Political Demands at Princeton

After the death of Michael Brown in August of 2014 in Ferguson, MO, Black protest groups began issuing demands to cities and police departments to address police use of force and other issues with the criminal justice system. By Fall of 2015, issuing demands was a common tactic among student groups as well, with demands published by student groups at at least 80 colleges across the country.

Students graduate and get jobs, so it was not entirely surprising that issuing demands would be used as a protest technique among these now older protesters. In July 2020 there have been two notable demands, one from theater artists, and another from faculty and staff at Princeton.

I collected the signatories of this demand letter and categorized them by their department affiliations as STEM, humanities, sociology, or administrative. The groups are:


Surprisingly about $\frac{1}{3}$ of the signatories are from STEM fields. The Sociology category includes Economics, so the portion of mathematically oriented fields is even higher. STEM seems to be scumming to Wokeness, just a bit more slowly.

One other interesting observation starts with this demand, #3 in the “Faculty Level” section:

Give substantial FTE to those departments and programs with a track record of supporting faculty of color, such as Gender and Sexuality Studies, American Studies (Latinx, Asian), African American Studies, the Lewis Center for the Arts, and Anthropology.

The departments that would benefit from this demand account for 17% of the signatories. From a quick tally of the faculty pages of the departments, at least 70% of the staff in these departments signed the letter.

Replicating Incels

The Institute for Family Studies is running an article about Incels, Male Sexlessness is Rising But Not for the Reasons Incels Claim, which uses data from the General Social Survey. The GSS is easy to process and use, so I decided to try to replicate the chart in the article

That’s a very steep increase from 2010, and I’m skeptical, especially because, as the article notes, the rise is not supported by NHANES nor NSFG.

The only solid information I could find about how the GSS data is processed is at the botton of the chart:

NHANES and GSSS pooling on samples on 2 years of each side of the label year. … GSS “Never Married”,

To do this analysis, I used the GSS Data Explorer to extract these variables:

year      Gss year for this respondent                       
sexfreq   Frequency of sex during last year
partners  How many sex partners r had in last year
marital   Marital status
id_       Respondent id number

You can download the data package from my GSS project for this analysis .

Based on the comment on the chart, the analysis process:

  • Extract the records for males who are never married and between 22 and 35 years old, inclusive.
  • Group by year and count the number of respondents who report no sex in last year for sexual frequency
  • Group by year and count the number of respondents who report no sex partners in last year
  • Average the two previous counts, per year.
  • Compute the 5 year rolling average of the counts
  • Divide the rolling average by the number of respondents

The query to extract the sub-group of respondents is:

"year >= 1988 and marital == 'Never married' and sex == 'Male' and age >=22 and age<= 35 "

The result is a completely different chart.

I’m not sure what the difference is, but either I or the IFS author, or both, made some errors in the analysis.

Replace the Nonprofit Tax Deduction

One of my long-term irritations with nonprofits is that donors can get deductions for donations to organizations that don’t have as much social impact as other organizations. I don’t think that donations to most large-city symphonies, or yet another $100M to Harvard, makes much of a social difference, but the donor gets the same tax incentive as donations to other, high-impact organizations.

One way to solve this problem, and tackle a few others as well, would be to replace the standard nonprofit tax deduction with a sliding scale deduction based on impact.

The idea is to create a system of standards bodies that can evaluate the impact of a nonprofit’s operation, a bit like Underwriter’s Lab and Consumer Reports, but for social good. These organizations would audit a nonprofit’s operations and assign it to an “impact class.” Then, the deductions to the organization would be higher for organizations in higher impact classes. There would probably have to be retroactive consideration, so a donor who contributes to a new, unproven project could get a tax break after a program is proven to be successful.

A system like this would solve a lot of problems: it would use a market-based approach to pushing donations to the most valuable programs, so good programs would get more funding, it would force nonprofits to run high-quality evaluation programs, and whole sectors would benefit from having excellent cross-organization data, allowing donors to make direct comparisons.

Well, We Warned You

Last September, Columbia Journalism Review reported on American’s low and declining trust in the media. In hope of exposing some reason for hope, they asked if that trust might be restored, and about 75% said it could be, if the media improved accuracy by “not reporting stories before [a news outlet] verifies all the facts and being willing to correct mistakes it makes”

Clearly, media outlets carefully considered that advice while writing stories about Covington High School.

Fact-checking Blogger Economics

The Internet should be a transformative technology for political debates; in a matter of seconds you can verify or reject nearly any conjecture, relieving bloggers from the embarrassment of posting complete nonsense. Unfortunately, few ideological adherents avail themselves of this tool, preferring to stick with unsupportable conjecture, something I always enjoy pointing out.

For a rich trove of examples, I read a few articles from Model Minority. It didn’t take long to find this article about the costs of being poor, which includes these verifiable statements:

Look at it like this, if you are working at Target, making $7 an hour, Target is making arguably $100 to $200 dollars an hour off of you. You are taking the short, and the corporation is keeping the rest. What if you were able to keep more of the money you earned for them? Life would be different. On top of that, most of the items that we get from stores are from factories in China, Mexico, Haiti and the Phillipines where women work earning $2 per day. Again, those women are taking the short.

It took me only 30 seconds to find basic financial information about Target and compute relevant stats. In 2010, Target had about $69B in revenue and $3B in earnings. With 355K employees, Target’s revenues are about $94 per hour per employee if the employees work full time, and about $200/hour if they work on average half time. So, the author is right, but only if “making” means “revenues.” However, when she says “keeping the rest” she clearly means earnings. In that case, Target’s earnings per employee are from $4/hour to $8/hour. In that case, the writer is off by a factor of 25x, not a small error. So, she either doesn’t know the difference between revenue and earnings, or she’s really bad at math, or she doesn’t care if she spouts nonsense, as long as the nonsense fits her biases.

The second verifiable fact is that workers in China, Mexico and other places are making $2/day. Bloomberg reports that manufacturing workers in China and Mexico make about $2 per hour. I’d guess that a 10 hour day is more typical there, so for this statistic, the author is off by a factor of 10x, an improvement but still not even in the ballpark.

I certainly would not dispute the author’s theme that prices are higher in poor neighborhoods, or more generally, that life in poverty is abysmal. However, these points can be argued without fabricating statistics, and a decent respect for facts and figures, across the political spectrum, would help moderate the rancor of our debates and bring us closer to agreement.

Testosterone and Cognitive Function

Finding one article on pre-natal exposure to testosterone and giftedness, I figured that this was probably only one paper showing a tentative connection. Then I found all of the other papers.

No connection with Testosterone: http://tc.engr.wisc.edu/steuber/SophJrSr/papers/2008/HonorableLohrentz.pdf

Related to the co-twin study: JAMA and Archives Journals (2007, December 4). Males With A Female Twin May Be At Higher Risk For Anorexia Nervosa.

Just What Is Selection Bias?

While reading a bit about KIPP schools, a compensatory education program for minority students, I found a report that has some interesting, adjacent paragraphs:

[The KIPP Performance gains do] not appear to be attributable to a selective admissions process. KIPP serves minority and high-need students, many of whom performed poorly before they entered the schools. Some unobservable biases may be present in student motivation and support, but except for a tendency to attract more girls than boys, there is as yet no strong observable evidence of a systematic selection bias.

Where it has been monitored, student attrition is high and seemingly selective. Those who leave KIPP tend to have been performing less well than those who stay, and at least one study suggests that those who leave were lowerperforming when they entered. Such attrition, if it were taken into consideration, would reduce the size of gains in reports that simply compare KIPP eighth graders with those in their host districts. However, the evidence does not go so far as to suggest that attrition fully accounts for the observed KIPP advantage.

So, there is no bias on which students enter the program, but there is a bias on which students leave. Which of course means that there is a bias in the students that were evaluated to assess the gains in performance. It hardly matters if the poorer performing students didn’t get in, or if they dropped out; it is only important they the were not part of the assessment.

Economic Notes On Manufacturing

The US has been shedding manufacturing jobs since about 2000. ( Not 1970 as many people believe . ) 


But, a capital spending report for the same period shows that capital spending has not dropped:


Furthermore, manufacturing revenue has been climbing over the period, but income after tax has stayed fairly flat. 

So, if the manufacturing companies are spending less on people, the same amount on machines but not getting more income, where is the additional expense? They could be spending more on raw materials, but the other possibility is that they are spending more on services, in the form of outsourced labor. For instance, instead of hiring janitors directly, they hire a janitorial services firm. In this case, the same number of people are being hired, but the job is shifted from “manufacturing” to “services.” I’m not sure about the details of this effect, but it does mean that the decline in manufacturing jobs may not be as great as it appears. 

Posted via email from Eric’s posterous

Educated Into A Corner

Here is an excellent comment to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The commenter, mark_r_harris,  is a teacher in South Korea who explains what happens when, as the Obama administration would like, every student in a country graduates from college.

On 60 Minutes a few weekends ago, it was mentioned that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would like 80% of American youth to attend and graduate from college. It is a nice thought in many ways. As a teacher and professor, intellectually I am all for it (if the university experience is a serious one, which these days, I don’t know).

But students’ expectations in attending college are not just intellectual; they are careerist (probably far more so). As it happens, I am now living and teaching in a country, South Korea, that meets the Gates’ standards. Right now, about 75-80% of Korean high school students enter a university. The 20% of Korean youth who do not attend university are mainly poor rural youth. Given the Koreans’ diligence, it is not surprising that the vast majority of university attendees also graduate, many with majors in scientific and engineering disciplines (“soft” degrees like marketing are not as popular here). This is a dedicated country.

But you know what? They can’t find jobs. It was reported in the Korean media a few weeks ago that according to the latest government figures, only half of recent Korean university graduates have found full-time work. Even the country’s best university, Seoul National, only has a 70% placement rate.

Now, Korea is experiencing an economic downturn, but not as bad as America’s. This employment issue has more to do with levels of training and subsequent levels of expectation. When a Korean student emerges from 20 years of intense study with a university degree, he or she reasonably expects a “good” job — which is to say, a well-paying professional or managerial job with good forward prospects. But here’s the problem. There does not exist, nor will there ever exist, a society in which 80% of the available jobs are professional, managerial, comfortable, and well-paid. No way. Korea has a number of other jobs, but some are low-paid service work, and many others — in factories, farming, fishing — are scorned as 3-D jobs (difficult, dirty, and dangerous). Educated Koreans don’t want them. So the country is importing labor in droves — from China, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, even Uzbekistan. In the countryside, rural Korean men are having such a difficult time finding prospective wives to share their agricultural lifestyle that fully 40% of rural marriages are to poor women from those other Asian countries, who are brought in by match-makers and marriage brokers.

Since young Koreans almost invariably live at home until marriage, whether they are working or not, it is routine for the young unemployed to do so. Their parents, who have a lot invested in their children’s successful outcomes, discourage them from taking low-level, part-time, or contract work, even just to get a start in life. As is usually the case, the only way they can see of improving their lot is not by lowering their expectations, but by improving their qualifications: by scoring well on English tests, getting additional certificates, and so on. But everyone else is doing this, too, so the competitive field remains the same. What will happen to these youths? The more years they don’t work, the less chance there is that they ever will. They become tainted, and possibly a permanently disenfranchised minority.