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Tilting at Windmills

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September 28, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE TRAP....Via email, Daniel Brook, author of The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America, responds to my post about the book from earlier this week:


I'm often accused of being old-fashioned. I have the crazy notion that being a teacher or a district attorney is a real career that should provide enough for a middle-class life. And I still believe when people review books, they should have read them first.

I don't mind in the slightest Washington Monthly writer Doron Taussig making a few criticisms of my book in his thoughtful review, but I do mind Kevin Drum spouting off in a "review of the review."

What really irked me was Drum's "color me unconvinced" comment. Well, of course, a reviewer will be unconvinced by a book if he hasn't extended the author the chance to convince him by actually reading the book! Had Drum read The Trap, he would have learned facts like these:

  1. In 1972, starting salaries at Manhattan corporate law firms were $16,000 while the federal government offered its newly minted lawyers $13,300 and Legal Aid of New York paid $12,500. Today, the public sector/private sector salary gap is $100,000 as shown by the latest figures from the National Association of Law Placement.

  2. The teacher-lawyer comparison is similar: In 1970, starting New York City teachers made just $2,000 less than starting Wall Street lawyers. They now make $100,000 less. Today, teacher-headed households are priced out of more than 90% of the region's census tracts.

  3. In 1980, the City of Chicago paid its starting teachers $13,770, more than two and a half times the annual tuition at the University of Chicago. Today, U of C tuition is almost equal to teacher pay, tuition having tripled in real dollars in a generation.

All I'm saying is that these considerations change the math of choosing a public service career and thus route talent in certain ways. As a progressive, I'm concerned that these are not ways that are most beneficial to society and, as I show in the book, many of the people routed this way feel "trapped" rather than liberated.

I don't ask that reviewers agree with me, but I do ask that they withhold judgment until they read the book.

Kevin Drum 12:13 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (47)

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Comments

People with real jobs get real salaries. What's the problem?

Posted by: Al on September 28, 2007 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Someone does not understand the difference between an essay and a blog post.

"Kevin Drumm spouting off in a "review of the review" is a blog post. Its not a point by point analysis of the book. Kevin was not reviewing your book.

Here is a review of the email:

bad-tempered and self-rightious.

Posted by: jimmy on September 28, 2007 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks Daniel Brook for taking the time to respond to a ... what do you call responding to someone's criticism of your book when that person hadn't read the book?

Anyway, ++++++++.

Posted by: anonymous on September 28, 2007 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Jimmy, I couldn't disagree more. Drum is called out on a poorly conceived post and he has the honor and dignity to recognize the fact.

Posted by: Snorri Sturluson on September 28, 2007 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Curiously, Daniel Brook doesn't address the question raised by Drum: why are so many more people taking jobs at non-profits?

Posted by: Ronnie Pudding on September 28, 2007 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

As Frank Sinatra once sung, "everybody has the right to be wrong -- at least once." This was Kevin's time, that's all. No big deal. Let's shrug our shoulders and act like adults.

Now on to the catblogging...

Posted by: Vincent on September 28, 2007 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I actually didn't read the book, but, I thought the pictures shown in the review of "My Pet Goat" were neat.

Posted by: George W on September 28, 2007 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Ronnie,

I didn't get into that because it was a criticism of Taussig's which I think is off-base, because I think Taussig's is as entitled to make off-base criticisms as any other legitimate reviewer. But since you raised the point, I don't argue that jobs in the non-profit sector are disappearing. But I argue that turnover is increasing because of the new math of raising a family in metropolitan America (people used to have careers as teachers and prosecutors--now they just do it until they have kids). Not to mention, just because a job category grows doesn't mean it's a good job. One of the fastest-growing jobs in the country is non-union janitorial work.

Posted by: Daniel Brook on September 28, 2007 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't read the book either but I'll throw this out: If Brook is saying that over the long term, financial pressures are driving people away from useful and somewhat selfless career options into doing whatever they have to for money, he's absolutely right.

It goes way, way beyond the non-profit stuff. Look at graduates coming out of college with $30-50,000 of debt hanging over their heads. Or people actually trying to raise families on even $8 an hour jobs.

Going back to the 50s, I've read that starting lawyers, teachers (in unionized or well-off districts), college professors, and doctors all were in pretty comparable salary ranges. Not so much now.

And it's wider than money because in the past 20 years or so there's been so much attention to celebrity lawyers and super-hero CEOs and a few glamorous celebs.

If you have really heavy bills to pay and want to feel important, and the heroes you've grown up seeing lionized are CEOs, lawyers, and juiced-up celebrity athletes, what are *you* likely to end up doing?

Posted by: Altoid on September 28, 2007 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Given these numbers, I certainly see the problem raised in the book.

But what's hard to see is that this is necessarily a problem in any way peculiar to public service jobs. At first blush, it would seem to represent the increasing gap between those with high end incomes and everybody else. It's not just public sector jobs that get caught up in that, but all kinds of blue collar jobs and service jobs. How many blue collar workers and service workers can afford to live in NY nowadays? Why is their plight less worthy of attention than, say, that of workers for non-profits?

Posted by: frankly0 on September 28, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

While I haven't read the book (although I think I may have to -- sounds very interesting; I'll check the library this weekend), I've found myself in this same conundrum: corporate vs. non-profit.

My wife works for Habitat for Humanity-Kansas City and, while she's not earning minimum wage, she makes decent money (mid $30K). I make pretty much the same at a for-profit company.

The difference?

At the end of the day, she knows she's done something to make society better ... to help someone own a home ... to help others become aware of HfH-KC and donate their time and money.

Me? Well, I write press releases and ads that hopefully increase business just so a few executives can earn bonuses (while the rest of us don't). Sure, I've written a few article that helped a service member take control of his/her finances, and that's nice. But for the most part, my job is making someone else rich.

Because of this, I'm looking for jobs in the non-profit sector.

I realize I won't make a six-figure salary, but that'll never happen anyway. And the jobs I've looked at pay pretty much the same as I'd earn anywhere else.

So, for me, knowing I'm contributing to something other than a corporate bottom line is worth more than any benefit package.

Well, except for fully-paid health care. That'd be nice.

:-)

Posted by: Mark D on September 28, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, it would be helpful when printing a quote to change the layout slightly or the font. It's fairly obvious in this post, but not always.

Posted by: harry on September 28, 2007 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

The title is the key--it has really become a "winner(s) take all" society, whereas it wasn't that way up to the 1980s, when Reagan was elected and greed became respectable. Individuals can opt for a less materialistic life (and let's face it, people did have less stuff pre-1980) but that just gives the rich even more of the goodies, even if it is widespread enough to reduce demand.

Three things need to change--subsidies for higher education to keep the costs down (given the rise in higher ed costs, I'd be curious who benefited there, administrators or faculty or the construction industry or taxpayers in case opf public institutions) and tax policy, so workers keep more of what they make and rich investors keep less. And a greater sense of responsibility on the p[art of the rich for the welfare of society as a whole. that is the chief difference between now and pre-1980. Much less sense of community and of the common good and much more selfishness at the top now.

Posted by: Mimikatz on September 28, 2007 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

And health care. that has to change too, as Mark D says.

Posted by: Mimikatz on September 28, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin used a book review as a springboard to examine some related issues. I take no offense at that. Meanwhile, I hope the logic in Brook's book holds up better than the logic in his email.

For example, Brook says a certain income comparison went from $16,000 vs. $13,300 to $100,000. But with no base for the latter figure, how are we to know whether the *ratio* has risen or fallen? I gave Brook the benefit of the doubt and assumed his link must address this point. However, the NALP site shows clusters of (a) highly remunerated top law grads and (b) everyone-else-including-non-profit-lawyers-small-firm-lawyers-government-lawyers-and-in-house-counsel. This indicates to me not that government and non-profit lawyers have fallen behind, but that approximately 10% of the superstar law grads have pulled far ahead. The government and np lawyers remain on a par with the small-to-midsize firm lawyers.

There also seems to be a problem with Brook's teacher example. Teachers in 1970 made $2,000 less than "Wall Street" lawyers (which I take to be the equivalent of "Manhattan corporate" attorneys in the previous example, albeit 2 years earlier). So teachers at that time made $14,000. They now also exhibit a wage gap vs. "Wall Street" lawyers of $100,000. So it seems that teachers have also lagged behind the world's most sought after law grads (and perhaps fallen behind a bit compared to mid-sized law firm attorneys).

But does this make sense? Teachers did better than government lawyers in 1970? And do about the same now? I don't have the data handy, but that doesn't ring true, does it?

There are a lot of apples compared to oranges here. We are talking about newly minted lawyers compared to, apparently, all teachers. And let's face it: New York attracts some of the finest lawyers (or at least finest legal resumes) in the entire world, whereas the New York School system doesn't attract talent that is vastly different from the Cleveland or Billings systems. (Which is to say I'm sure they are all quite good, but if Billings chose to pay three times the average rate, it would attract better teachers, just as "Wall Street" attracts better legal resumes.)

Similarly, 90% of all New Yorkers are priced out of 90% of NY neighborhoods! (I know that doesn't work mathematically, but NYC rents are hardly typical.)

Finally, as to Brook's point 3, I agree that the rate of tuition inflation seems to be a serious problem. But all sorts of perverse incentives are at work here, including that schools actually receive more financial aid if they charge more. As a result, schools keep jacking up their tuition, yet far, far more students are receiving aid than did in 1970.

I know, I know: Brook's response would be, "Read the book!" But the logic he displays in a response to Kevin that he had, and appears to have taken, plenty of time to give does not make me jump at the chance to further explore his logical argument.

Thank you, I'll be here all week. Please remember to tip your servers. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.

Posted by: Longtime Listener on September 28, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Three things need to change--subsidies for higher education to keep the costs down...

The belief that subsidies make costs go down is one of the problems we have in this country.

There have been discussions here in the past on what kind of cash university administrators are hauling away. Even an education professor makes a median base salary of over $81,000.

Want to know what people earn? Try this website.

Posted by: harry on September 28, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Longtime Listener,

While you're right that the comparison between lawyers and teachers in NY compares numbers not adjusted for inflation, I don't think it requires a great leap of faith to assume that a gap of 2K that grows to 100K is a pretty extraordinary increase.

And I'd expect that the differences you point to between lawyers in NY today vs. teachers in NY today are in any important way different from those of the 1970s -- I'd guess that many of the most qualified lawyers in the nation would be found in NYC in 1970 as well as today. (And if the quality of teachers has declined, well, isn't a decline in pay -- the exact problem the book points to -- a pretty good explanation of that?)

I do agree, though, that the case of the rise of tuition is a pretty special one, driven by factors that greatly muddy its relevance to the point the book argues.

Posted by: frankly0 on September 28, 2007 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

So now your not even reading the books your railing against with your liberal "the sky is falling!" bs.

I agree with the auther. Obviously you'll latch on to any criticism as long as it bolsters your prim-rose liberal world view of the world.

Posted by: egbert on September 28, 2007 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

are in any important way different from those of the 1970s

should be

are not in any important way different from those of the 1970s

Posted by: frankly0 on September 28, 2007 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Please adjust for inflation when you quote statistics!

Posted by: Isaac on September 28, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Harry's quote of "an education professor makes a median base salary of over $81,000" is perhaps a bit misleading in this context, because most of the discussion above has been of entry-level salaries. A Professor typically has 13 or more years of experience, and so is 40+.

An Assistant Professor of Education makes closer to $50k. In six years at a middle-grade state university, I saw starting base salaries across the disciplines about 15% lower than what that person could make in the private sector: around $40-50k for somebody with a PhD in the humanities, $50-60k in the hard sciences, $70k in computer fields, and around $100k in business; salary.com reports medians consistent with my observations. And these are "starting" salaries for people who are 27-30 years old; in most states, teachers can start work around 22; lawyers 23.

According to salary.com, in my field, a PhD + 6 years of teaching experience earns at the University as much as a BS + 6 years of experience in private industry.

Posted by: Tom H. on September 28, 2007 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

I've always thought that Kevin's claims regarding books he has read seem implausible. For example, he claimed that he read all seven books in the Harry Potter series in something like four days. I simply don't believe this is possible, unless you are some sort of savant.

Kevin, if you are lying about your reading of this gentleman's book or any book for that matter, I think a very contrite and public apology is in order, of you are going to lose a lot of followers.

Posted by: A Skeptic on September 28, 2007 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe the pay of corporate lawyers is just too much of an outlier to use as an effective comparison. Here in the Midwest, talented people with brand new JDs can look forward to earning in the $125K/year range at the top law firms. I don't care how smart you are, but no way a 25-year-old with a JD is worth that much money.

Another peculiar thing I've observed is this: the universities in my locale graduate about 130 MDs each year, maybe 40 architects, 250 PhDs in engineering and science of all sorts...and over 800 lawyers.

How in the world does adding 800 lawyers to the employment pool, in a metro area of 4million, every year not completely flatten their salaries?

Posted by: Joe Bob on September 28, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Something happened to the political economy, I think, during the Reagan administration, that enabled certain professions to leverage their importance and increase their wages relative to everyone else's. Business owners', lawyers', doctors', engineers' and executive managers' inputs became much more important than everyone else's in the economy. Stockholders, too, were considered providing greater inputs to business than value added labor, suppliers and clients. This change in the perceived value of inputs allowed a small professional class to seize much of the available compenstion for themselves, leaving other valuable members of society without any leverage to increase their wages. It is difficult to describe, but the political economy, and the attitude about it, was changed to only reward those who could leverage their skills in the immediacy of a bidding market. Those who provided the economy with value, but outside of a market to bid up their services, were left with almost no increaed compensation despite the growing GDP. Since then, the gap between employee and executive pay has increased substantially, as has the compensation of certain professionals over others.

When Reagan claimed the US was the last place in the world a person could become rich, it sent a signal to individuals to leverage their market power at the expense of anyone else, especially those without any market power. Fair play was scrapped and monopoly power became the goal.

Posted by: Brojo on September 28, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Here in the Midwest, talented people with brand new JDs can look forward to earning in the $125K/year range at the top law firms. I don't care how smart you are, but no way a 25-year-old with a JD is worth that much money.

Sure he's "worth" it, in the sense that he produces an even higher level of income for his employer. Assume the attorney works 2,000 billable hours a year at a rate of $200 an hour. So his law firm charges the client $400,000 for his time, which the client pays, and the firm then keeps $275,000 for itself and passes the rest on to the attorney in the form of his salary.

That $400K is there in the sense that it represents fair market compensation for work which is requested to be performed. The money has to go somewhere -- if it doesn't go to the lawyer in the form of salary, it will either to go the firm, or the client will keep it and the lawyer will have essentially worked for free.

Posted by: Stefan on September 28, 2007 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

$2,000 in 1970 would be $10,771 today according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator. That means the pay gap between starting teachers and lawyers in New York city increased 10-fold since 1970.

In general, of course, we should always adjust for inflation. But c'mon, did anyone really think that $2,000 in 1970 was anywhere near $100,000 today? That's the equivalent of saying something that costs a dollar today (say a soda) cost 2 cents in 1970.

Posted by: Daniel Brook on September 28, 2007 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

I have very strong opinions on both sides of this issue, but am not quite sure what we're discussing.

Posted by: absent observer on September 28, 2007 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

I know Brook is right about the teacher/lawyer comparison. In the mid-1960s, a starting teacher in the New York City Public Schools actually made about the same or more than a starting lawyer at the most prestigious NYC law firms. In around 1969, NYC law firms boosted lawyer starting salaries from $7000 to $15000 and then in 1973 to $25000 and teacher salaries have never been close since. A similar point could be made about starting investment bankers then too.

Posted by: Ben Brackley on September 28, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

I can speak from personal experience on the issue of public prosecutors sacrificing to keep their careers. In my state, Wisconsin, salaries for prosecutors have been frozen, taking inflation (as defined by the CPI) into account, since 2000. During that same period Wisconsin has experienced a turnover rate among assistant district attorneys of 50%. Nearly all of those leaving public service over the last seven years were young lawyers newly out of school, mostly in the parts of the state with higher housing costs. They simply could not afford to stay in a job where their compensation could not keep up with their living expenses-- or thier student loan payments.


My wife is a teacher and could list several examples of newly-graduated teachers who have to work a second job at night in order to make ends meet.
The two chief problems are that the cost of higher education has been rising at a rate far in excess of increases in (non-student loan)financial aid, and the belief that those who seek public sector employment are talentless slugs sucking at the public teat who don't deserve to be compensated fairly for their work. (See the first comment posted.)

Posted by: wihntr on September 28, 2007 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Daniel, it's not just a matter of adjusting for inflation. Your innumeracy does not inspire confidence. The point -- your point, no less --is the ratio, not the gap. If the gap were now $100,000, but the gap is because teachers make $1,000,000 and top lawyers make $1,100,000, I think we'd all be happy. If you don't cite a base figure, only a gap, in 2006, there is no point of comparison.

You say lawyers were making $16,000 and teachers $14,000. (I am eliding the difference between 1972 and 1970 for these purposes.) If "Wall Street" lawyers now make $165,000, that means teachers are making $65,000. According to your figures, they *should* be making $75,397 (14,000 * 10,771 / 2,000), to keep up with inflation. So these teachers have not fallen $98,000 behind, they have fallen behind by $10,397. That's quite different. And what changes have been made to other compensation, including pensions, retirement age, government health and disability benefits. Government benefits are considered quite good and desirable. What is the teacher's out-of-pocket expense for them, versus the lawyer's? Without a full picture, the facile comparison is worthless.

Remember, peak performance is rewarded at a much higher level than it was in the past. That does not mean that, to be "fair," we should all receive the same ratio of pay for our jobs today as our jobs were compensated in 1970 as Alex Rodriguez's salary is to Carl Yasztremski's in 1970. We might all hope to do better than inflation, thanks to productivity gains, but it's just silly to say the pay increases for the elite of the elite should apply to all across the board.

Posted by: Longtime Listener on September 28, 2007 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Longtime Listener,

Try the math yourself. 2700 is to 100,000 as 16,000 is to like 600,000. So for the ration to hold the teacher would be starting at 500,000. I wonder how close that is to the actual salaries earned.

Posted by: crack on September 28, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

What a whiner that author is.

Sorry, but I remain unconvinced as well. Nowhere in the author's response does he hit Drum's main point: that nonprofit employment grew faster than the for-profit sector from 1977-2001.

The questions left unanswered by the author's presentation of wage patterns also do not inspire confidence.

Posted by: Measure for Measure on September 28, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

I have been following this issue in the arena of public interest law for some time. I agree with Daniel Brook that it is genuinely troubling problem. However, it is important to bring student debt into this conversation. The fact that new associate lawyers in large, big city law firms earn $160,000 a year doesn't say anything by itself about the ability of public interest lawyer to afford a middle class lifestyle. The real issue is whether a public interest lawyer earning $40,000 can make a go of it when her law school debt exceeds $100,000. The size of the gap speaks volumes about inequities in American society, but my advice to a newer public interest attorney is to keep you focus on balancing your own budget, not on how the upper crust lives.

Posted by: davidh on September 28, 2007 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

I actually think he has some points.

with that said, teachers, like other public sector employees, are a red herring. a starting teacher with a bachelors is paid in NYC like most other entry level positions in other fields with only a B.A. -- 40K. if a teacher completes an M.Ed and a certain number of credits past the M.Ed and achieves 10 years experience, that teacher is making close to six figures. after 20 years, that teacher can retire with 100% of the prior year's salary as a pension plus benefits (which is why most of the summer and after school OT in NYC schools is taken up by teachers about to retire). that's a package that virtually no private sector jobs match.

so, yeah, NYC teachers start out poor...but they can retire at 42 with a 115K a year pension.

sign me up.

Posted by: Nathan on September 28, 2007 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

What! Kevin didn't read the book he reviewed? That does it, I want my money back.

Posted by: CT on September 28, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

The growing disparity is terrible, to be sure, but it's not just between lawyers and teachers. I'm in my mid twenties, not a lawyer or computer genius or engineer, and make a bit more than my sixty-something teacher mom makes, which is nice for me, but not so nice for teachers.

And while I feel pretty comfortable supporting myself on my salary, I can't imagine raising a family in a city on what I earn. I don't see how a couple teachers could ever afford to raise kids in a place like New York, San Francisco, etc.

Now granted, no one has the right to raise kids or have a house, per se, but middle class people like that stuff and will choose it. In the long run, it seems to me that housing will price out anyone competent from a long career in public service. My mom can afford to teach because she owns a house my parents bought decades ago but the fact that she "can afford to teach" is ridiculous and the fact that no one will be able to have a long career doing public service (at least not without considerable sacrifice) will be very, very bad for everyone.

Posted by: brad on September 28, 2007 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

I worked in the public sector for several years prior to leaving for a private sector position. The reason for the move was partly financial, but that wasn't the real driver. The ability to carve my own way rather than following absurd bureaucratic rules really was the allure that drew me. Creative people tend not to do well in an overly structured environment - and that's what the public sector is. It's reminiscent of an elementary school where you are restricted to play with scissors that are not sharp and paste - because there's some idiot somewhere that may hurt himself. Bright folks in such an environment will feel "this isn't my place" - unless they really really need the health insurance or are using the public position to subsidize their second job which really holds their passion.

A couple teachers I know left the public school system and started their own school so they could stop complaining about their lot in life... and they are happier.

Posted by: jackifus on September 28, 2007 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

Davidh makes a good point about debt. Much of the book deals with tuition debt which, I argue is also a result of growing economic inequality. Only because the rich have gotten richer and salaries have spiked in a handful of coporate fields, have colleges been able to raise tution so much (tripling it in a generation in real dollars). As I say, as the return on investment (tuition) increases should the graduate pursue a handful of corporate careers increases, so too does the penalty for any student not pursuing those fields.

Posted by: Daniel Brook on September 28, 2007 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

The public sector doesn't have a monopoly on absurd bureaucratic rules. I think when you reach institutions of a particular scale there's not that much of a difference.

A small school district will likely face more bureaucratic BS than a small business. However, if you were to do a side-by-side comparison of the bureaucracies of, say, a State government next to a corporation like Coca Cola, Proctor & Gamble, or Dell, I don't think the private sector entities would come out looking any better.

Posted by: Joe Bob on September 28, 2007 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

This is all very nice of Brooks to point out that "middle-class" job salaries have fallen far below those of the predator -- oops, "winner" -- class. Now if only he would stop cheerleading for the folks who have engineered this social and economic debacle. He sounds a little bit like a young fox wondering why there are so few juicy chickens around any more.

Posted by: paul on September 28, 2007 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Paul are you confusing the author of this book, Daniel Brook with the author and NYT columnist David Brooks?

Posted by: tanstaafl on September 28, 2007 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

Al Gore said that all of the world’s children and grandchildren will be dead within 10 years due to the imminent environmental catastrophe. In this context, debates about pay rates are meaningless.

The average world citizen lives on less then $4000 per year. Shouldn't we be working on reducing the pay of all Americans to say $2000 per to save the planet?

We need to keep focused on saving the planet like Bill Clinton and Al Gore!!

Posted by: mark on September 28, 2007 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

I am a moron.

Posted by: 'mark' on September 29, 2007 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

I went back and read Kevin Drum's post. Uh oh, Kevin was using anecdotal evidence to refute a couple premises of the book. We all do that from time to time, particularly in blogs, but it's not a nice way to refute a book that uses statistical evidence.

What was it Nancy Pelosi said? Something like 'the plural of anecdote is not data.'

Well, I read Kevin Drum because he's great at finding good data. In any case, as red-faced writers sometmes say, Onward!

Posted by: Craig on September 29, 2007 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

For those of you not of the age where you are sending a kid to college: it is true that most middle class families can get financial aid. However, in my very recent experience it appears that the middle class family obligation for a private school or an out of state public school is around 20K per year. Figure on a cool quarter million to get undergraduate degrees for 3 kids.

More expensive schools seem to offer more aid so they end up costing about the same as less expensive schools.

The University of Texas is limited to those students who finish in the top 10% of their class although there are other ways to sneak in (eg. high board scores.) Tuition is now over 8k per year with only loans available for middle class families. Throw in books and residence and it costs about 12-14k per year and that is what passes for a bargain at a major university these days.

In my opinion Daniel Brook is correct.

Posted by: Nat on September 30, 2007 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

in the mid 1950's a sociological survey posed the following quest.:

would you prefer option 1 or option 2:

option 1: you could eventually make after 25yrs.yrs.,$25,000 a yr.
as an education or public welfare professional

option 2:you could make eventually as a legal or medical professional $60,000 a yr.

more than half the people chose option 1

in 2005 a sociological survey posed the following quest.:

would you prefer option 1 or option 2:

option 1: you could eventually make after 25 yrs.
a $100,000 a yr. as an educational or social welfare professional

option 2: you could after 25 yrs. make three
quarters of a million dollars a yr. as a legal
or medical professional

about 90% of the people chose option 2

when i mention the above results to people, almost everybody says:
those are about the numbers i would have expected

Posted by: wschneid25 on October 1, 2007 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

The education problem started way before 1970. When my parents were both at Berkeley in 1939, they report that tuition was free but student fees were $23 per semester. Education was a matter of could you keep a minimum wage job while studying.

Event the UT 8K/year does not compare.

Posted by: Toby on January 3, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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