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October 30, 2012

Inconvenient Truth of the Day

Unexpectedly(!), several studies of the relationship between national investments in higher education and economic growth find... no relationship whatsoever:

We're guessing hiring lots of teachers doesn't help, either:

If raising education really is so fantastic for countries, why can't we find nation-level evidence of that? We can easily find evidence that switching to faster money growth usually predicts higher inflation, that switching to more market-oriented institutions predicts faster economic growth. The correlations show up just fine there--so why is data-torturing required when countries switch to pro-education policies?

And if defenders of increased education want to claim that "We just need to do it right next time" then defenders of sound social science need to retort: "Then I'm sure you'll understand if we absolutely insist on solid, experimentally sound evidence, along with proof of scalability, before we sign off on a nationwide program that will cost a couple of percent of GDP."

Speaking of evidence:

Mexico has spent heavily on higher education in the last decade, particularly for schools of engineering. Somehow, somebody down there decided the way to build a prosperous economy was to train lots of engineers, who would then attract and create engineering jobs. Sadly, they got the directional arrow wrong— leading to a boondoggle of immense proportions.

Most prosperous countries started out educating people for job openings, not the other way around. Many of the new engineers are woefully underemployed, or unemployed entirely. The government is footing the bill, and it must have cost a bundle to a country that isn’t exactly flush. Central planners everywhere are scratching their heads wondering why, since their attempts to mandate production quotas have never worked anywhere, they didn’t work this time around, either.

Of course, the same sort of thinking is going on in this country. Last year, Virginia put into law a mandate to produce 100,000 more graduates, and North Carolina is considering something comparable.

This would be funnier if it weren't so predictable.

Posted by Cassandra at October 30, 2012 07:38 AM

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Izzat what they are heading north?

Posted by: PuffOnMeds at October 30, 2012 10:18 AM

The VA law is pretty amusing but I fear the left is just warming up. In their world, the laws of economics, mathematics and physics are simple inconveniences to conveniently ignore. There is a gem of liberal "thinking" on the ballot in Michigan that is a stunning triumph of stupidity -- it would be rather interesting to meet the proud authors. I try to maintain a sense of humor about this stuff. My son's science project is Potato Power. But it scares me to think that so many might walk by his exhibit and say, "What a great idea!"

Posted by: kavu at October 30, 2012 10:19 AM

In their world, the laws of economics, mathematics and physics are simple inconveniences to conveniently ignore.

Funny, though, in light of all their hyperventilating hyperbole about the BushReich's opposition to "science" :p

Posted by: Cassandra at October 30, 2012 10:42 AM

Cargo cult science. It's what you get when you can't distinguish between correlation and causation.

Posted by: Texan99 at October 30, 2012 11:35 AM

It is impossible to live in a cocoon and even if you could, the technology savvy communication conglomerates would find a way to beam information into your secluded little dwelling.

Posted by: university at May 18, 2014 02:54 AM