting "financial innovation." Such innovations were implicated by Minsky in the 1966 credit crunch, which he identifies as the first major financial system event since the Great Depression. Democrats had held all the levers leading up to the crunch.

In and of itself, the '66 event was not a major trauma, but I feel it was indicative of more to come, and the Democrat's role: growing fealty to Finance as a means of promoting growth.

Darryl FKA Ron -> Charlie Baker...

You are probably correct, but there is substantial evidence to support either argument. I say why just one reason. It's possible for Democrats to be both too stupid and too corrupt to do the correct thing. Republicans do that all the time. My nick name for the two party system is the foolish crooks and the crooked fools.

ken melvin:

Economics; so lacking as purpose.

Cameron Hoppe:

The USA's university system is great for routing lots and lots of resources into basic research. This adds a lot of growth to the global economy.

What it's not well adapted to do is give technical educational opportunity to anyone over 25 or with a family income under $40K a year. So if you're young and have financial and logistical support from family, higher ed can be a great deal. For everyone else it's looking more and more like a scam.


There is nothing like the experience of a dismal, potentially trapping job to motivate one to get an education and apply it wisely.

Public colleges really did help me, too. I attended part-time at night as I worked by day. Came out with no debt. I am SO VERY grateful for the opportunity.

Often I think that public colleges and universities deserve a lot more credit for their contribution to the economy than they get. Elite colleges take elite persons and make them elite persons, but that's not very transformational; it is more selectional. The value is in public schools that take poor, working stiffs and turn them into middle class and reasonably successful persons. It's the public schools that create the real, transformational value.

Darryl FKA Ron -> LAS...

The value is in public schools that take poor, working stiffs and turn them into middle class and reasonably successful persons. It's the public schools that create the real, transformational value.


Darryl FKA Ron:

Well my story is much different in my typical heterdox iconoclastic fashion.

The only job I ever hated was washing pots and pans in a cafeteria. My boss complained that I got too much water on the floor, but when he checked the pots and pans I washed they were all clean and oil free beyound expectations, so he did not pull me off the line. I quit at the end of my first day.

Working part time retail, pulling green chain in a lumber yard, working in a sheet metal fabricating plant were all fine jobs for me. Then I left home to begin college, although I had long disliked school. The bosses (teachers) in public school were incredibly narrow minded. There idea of teaching was to produce mini-me's in their own inflated self-image. My parents were poor, but my academic potential made a combination of loans and scholarships available to me, so that I could afford to pay my own way. I had lived at home and saved all my earnings from my summer jobs, so I even had a bit of spending money.

It only took me a few weeks into my first semester for me to realize that college, at least at Richmond Professional Institute at that time, was at least aa useless as high school. More pedagogues with exagerated sense of self importance and narrow minds. So, I stopped attending classes and enjoyed the social life through the end of the semester.

Flunking out and about to lose my dorm room and cafeteria use, then I found a job as a comupter operator running tabulation equipment (in January 1968). Within six months, since I had access to computer after hours, I had taught myself Cobol. When a co-worker in college had trouble with a FORTRAN program, then I learned enough FORTRAN from his manual on the spot to help him get his class work done. In May 1969 I was drafted. In November 1969 I was sent to Viet Nam to be an MP. In January 1970 I got transferred to division (101st) Admin leveraging some conflicts of interest (so they wanted me out as bad as wanted to leave) within the division MP HQ. In 101st Admin I taught myself SAAL, single address assembler language. Back state side in November 1970, I wrangled a short stint as a COBOL progammer at the Infantry School in Benning. Back to my old computer operator job, which I had advanced previously to console operator from tab machine operator. November 1972 I left for an entry level COBOL programmer position for a life insurance company. Then I went to a service bureaus in 1974 and learned IBM mainframe assembler. Back to the insurance company for a couple of years and learned EZTrieve and a little system programming. Then I began to search for a system programming job and landed one finally in 1978 also doing some assember programming. In 1980 I switched jobs for the final time, where I migrated from system programming to IT Systems Management in 1984. That put me working with folk that primarily were educated with masters degrees and abandoned PhD programs. I will be working this job (hopefully) until I am seventy years old. I work at a level unrivaled in firm and usually associated with PhD holders in my industry, although my approach has a applied science rather than theoretical appoach, much to my benefits as an effective practitioner.

Now for the moral to my story. Get all the education that you need to do what you really want to do in any manner possible. The various particulars that I used are completely innappropriate to anyone in today's job market and were only available to a very few people with great talent AND great luck in my time.

The only piece of advice that I ever give to young people is the same today as I gave to my children. Figure what you really want to do and then do everything possible to make that happen. There is nothing off limits to you if you are willing to work hard and do what it takes. You just need to want it enough to keep at it. If you are better than almost everyone else that does this work, whatever it may be, then you will probably do pretty well at it.

Darryl FKA Ron -> Darryl FKA Ron...

Two worth while points that I left out.

In 1980 after making my final career move, I learned SAS quite soon. For anyone that enjoys using applied mathematics to solve problems with data both large and small, then SAS is the ultimate wet dream tool.

In no small part due to my years of successful problem solving with SAS, I have survived three re-orgs and an outsource (working for the vendor now - but in the same role) as well as six yeas of annual staff reduction lay-offs since the outsource. Oh yeah, and eight different terrible bosses.


Agree that administrative bloat is a major issue. Of course a certain number of administrators are necessary, but tuition-payers are being asked to support an excessive number of college employees who on a typical work day have no contact with actual students. There is probably a lot of tuition money going to outside consultants who never see students, as well.

I worry that statistics showing the utility of college are not reflective of the highly escalated costs, and the sadly reduced job prospects for graduates (not to mention lower salaries for those who do procure employment) of our recent times.


Entertain the kids for a few years, maybe the old folks will get out of the way in 4 or 6 years.

Employers see education as someone else training their employees, employers won't pay for education.

Students see education as a ticket to work for a leech who don't care to train them.

A mix of luck, good mistakes (lucky decisions), larceny, add up to 'succeed' and rise to leeching rentier.

The succeeders fleece the saps to build 'it', then monopolize the rents claiming they were the builder.

What Einstein said: 'The value of education is what a student has after he forgets all the book knowledge.'

So it goes on................

Roger Chittum:

Nobody doubts you need a college education to get a good job. Unfortunately in 21st Century America you also need a college education to get a bad job. See comments of AhabTRuler and NKlein1553 above. Also see this EPI report analyzing who would benefit from an increase in the Maryland minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.00 per hour.

"Data on educational attainment of those who would be affected by a minimum wage increase further dispel the misperception of minimum-wage workers as high school students working in low-wage jobs for spending money. In fact, just 18.2 percent of those affected have less than a high school degree, while nearly half-46.3 percent-have some college education, an associate degree, or a bachelor's degree or higher."


Small Main Street businesses of the pedestrian type simply don't make enough profit to pay labor a living wage. The owner seems to do OK with a nice home and a better than average couple vehicles, but that's it. Not enough left over.

These businesses have very little flexibility in their business plans. They can't raise wages simply because they are pedestrian and competitors who cut prices, lose money and then disappear, are a constant. When one goes away, another pops up. They can't really much cut employees either because there is little mechanization of what employees do. Cut an employee, the service disappears. In bad times the owwer(s) simply move back into the store, or production.

The problem, in my opinion, is an issue of labor wage protection. If the minimum wage were elevated to a living wage schedule, the incumbent Main Street businesses would disappear unless the law is enforced. This is basically the hammer used by big box business models: Failing to elevate and enforce minimum wages allows big box stores to crush Main Street businesses. The big box stores can take full advantage of shifting labor costs on to taxpayers compared to Main Street. Their service is lousy, it takes 30 minutes to buy anything and 20 minutes minimum to get there, there's no expert advice readily available, and in most cases the cost savings is negligible or at any rate is no where near enough to justify the time and effort expended.


What would be important is having historical costs and cost changes for private and public colleges. We do have cost changes between 1980 and 2009 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showing that college tuition costs, private and public, increased significantly faster than inflation in every year other than 1980:

September, 2010

College tuition and fees, 1980–2009

(Percentage change)

1980 ( 9.4)
1981 ( 12.4) Reagan
1982 ( 13.4)
1983 ( 10.4)
1984 ( 10.2)

1985 ( 9.1)
1986 ( 8.1)
1987 ( 7.6)
1988 ( 7.6) Bush
1989 ( 7.9)

1990 ( 8.1)
1991 ( 10.2)
1992 ( 10.7) Clinton
1993 ( 9.4)
1994 ( 7.0)

1995 ( 6.0)
1996 ( 5.7)
1997 ( 5.1)
1998 ( 4.2)
1999 ( 4.0)

2000 ( 4.1)
2001 ( 5.1) Bush
2002 ( 6.8)
2003 ( 8.4)
2004 ( 9.5)

2005 ( 7.5)
2006 ( 6.7)
2007 ( 6.2)
2008 ( 6.2)
2009 ( 6.0) Obama

Reply Saturday, February 09, 2013 at 07:10 AM

anne -> anne...

As for current costs at a large public college in what is likely the largest public college system in any state:

March 12, 2012

University of California at Los Angeles

2012-2013 Estimated Undergraduate Student Budget
Per Academic Year ( 9 months)

University Fees ( $12,686)
Health Insurance ( 1,318)
Books and Supplies ( 1,521)

Living with relatives: Room and Board ( 4,422)
Transportation ( 1,794)
Personal ( 1,683)

Total Resident Budget ( $23,424)

2012-2013 Estimated Undergraduate Student Budget
Per Academic Year ( 9 months)

University Fees ( $12,686)
Health Insurance ( 1,318)
Books and Supplies ( 1,521)

Residence halls: Room and Board ( 14,208)
Transportation ( 786)
Personal ( 1,383)

Total Resident Budget ( $31,902)

Reply Saturday, February 09, 2013 at 07:16 AM


As far as the employment of men and women with college degrees, what I find telling is the decrease in the employment-population ratio:

January 4, 2013

Employment-Population Ratio, Bachelor's Degree and Higher, 2000-2013

2000 ( 78.1) *
2001 ( 77.1) Bush
2002 ( 76.3)
2003 ( 75.8)
2004 ( 75.8)

2005 ( 76.1)
2006 ( 76.3)
2007 ( 76.3)
2008 ( 75.8)
2009 ( 73.9) Obama

2010 ( 73.1)
2011 ( 73.1)
2012 ( 72.9)


2013 ( 72.9)

* Employment age 25 and over

Reply Saturday, February 09, 2013 at 07:14 AM


August, 2011

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Education Data

College or university degree attainment, 2009

(Percent of population 25-64)

OECD average ( 30)

Canada ( 50)
Israel ( 45)
Japan ( 44)
United States ( 41)
New Zealand ( 40)

Korea ( 39)
Australia ( 37)
Finland ( 37)
Norway ( 37)
United Kingdom ( 37)

Ireland ( 36)
Luxembourg ( 35)
Switzerland ( 35)
Denmark ( 34)
Belgium ( 33)

Iceland ( 33)
Netherlands ( 33)
Sweden ( 33)
Spain ( 30)
France ( 29)

Germany ( 26)
Chile ( 24)
Greece ( 24)
Poland ( 21)
Hungary ( 20)

Austria ( 19)
Czech Republic ( 16)
Mexico ( 16)
Slovak Republic ( 16)
Italy ( 15)

Portugal ( 15)
Turkey ( 13)

anne -> anne...

August, 2011

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Education Data

College or university degree attainment by age group, 2009

(Percent of population 25-34)

OECD average ( 36.99)

Korea ( 63.10)
Canada ( 56.10)
Japan ( 55.67)
Ireland ( 47.56)
Norway ( 46.83)

New Zealand ( 46.74)
Luxembourg ( 45.08)
United Kingdom ( 44.86)
Australia ( 44.78)
Denmark ( 44.75)

France ( 43.17)
Israel ( 42.92)
Belgium ( 42.48)
Sweden ( 42.32)
United States ( 41.06)

Netherlands ( 40.12)
Switzerland ( 39.98)
Finland ( 39.39)
Spain ( 38.22)
Iceland ( 35.84)

Poland ( 35.45)
Chile ( 34.94)
Greece ( 29.40)
Germany ( 25.66)
Hungary ( 25.07)

Portugal ( 23.34)
Austria ( 21.06)
Slovak Republic ( 20.59)
Czech Republic ( 20.24)
Mexico ( 20.17)

Italy ( 20.16)
Turkey ( 16.64)
Brazil ( 11.58)

anne -> anne...

Notice that among adults from 24 to 34, the portion of college graduates in the United States has not increased for decades while the portions in other countries has increased significantly and frequently even passed that of the United States.

anne -> anne...

August, 2011

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Education Data

College or university degree attainment by age group, 2009

(Percent of population 55-64)

OECD average ( 22.35)

Korea ( 13.25)
Canada ( 40.68)
Japan ( 27.41)
Ireland ( 20.22)
Norway ( 27.18)

New Zealand ( 33.68)
Luxembourg ( 25.03)
United Kingdom ( 28.66)
Australia ( 29.30)
Denmark ( 25.85)

France ( 18.00)
Israel ( 45.02)
Belgium ( 23.36)
Sweden ( 26.92)
United States ( 40.84)

Netherlands ( 27.41)
Switzerland ( 28.29)
Finland ( 28.96)
Spain ( 16.55)
Iceland ( 22.77)

Poland ( 12.63)
Chile ( 16.64)
Greece ( 14.97)
Germany ( 25.28)
Hungary ( 16.28)

Portugal ( 7.43)
Austria ( 15.94)
Slovak Republic ( 12.14)
Czech Republic ( 10.82)
Mexico ( 9.76)

Italy ( 10.27)
Turkey ( 9.93)
Brazil ( 8.92)

Jan Smith:

No doubt, college on average is a good deal for most students.

But, professors, I think you should examine your professorial pronouncements about schooling for conflict of interest. Consider:

1. Schooling is a positional good. A generation ago, virtually all small-business entrepreneurs in W Europe had NO post-secondary schooling. But today in the USA, you'll probably need some post-secondary schooling just to get a job selling tractor parts. So, contra Autor, there is a massive schooling "arms race." This may not be a technical bubble; it could sustain itself until we all drown in the sheer waste.

2. Schooling is not equal to human capital. As Baker and many others have observed, school certificates afford workers protection from low-wage Asian competition. So what part of the schooling/income correlation is political power and rent? Half? Seventy-five percent? Naifs like Autor or Goldin would rather assume away than research this critical question.

3. Schooling is not equal to education. Most of the Tea Party activists have college degrees. Enough said.

Darryl FKA Ron -> Jan Smith...

3. Schooling is not equal to education. Most of the Tea Party activists have college degrees. Enough said.



This thread is amazing in showing the gap between the anecdotal and the statistical, between the map and the territory. Each of us has followed our own path. I do agree that our "fairytales of college past" (as described by AhabTRuler) above really do not apply to the current world. Neither does all fo the statistical analysis of the effectiveness of college. The "average" ignores what this system looks like to those "below average" who are faced with mounting debt and lack of opportunity. To toss them aside on the basis that they simply lacked the skill to benefit from college is certainly a smug and self-satisfied attitude. I am sure that they will die quickly enough as they are likely to lack the resources to buy any health insurance. (Although economically it might make sense for student loan companies to pay for their health care to keep them alive so that they can continue to pay off their debts? Eureka! We have solved the health care crisis! Yay free market!)

The fact that I immediately discount any claims as to the "intrinsic" value to education (as says Lafayette above) is perhaps the most disheartening fact. There is simply no room in economic debate these days for discussing such positive externalities. How does one measure it? I am sure that anyone can easily dispatch with such claims on the basis of either market orthodoxy (the market will know! It knows all!) or simple reductio ab adsurdum (then we should logically send all of our money on education because it is so infinitely valuable).

I just want to add my one anecdote to this debate. Somehow, a student loan company mixed up my number with some poor soul who owed them money. I was therefore suddenly faced with a barrage of robotic phone calls regarding this debt. I am certain that there are true "deadbeats" out there who would never dream of paying these bills and would immediately change their number. However, what of the recent graduate who is now toiling away at Wal-Mart earning less than minimum wage. What must it feel like to have these constant reminders of your failure? Worse yet, how must it desensitize you. The number you owe is an abstraction that hangs over your head. Paying it off must be like pissing in the ocean.

sglover -> GeorgeNYC...

Something's deeply bent when **kids** are asked to take on a de facto lifetime burden, er, "investment", at a time in their lives when only a very lucky few can have any serious idea of what they might actually enjoy, or where their real talents lie.

I think by now I've listened to two or three or four friends describe how their 18 year old went off to Local U determined to be -- forensic pathologists. Every one. They're making these decisions based on the goddam "CSI" shows on the idiot box! And of course they are **all** burning through loan money. And burn it they have: Not one of them elected to continue their curricula after their first encounter with chemistry.

In none of these cases have I heard a single mention of a university official saying to these kids: "You maybe want to think about that? We're getting lots of aspiring forensic pathologists lately...."


Is it our goal for everyone to get a degree? Do we want to encourage people to go into certain areas, and use money to encourage them that way? Do we want people to go to college while they're young or wait a few years?

But the national discussion isn't focused on outcomes and incentives. Like everything in this post-Calvinist nation, it's about making moral claims to individual responsibility in order to not discuss the real-world effects of policy. So a study like this will probably be used to say "If The Kids Today really want to go to college, they can pay back those loans later! Why should IIIIIII have to pay for someone eeeeeelse's education?"

I don't know if this has already been answered by econometrics, but the right two questions would be: what is the ideal college graduation rate for maximizing social welfare (and perhaps find out what majors are needed)? and what incentives are needed to achieve that ideal?

Those aren't free market questions, they're planning questions, but the free market has already shown that cannot maximize utility when it comes to things like education (see for-profit schools and their completion/job placement rate).

Darryl FKA Ron:

Probably a better question than "what about average people and below average people? What can be done for them?" is to consider what can be done for us people with supposedly superior statistics ability that could still believe that there can exist a multitude of average people given the vast number of different dimensions to human capabilities. This notion has arisen because we generally measure human potential by metrics of two dimensions, math and language skills, that have made so many people so successful. So, then the successful people get to measure everyone else by the yardstick of their own choice, except that they are forced to account for millionaires in sports and entertainment.

This is easier for me to grasp, not being average now, because in seventh grade I was measured by the accepted yardstick to be all to average in mathmetics potential to advace to algebra. However, the next year I had the remedial new math SMSG program along with the other math dummies and was propelled to the top of the algebra class one year later and then math national honor merit testing (final round of testing - but no cigar), Mensa qualifying SAT scores with my math more than 100 points higher than my verbal, and a successful career in applied math.

Turns out that word problems and logic were my forte in math, and the dry mechanics of algebra and calculus without application just turned me off (and that never really changed). A good general rule is that models and predictions based on measurements are limited to relevance largely bound the limits of the original metrics.

Darryl FKA Ron -> Darryl FKA Ron...

I have heard many average ideas, but I have never met an average person.

Of course, I have never met an economist either.


{Without college, I'd probably be doing what my dad, brother, and grandfather did, work in a tractor store selling parts, and if I was lucky, some day get promoted to sales. College was my ticket out of the small farming town I grew up in, but if it wasn't for the low tuition at California state schools at the time, I probably wouldn't have made it. (Tuition was around $100 per semester ...}

Yes and despite the fact that we graduate about 70% of our children entering secondary-schooling, how many make it on to a tertiary education?

According to the OECD, 47% of Americans have a secondary-schooling and 41% tertiary-education. It is amongst the highest of OECD countries, beating both France (42/29) and Germany (59/27) and the UK (37/38). See data here:

Could those numbers be indicating that higher education levels means lesser unemployment. Apparently it does, but it remains also true that the US and EU demographies remain still very diverse. Given that caveat, the distinction should still not be as great.

So, If Uncle Sam is doing (finally) something right, why not capitalize on it? By assuring that no child is really left behind from a tertiary education. Let's have the government guaranty, at state schools, a postsecondary education (of two or four years schooling) and fund it as necessary.

This nation cannot afford it? The US historical unemployment rate (1980/2010) has risen from about 3% to around 7%. (See infographic here: )

At the above mentioned rate, let's put the question another way. Can we afford to pay for un- and underemployment that incarcerates 15% of our fellow citizens in poverty forever?

mw, Cleveland, OH:


My experience: My Dad died from lung cancer at age 49 with eight kids. I worked and borrowed my way through college and law school (and the interest on the National Direct Student Loans was so low I paid them off early).

Most students cannot work their way through college today, and loans are too costly.

I've decided four years of post high school education for state residents at state schools should be free. We already provide the first 12 years of education free. That's not enough for today's world.

It's just that simple. Period. Raise whatever combination of income or capital gains tax you wish on upper income folks.

bakho -> mw, Cleveland, OH...

Amen. The Dutch give students stipends.

anne -> bakho...

"The Dutch give students stipends."

Please describe as much of the program as possible, when possible.

sglover -> bakho...

And what do the Dutch do for those who **don't** elect to go to college? Or for those who maybe decide to go later?

Actually, I imagine the Dutch have pretty good options for both groups. But I'm irked that this discussion (with some very fine exceptions) focuses on the same cliches that every Dem hack spouts by reflex. I don't think the quantity of college education dispensed is all that important, now, compared to the insecurities endured by working people in general. And I wonder if, rather than maximizing the body count in the four-year treadmill, we might not be better off thinking of methods for aiding learning throughout one's lifetime.

Highplains Lawyer:

All degrees are not created equal. When we see statistics about lifetime outcomes, the incomes of engineers are conflated with those of English majors.

One area I am familiar with is law. Currently our law schools are churning out twice as many lawyers as our economy can absorb. Only those graduating in the top 10% of their class even have a shot at a job which will allow them to repay their student loans. The remaining 90% are basically screwed, and saddled with loans they can never repay. They face a lifetime of debt peonage.

Grade inflation plays a large role in directing kids to pursue worthless degrees. Generally the grading curve is much easier for the liberal arts than it is for fields like science and engineering. Kids are induced to become English majors rather than engineers by the promise of a higher GPA. But in pursuing the short term gain, these kids lose out in the long run -- being saddled with a worthless degree and a high student loan debt.


September 12, 2012

Households with Householder 25 Years Old and Over by Median Income

Median real incomes for those 25 years old and over from 2000 to 2011 declined from $56,526 to $51,244. *

(Educational attainment of householder)

Median real incomes for those with professional degrees from 1998 to 2011 declined from $131,333 to $120,580.

Median real incomes for those with doctorate degrees from 2000 to 2011 declined from $124,177 to $107,046.

Median real incomes for those with master's degrees from 2000 to 2011 declined from $102,303 to $90,947.

Median real incomes for those with bachelor's degrees or more from 2000 to 2011 declined from $93,829 to $83,985.

Median real incomes for those with bachelor's degrees alone from 2000 to 2011 declined from $87,004 to $78,251.

Median real incomes for those with community college degrees alone from 2000 to 2011 declined from $65,957 to $55,928.

Median real incomes for those with high school degrees alone from 2000 to 2011 declined from $47,705 to $39,420.

* Income in 2011 dollars

anne -> anne...

Education adds significantly to median income levels, but notice that the effect of the recession that began in December 2007 was to decrease the real median income levels of every education class to less than the levels of 2000.

Roger Chittum -> anne...

Because of data gaps, we don't know exactly when the declines began for holders of doctorate or professional degrees, but for all others the declines began in 2001. Hey, wasn't that just after we started offshoring jobs in a big way?

anne -> Roger Chittum...

What the household data gap in question shows is that median real incomes for those with professional degrees from 1998 to 2011 declined from $131,333 to $120,580 which means 13 years and still a significant income decline.

sglover -> anne...

I wonder how much of that decline is due to the oversupply of lawyers, mentioned in a comment above. "Professional degree" lumps in almost as many disparate categories as "Bachelor's degree holders".

Charlie Baker -> anne...

"... the effect of the recession that began in December 2007 was to decrease the real median income levels of every education class to less than the levels of 2000."

This fact puts the lie to arguments that "more education is the way out of the recession." Both political sides make it, but in some ways the Obama/Duncan approach is more insidious. Obama uses such arguments to evade responsibility for the poor economy, which continues largely as a result of the government's inadequate response to the recession.

anne -> Charlie Baker...

"... the effect of the recession that began in December 2007 was to decrease the real median income levels of every education class to less than the levels of 2000."

This fact puts the lie to arguments that "more education is the way out of the recession."

[ Agreed completely, what has been and is needed from my perspective was a New Deal style soft and hard infrastructure development program. ]

Roger Chittum -> anne...

And I agree as well. But from the perspective of plutocrats and employers this a feature, not a bug. Lumina Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded a study at Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce to calculate how many more college graduates the US would need to turn out in order to drive down the college-versus-high-school wage premium from 74% to 46%!

Roger Chittum -> Roger Chittum...

Complete link:

anne -> Roger Chittum...

Lumina Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded a study at Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce to calculate how many more college graduates the US would need to turn out in order to drive down the college-versus-high-school wage premium from 74% to 46%!

[ I am reading the study, the 74% to 46% projection comes on page 8:

June, 2011

The Undereducated American
By Anthony P. Carnevale and Stephen J. Rose

What's the solution? If we were to add 20 million postsecondary-educated workers to the workforce, income inequality would decline.

High school earnings
Bachelor's degree earnings

74% to
46% larger

Proposed supply trend ]

anne -> Roger Chittum...

June 25, 2011

Why College Brings a Huge Return

My column * in the Review section makes the case for going to college and cites two just-released reports, one by two Georgetown University researchers and the other by two Hamilton Project researchers. Each report has some charts worth reproducing.

The opening chart in the Georgetown paper, by Anthony Carnevale and Stephen Rose, estimates the demand for and the supply of four-year college graduates, both past and future.

The supply of graduates is easy enough to measure; it is simply the number of graduates. To estimate demand, the two economists look at the wage premium for graduates. When the premium is rising, demand is outstripping supply. When the premium is falling, demand is rising more slowly than supply.

Looking ahead, Mr. Carnevale and Mr. Rose use school enrollment to estimate supply. Future demand is trickier to estimate. Mr. Rose, by e-mail, explains:

Over the last 100 years, the growth in demand for college-educated workers has varied within a narrow range and averaged 2.8% increase per year. Given the current high penetration of computer technologies, this paper takes the conservative position that this growth in demand from 2010 to 2025 will grow by 2 percent per year.

The bottom line is that, unless the country begins producing more graduates, supply is unlikely to catch up to demand -- and income inequality is unlikely to fall by much if at all.

The next chart, from Hamilton, estimates the annual return from different investments, including college tuition:

I was surprised that two-year colleges had a higher return than four-year colleges, but Adam Looney, one of the authors, notes that tuition at two-year colleges tends to be very low.

And the fact that two-year colleges have a higher return does not mean it makes sense to stop after two years. The next two years of college still have a huge return. You can see this by comparing the total value of the two degrees, known in economic terms as net present value:

The Hamilton researchers -- Michael Greenstone and Mr. Looney -- also offer a chart on lifetime earnings, which shows that a big part of college's value is that it brings much larger raises over someone's career:

Finally, the Georgetown paper points out that the value of college is not merely that it's necessary for many good jobs, like doctor, teacher, scientist or corporate executive. A college degree also often lifts people's earnings in occupations that do not require a degree, like construction worker, day-care worker, plumber and secretary:

My column and the chart that ran with it have more details on this last point.


Matt Young:

If it weren't for college I would never have become the pot smoking bum I am today.


For some fresh ideas and if you have 10 minutes to spare, watch Sir Ken Robinson talk on RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms:

I think that it offers many answers to questions put by this blog.


I didn't have time to read all of the comments on the blog, but a friend of my wife and I is an associate Professor at Oregon State University, and she is describing how the Veterinary school is currently having discussions on the ethics of taking too many students (they need the money, so they want to increase enrollment) when there simply are not enough jobs for when the students graduate.

I think the cost of education is a bubble, I think it is a bubble as glaring and obvious as the housing bubble was in hindsight, I think the cost of education is a huge, huge problem, and points out to the short sightedness of the government to sell out the manufacturing base to china so that Americans could then do the jobs of the future which were promised to come but never did. I think that you (Mark Thoma) are biased by the good fortune that you received all those years ago and are not looking at the issue clearly today.

college education has made america super specialized, where you ask 18 year old kids who don't know anything what it is that they are going to do for the rest of their lives, and then lock them into doing it . . . if they choose wrong, the time and cost is prohibitive from ever changing it . . . I think this is a very poor system that we are locked into, and this coming from somebody above average . . . I shudder to think about what is happening to the dumb kids from my high school!


That college is "worth it" to individuals on average seems a no brainer. The bigger question is if college is worth it to society and if the risk for inviduals is tolerable.

n=1 stories are not helpfull in that context. Especially since the winners prefer to tell them and the losers rather not. One might aswell listen to those few people who became star actors and try to make it big in Hollywood )-:. If i told my rather sad lifestory, the conclusion would be not to go to college, but that would just be another freakish expectation towards the other direction.



{The forum's moderator and organizer ... noted in his introductory remarks that higher education is "an extremely important sector of the U.S. economy," representing about 3.5 percent of the national GDP}

Perhaps, but once again this sort of comment is reflexive. It is a significant percentage of the GDP so it must be important. Important for what?

Is it important that Tertiary Education be so costly that it accounts for a considerable percentage of GDP?

Or is it important to social mobility and individual (and thus family) well-being - the economic benefit being simply a means to an end.

In the US, an education IS expensive. In Europe, it costs about a kilo-buck to be enrolled in course each year and then room 'n board. The total cost per year in Europe is nowhere near that of a state-school in the US, which is about $20K per year.

From the WSJ:{The average total cost of attendance for first-time, full-time students living on campus and paying in-state tuition was $20,100 at public 4-year institutions and $39,800 at private nonprofit 4-year institutions. The lowest total costs were for students living with family and paying in-state tuition at public 2-year institutions ($7,900) and at public 4-year institutions ($12,600).}

The OECD "Education at a glance" is a goldmine of information, here:

Here are two salient info-graphics showing secondary- and postsecondary-schooling graduation rates:

Why must a nation as rich as ours be "below average" amongst the composite of OECD nations - some much poorer than ours?

I suspect it is because tertiary education in the US is so prohibitively expensive that too many high-school diplomaed students simply renounce having realized the mountain-of-debt necessary to undertake it.

Which means, I submit, that a public state-university school education, up to a four year degree, should be subsidized by the Federal government - so important is it in terms of economic policy.

(For a more advanced degree, individuals can finance their own further education.)

That level of education, since it so important to social mobility (being the escalator to a beyond the average income middle-class existence) should be a birthright.

Like, you know, national defense and homeland security?

Only more so in a country that depends acutely upon higher education as a fundamental sociological and economic criteria for its citizens.

anne -> Lafayette...

Nicely done posts as usual. As for France, descriptions of the education system from primary schooling through college would be welcome.

Lafayette -> anne...

{As for France, descriptions of the education system from primary schooling through college would be welcome.}

Yes, in the series I linked above, there is a separate report for France. In French ... here:

The best I can do is translate the numbers for Tertiary Education of the population:

Percentageof the population with a tertiary-education diploma:
Population aged 25 à 64 years old - France: 29%; Ranking amongst OECD Countries: 31%, 22nd out of41 countries
Population aged 25 à 34yearsold- Frence 43%; Ranking amongst OECD Countries:38%, 13th out of37 countries

Population aged 55 à 64yearsold- France 18%; Ranking amongst OECD Countries:23%, 22nd out of37 countries

anne -> Lafayette...

As for France, descriptions of the education system from primary schooling through college would be welcome (that is descriptions in English for those who do not read French, which I know is a problem that is hard for the French to imagine let alone be sympathetic to).

Anecdotes will be nice, while the data are easily supplied since there are fortunately no separate French number sets (shudder).

Lafayette -> anne...

Anecdotes will be nice, while the data are easily supplied since there are fortunately no separate French number sets (shudder).

Sorry, but I did not do my schooling in France ... and, sorry again, I am not up to translating the reports from French into English. (I would have thought the OECD should do so because an exchange across countries of experience would be, I imagine, immensely helpful. (Ill have another look around to find something in English ... but cannot promise much.)

Ive taught here in France, but that is the extent of my experience with the French educational system. And that is an MBA course, which many people think is a Masters degree. I dont. There is no need to show ones research/analytical/reasoning ability without at least a degree-thesis, which was not required (here).

In fact, of all the PISA testing, I find the most important to be with Ability to reason; which, I thought, was once being measured (though only recently). I can no longer find the scores on that testing, however.

Oh yes, there is an anecdote that amuses me. I taught the course International Business from a book of the same name by American authors stateside. The book came with, for teachers, tests (T/F, M/C) for each chapter. So, I would give out the chapter assignments for one week and then test them the following week, first class. What a stink that made!

The French students did not at all like the testing, which forced them to read the course book. They do not buy such course-books and testing is free-form. That is, a professor will ask a generalized question and students are expected to extemporise on the subject. Of course, that places the emphasis on ones ability to think and express well.

They did not at all like the fact that they would be tested on factual matters. They even complained to the schools head ...

Also, it was amazing, at first, ten years ago, that students did not understand word-indexing was the heart of the internet. I would google (yes, it existed ten years ago) phrases/paragraphs that I thought a bit too well-written in English. Wow! The number of them that were plagiarizing!

The school head, when I reported this, said that I should be more understanding of their particular situation - meaning not being all that well instructed in English ...

LOL ...

anne -> Lafayette...

Interesting indeed, as for the PISA * testing there is an analytical reasoning section as part of each test, so that reading has an analytical reasoning section as does science or math. American students do notably well when family or neighborhood income is accounted for.

* Programme for International Student Assessment

Lafayette -> anne...

Given some though ... it is not multi-step reasoning that I was thinking about.

In fact, in PISA, it is called Problem Solving that is the test criteria.See those results here:

The US score is nothing to write home about ... 29th out of 40 countries.

anne -> Lafayette...

December, 2010

Highlights From PISA 2009: Performance of U.S. 15-Year-Old Students in Reading, Mathematics, and Science Literacy in an International Context

Average scores of U.S. 15-year-old students on combined reading literacy scale, by percentage of students in public school eligible for free or reduced-price lunch

( 500) United States average

( 551) Less than 10 percent
( 527) 10 to 24.9 percent
( 502) 25 to 49.9 percent
( 471) 50 to 74.9 percent
( 446) 75 percent or more

( 493) OECD average

anne -> Lafayette...


Price of Attending an Undergraduate Institution

The total cost of attending a postsecondary institution is the sum of published tuition and required fees, books and supplies, and the average for room, board and other expenses. In 2010–11, the total cost of attendance differed by institution level and control and by student living arrangements. The average total cost of attendance for first-time, full-time students living on campus and paying in-state tuition was $20,100 at public 4-year institutions and $39,800 at private nonprofit 4-year institutions. The lowest total costs were for students living with family and paying in-state tuition at public 2-year institutions ($7,900) and at public 4-year institutions ($12,600)....

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