Law school is a human capital investment, worth making (roughly speaking) if the benefits are higher than the costs.
Male lawyers earn, on average, more than female lawyers (e.g. here). But that does not mean they get a higher return on their legal education. The pay-off to going to law school is the increase in earnings relative to the next best alternative. If the next best alternative is serving ice-cream, then law school may still be a worthwhile investment, even if it does not guarantee a six figure salary.
My niece wants to take a typing class. She watches her mother's hands whiz across the keyboard, rattling off 80 or 90 words per minute. She wants to be able to write quickly and effortlessly too. But her school doesn't teach typing. The question is: why not?
Learning how to touch-type is a classic example of a human capital investment. It requires hours of practice, but there is a big productivity pay-off. When typing becomes a purely automatic process, when there is no need to ever even glance at the keyboard or think about which key to use, the writer is free to concentrate on writing - something called cognitive automaticity. A person who can type quickly can get things done rapidly and efficiently. I can answer emails, write memos or accomplish other routine tasks faster than most economists, because I can type quickly. Moreover, learning good posture at the keyboard has health benefits, because it reduces the risk of repetitive strain injury.
So why isn't typing taught in school? Why doesn't every student graduate from high school knowing the the best way to use a keyboard? Why do schools no longer offer the kind of intensive training in typing that is needed to become a highly proficient typist, working consistently at 80 word per minute or more? I don't know, but I have theories.
"He's a smart guy, almost as smart as he thinks he is..." Review on ratemyprofessors.com
The ratemyprofessor.com website comes in for a lot of criticism. Some allege that the reviews are bogus. Others argue that it provides no useful information for students, just laurels for hot, easy teachers. Another common criticism is that too few students post for the site to give useful information. Moreover, those who do post tend to be exceptionally happy or excessively disgruntled.
While these criticisms have merit, official teaching evaluations are also flawed. Official evaluations are likewise drawn from a selective sub-sample of students: those who drop, withdraw or simply don't bother to attend lecture often do not complete the evaluation form. Professors who grade generously score higher on official evaluations, too.
Ratemyprofessors.com has one big advantage over official evaluations: it is publicly accessible. Students use it because, often, there is no alternative source of information. Yet how reliable are the reviews on ratemyprofessors?
Ratemyprofessors.com allows students to grade a professor's clarity, helpfulness, ease and - just for fun - rate their appearance as "hot" or "not". A professor with more hot than not votes is awarded a chili pepper on the ratemyprofessors.com web site.
Hotness declines with age, but how quickly? To find out, I combined ratemyprofessors hotness scores with information on when professors acquired their PhD - the best available measure of a professor's age (this information was gathered jointly with my co-author, Anindya Sen, and his co-authors).
When I was an undergraduate, many of my professors were Canadian born and American trained. The demographic profile of Canada, and of Canadian economics classrooms, has changed since then, as our country has recruited high skilled immigrants from around the world. But has there been a corresponding change in the demographic composition of the professoriate?
As part of my on-going research project with Anindya Sen and Marcel Voia on hotness and earnings, I've been gathering data on the educational backgrounds of Ontario economics professors - where they received their first degrees, and where they studied for their PhDs. Some preliminary results are shown over the fold:
The Royal Military College of Canada (RMCC) is the only university under direct federal control, thus recent developments there indicate the Harper government's vision for post-secondary education.
This CAUT-commissioned report, whose authors include eminent economist Robin Boadway (an RMCC grad and ardent supporter of the college), describes a number of developments that merit close attention.
I don't know.
Ontario's salary disclosure legislation, which requires that all salaries over $100,000 per year be made publicly available, was introduced by the Progressive Conservative government of Premier Mike Harris. That government had a somewhat unenthusiastic attitude towards MUSH (municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals) and the public service. The aim of the legislation was, presumably, to build support for policies to restrict and limit public sector salaries, and put downwards pressure on salary growth.
Reforming universities is difficult. Cures tried elsewhere, like the UK Research Assessment Exercise, have induced people to publish more. Yet, to the extent that research comes at the cost of time spent teaching or engaging with students, "incentivizing" research could actually decrease the social value of universities.
University reform is doubly difficult in Canada, where universities are a provincial responsibility, and coordinated action is problematic. I suspect that Prime Minister Stephen Harper would like to pull a Margaret Thatcher, and end tenure, or whip academics into shape with frequent assessments. But the federal government has no jurisdiction to act in this area.
Hence the government is pursuing a multi-level strategy.
A followup to my previous post on university retention and males.
Assume boys and girls are identical, except: there's something in the water at high schools that causes boys to do worse than girls; and there's something in the water at universities that causes boys to do worse than girls.
Suppose you had a data set for all university students, that told you for each student i: that student's performance at university Ui; that student's performance at high school Hi; and that student's sex Si (Si=1 for male, Si=0 for female).
Suppose you ran a multiple regression of Ui on Hi and Si:
Ui = a + bHi + cSi + ei
What would you expect to find?
Over on Ramblings and Musings, University of Toronto professor Victor Ivrii is thinking about frivolous fees. His article is prompted by a National Post piece on "Sanctioned sex club events and Israeli Apartheid Week". The National Post article asks:
Why is their money going to support controversial events, such as Israeli Apartheid Week or the “Epic Sex Club Adventure” recently hosted by the student-funded Sexual Education Centre at the University of Toronto? While the possibility exists to opt-out of student funded groups, critics argue the process is not well advertised and even discouraged.
Professor Ivrii wisely takes no stand on the merits or demerits on Israeli Apartheid or Epic Sex. He argues more generally:
There should be no opt-out process, only opt-in. Unless student specifically indicates his/her willingness to pay a levy for a certain cause, this levy should not be imposed.
Alex Usher of Higher Education Strategy Associates asked some interesting questions in his morning blog post. The world of university funding in Canada is changing – there is more money overall for universities but governments have been paying a declining share of university operating budgets with the remainder coming from tuition and assorted sources of research and contract funding. Indeed, a lot of new government money is targeted towards capital projects or new student support programs rather funding what faculty often see as core teaching and research functions of universities.
Carleton University admits more male students than females. But it graduates more female students than males. Why? What, if anything, can and should we do about it? (I don't know.)
The public access data is here. (Datacubes is a lovely tool, but it takes a little time learning how to use it.)
You can see there's a difference from the public access data. I can also get access to Carleton internal data. Except I can't seem to access it from home, so what follows comes from memory:
This is not about economics. Maybe it's about teaching. Maybe it's about the internet. I only have anecdata, and it is compromised by sample selection bias. I don't have any theory, and I don't have a proposed policy.
The last few weeks has seen the death of two economists – James Buchanan and Albert O. Hirschman - whose work has influenced my intellectual development and thinking over the years. Their thoughts combined with tomorrow’s “political action” by Ontario teachers against the soon to expire McGuinty government has caused me to think about what forces are at work here. To be human is to see patterns (I can’t remember who came up with that line but I’m sure it was not me) and the dispute with Ontario teachers can certainly be framed in my mind by the concepts of Leviathan, exit and voice.
It's hardly a secret to anyone who's worked in an economics department: some students enrol in economics because they want to study something that seems vaguely useful, but they don't have the grades, or the mathematics and language skills, to make it in business or engineering.
Making change sometimes involves an elaborate public discourse and preparation of affected stakeholders and in Ontario the discourse is towards getting people in the public sector to do more with less. The latest target was drawn to my attention by Alex Usher’s Higher Education Strategy Associates (HESA) morning bulletin, which featured the preliminary report by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) on The Productivity of the Ontario Public Postsecondary System.
If you've ever been a student or a teacher, please answer this seven question survey:
I explain what the survey is about below the fold.
Imagine a world where education is of no intrinsic value, and serves only as a signal of an unobservable character trait called "ability." Performance (which can be observed) is determined by both ability and effort. Effort is costly. Some students have a high level of ability, and some have a low level of ability. A professor's job is to rank them. Professors cannot recognize absolute excellence, only relative excellence, and so grade on a curve.