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And then there's the "refused" group. :-)

Dave, this raises the question: is it necessary to make a distinction between "don't know" and "refused". If there's no need to distinguish the two categories, then one can just do a much easier recode: replace rankingvariable = 5 if PR_Q05B>=5

In this case, though, I thought the difference was interesting (there were relatively few refused - much less than the other categories).

Assuming, given all the disclaimers you offer at the end, that there is a significant relationship between choosing Don't Know and income, we might guess:

1. Some high earners are just enjoying their income and leisure, and are serenely uninterested in past markers of status, such as academic rank. (This would not be true of all high-income types.)
2. There is a link between income and one or a combination of honesty, humility, or high rational meta-awareness, (i.e., they know that few people could give an accurate retrospective answer to the question, and can constrain the emotional impulse to rank themselves highly)
3. The dont'-knows were academically disinclined students who dropped out and became HVAC technicians, and thus have higher incomes than most university grads.


Or

4: They are intelligent enough to understand that it is hard to aggregate relative strengths and weakness into some ordinal measure of academic excellence.

That 35 percent think that they are in the top 10 percent is not very strange. If we limit ourselves to economics student:
Assume that you have some socialists, libertarians, liberals and conservatives. Assume that some of them think that the proper way of acquiring knowledge about the economic system is to take empirics seriously and other think that the data contain too much noise and that you have to rely on deduction. Assume that some think that a very simplified but consistent GE framework is the way to think about issues and that other rather rely on more detailed PE models while assuming that everything else stay constant. Assume that some think it is important to ask “what does this really mean” while other thinks it is more about solving the equations they are given. Assume that some think rational agents is a harmless approximation while other think that it really isn´t. Etc. etc. etc.

How many of these people would not think that “Hell, my classmates does not understand the first thing about economics – I´m one of the few who actually understood what we were doing”

I´m not very surprised by this result. There is not a clear definition of what does it mean to be among the best 10 %. The respondents can assume the question is about their studies, final exam or just about success in their career. Or, the more pessimistic explanation would be that in America, it is common to have higher levels of self-confidence, which can produce this type of results. I remember reading about Economy in British Columbia vs. Ontario and it could not bring any serious results. I mean, don´t let somebody from Vancouver compare his city with Toronto, and don´t let somebody to compare himself with his schoolmates...

Thank you! Professor Woolley !

Tiger - I wanted to do this for my own satisfaction. These missing observations type problems are endemic in the Canadian public use microfiles, but there's very little information anywhere that describes how to cope with them. I'll write up some more detailed notes and post them here. By next week, guaranteed.

Or for your American readers: Lake Wobegon, where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." For Canadians who don't do NPR, google "Lake Wobegon".

If the survey was of graduate students describing how they ranked in their undergraduate program, it makes some sense. But if this is a survey of graduates of graduate-level programs, then how can 42% of the people surveyed finish in the top 10% of their (graduate-level)class?

It would seem to me that graduates have an inflated sense of their own relative performance.

Professor Woolley, I love reading you posts! Longtime reader first time commentary material...

I was interested in if you think this could this be cognitive bias?
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect#mw-mf-search

How did the second and third ranked do?

I think that what is going on is that it is pretty easy to remember whether or not you were in the top half of you class but more difficult to place yourself more precisely in the distribution. I think that the "don't knows" would be more evenly distributed if the survay had included a "50 to 75", "75 to 90" and "bottom 10%" so that the amount of information required to to answer the question would have been somewhat less dependant on the answer.

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