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March 28, 2013

Steubenville

Cathy Young has done an outstanding job of looking at the issues:

The women’s movement has made invaluable progress in lifting the stigma of rape and reforming sexist laws—ones that, as recently as the 1970s, required women to fight back to prove rape and instructed juries that an accuser’s unchaste morals could detract from her credibility. The fact that today, a rape case can be successfully prosecuted even when the victim was drunk and flirtatious, or engaged in consensual intimacies before the attack, is a victory for justice as well as women’s rights. Yet the fact remains that charges of sexual assault involving people who knows each other in a “he said/she said” situation are very difficult to prove in court—not because of “rape culture,” but because of the presumption of innocence. Gender equality requires equal concern for the rights of accused men.

Let us, by all means, confront ugly, sexist, victim-blaming attitudes when we see them. But this can be done without promoting sexist attitudes in feminist clothing: that a woman’s word automatically deserves more weight than a man’s; that all men bear responsibility for rape and “normal” men need to be taught not to rape; or that a woman who is inebriated but fully conscious is not responsible for her actions while an equally inebriated man is.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:25 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Losing My Way

The Editorial Staff will be posting something eventually. We're at the end of a very long project at work that has to be done by the end of this week and have been working pretty much around the clock. During a coffee break last night, we went looking for something over at Elise's place and found a link to this old post from December of 2009 - one we'd long forgotten ever having written.

It sums up a lot of things we've been noodling over of late:

Now, at 50, I look back with the knowledge that I have taken those first few steps along the downward path. It seems funny to me now, all those years of wishing, hoping, struggling to reach some far off goal. To improve myself. During the election I listened to Barack and Michelle Obama and I realized that there is a vast gulf between what they believe - their expectations - and mine. I grew up in a different America: one in which failure was always a possibility but in which there was also the promise of abundance beyond my wildest dreams. In many ways that is the world we live in now. Our homes, cars, electronic devices are newer, faster, cheaper, and more fully functional than anything I dreamed of back then.

What disturbed me about their words was the realization that they viewed struggling and uncertainty as the Enemy. Whereas I viewed those things as the means to an end; goads that made me uncomfortable but also provided the impetus to propel me from my present state into a far better existence. They made me dissatisfied but also gave me hope that tomorrow would be better than today.

I think Instapunk touched on an interesting thought in his essay. The God I grew up with was a demanding God. We were taught that man is sinful by nature and that only by constant struggle can we hope to transcend our lower selves. That was the essence and the meaning of life: constant struggle to overcome; to improve; to adapt and conquer. And that struggle - the source of our present prosperity and security - is precisely what many of us seek to eliminate.

Their God is a non-judgmental, multicultural God. He sets forth no immutable laws, draws no bright lines between Good and Evil. And to a large extent even conservatives have bought into this seductive trap. We don't want to be judgmental of others. But more importantly we don't really want to find ourselves wanting. We have forgotten the purpose of discomfort, of shame, of having to deal with the disapprobation of others.

I feel lately that I'm losing my sense of perspective. I'm sure part of this just the long work hours and lack of sleep.

I worry that we've become so focused on defense that we're defending things we shouldn't. There are so many things I want to say, but I don't have the time to think about (or write) them, and so I throw out hastily written posts that are easily misunderstood and are (I fear) doing more harm than good.

Every writer has strengths and weaknesses. Mine, I suspect, lies in occasionally managing a decent job of defending what is good. I'm not good on attack - I'm better at building up than tearing down.

It's a poor match for the spirit of the times. Not sure what to do about that.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:42 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

March 27, 2013

I Am Mega Bored

mascots.jpg

Posted by Cassandra at 05:08 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 26, 2013

Shocker: Acting Like a Colossal Jackwagon Can Get You Fired

Yes, we know - it is deeply surprising:

A donation campaign supporting the man whose crude joke led to the the firing of a female developer who tweeted about it is stirring controversy across the internet. Adria Richards was fired last week from her job at SendGrid - developers of a cloud-based e-mail system - after she overheard the joke from a couple of developers sitting behind her at the PyCon Conference in Santa Clara, California.

She said the men had made a remark concerning 'big dongles' - a device that plugs into a computer - but Richards maintains the men were using it in a sexual manner. She tweeted a photo of the two men with the message: 'Not cool. Jokes about forking repo's in a sexual way and "big" dongles.

The joke teller, known only as 'Mr Hank,' was also dismissed from his job at PlayHaven as a result of Richards' tweet. But now, a group of Reddit users have founded the Feminist Victims Fund, designed to help men like Mr Hank and others they deem to be oppressed under the 'tyranny' of feminism.

Stipulated: Ms. Richards is a pretentious nitwit and SendGrid was completely within its rights to fire her. The Editorial Staff would have fired her, too. No one wants to work in an environment where the slightest verbal faux pas ends up on the Internet, festooned with overwrought women's studies rhetoric.

The Feminist Victims Fund, on the otter heiny, strikes us as almost too good to be true. In a way, we're grateful: if this highly diverting brand of Speaking Truth to Glower didn't occur with such gratifying regularity, we'd have to make it up lest we find ourselves with nothing but nekkid elephant photos with which to amuse the assembled villainry.

What hallowed constitutional right is being protected from the frilly pantied oppression of the bra burning set? If, dear readers, you guessed "The right to make dirty jokes at a professional conference your boss is probably paying you to attend whilst wearing a T-shirt with your employer's name emblazoned upon it", a stuffed marmoset is on its way to you by parcel post. We can't work up too much sympathy for the "victim" here. It's a shame he ran into a Professional Person of Cholor with online Tourette's syndrome, but it should not be news to anyone in the tech community that what happens in public (or - sadly - in private, for that matter) all too often ends up on Twitter. Or, if you're attending a tech conference, on PowerPoint slides:

Richards' decision to tweet a photo of the men struck many people as an overreaction, but her actions make more sense in the context of the widespread hostility to women in her field, both online and offline. That hostility is one of the reasons I co-founded a nonprofit that fights harassment of women, the Ada Initiative, after one of my friends was sexually assaulted at a computer conference three times in a single year. The Ada Initiative's first project was helping hundreds of conferences adopt anti-harassment policies that explicitly banned pornography in presentations, groping, stalking, and other obnoxious behavior that had become common at many technology conferences.

Obviously, the Editorial Staff have been attending the wrong sort of conferences of late. One struggles to imagine an atmosphere where it is actually necessary to ban pornography in presentations, much less groping and stalking.

Nevertheless, the system worked precisely the way it ought to work. Ms. Richards complained to conference officials and she was within her rights to do so. Perhaps we might have simply confronted the gentlemen (one uses the term loosely) directly, but we can also understand why a person might wish to handle the matter in a less confrontational manner. If only the incident had ended there. But no, Ms. Richards made it worse by broadcasting the resolved incident to Twitter and posting about it on her blog, for which lapses her employer promptly fired her.

And rightly so - she wasn't fired for reporting the incident. She was fired for embarrassing her employer by displaying poor impulse control and even worse judgment in a public venue. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what got "Mr. Hank", now a world famous Victim of Feminist Oppression, fired.

Perhaps we're finally moving beyond those outdated gender stereotypes, after all :p

Posted by Cassandra at 08:30 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Is Adversity Good for our Health?

What happens to normal adaptive mechanisms when they outlast the problems they evolved to avoid? Deprived of an appropriate outlet, they can go into overdrive, becoming destructive instead of helpful:

From primitive times, the survival instinct has enabled mankind to handle major threats to existence. In the modern world, we have become such creatures of comfort that even the slightest annoyance—such as facing a long line at airport security—sends our self-preservation programming into overdrive, resulting in dangerous levels of stress.

That's the theory put forth by Marc Schoen, an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, Los Angeles Geffen School of Medicine, in "Your Survival Instinct Is Killing You."

A specialist in mind-body medicine and hypnosis, he says modern societies suffer from the "Cozy Paradox"—where, despite all our many comforts, we have become increasingly oversensitive to even subtle adversity and general uneasiness. And our subsequent inability to cope feeds a wide range of maladies, including poor work performance, overeating, insomnia, relationship troubles, road rage, fear of flying, sex addiction and panic attacks over public speaking.

Dr. Schoen blames the culture of instant gratification that started with the introduction of the microwave, fast food and the Internet. Another culprit: a societal shift toward praising kids whether or not they succeed, which has led them, as adults, to put in less effort and expect more in return.

Is this the same mechanism that's behind the rise in allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune disorders (including mental health issues)?

This is a big part of what disturbs me so much about progressive utopian schemes and dogma. The goal seems to be a world where powerful but benign authority figures protect us from adversity, discomfort, even the consequences of overeating or refusal to exercise. But what if humans were designed by nature to handle attacks and adversity? What if we actually require these things to thrive?

When I was raising my sons, I was repeatedly struck by a repetitive theme in classic literature: that in order to grow into strong, adaptable, compassionate, and healthy adults, children needed to experience (and learn to master) fear, discomfort, occasional privation, and setbacks. This powerful idea changed the way I responded to several parenting scenarios.

I've never understood how parents expect children to go from a cocoon-like existence at home where every need and wish is granted instantly and (at least from the child's perspective) effortlessly to the world of work and school and hopefully, independence. We might want to focus less on worrying about the horror that is feminism (or, if your Weltanschauung varies, the depredations of racist/sexist/homophobic Republicans) and more on not raising children who have very little (or even no) practice in overcoming challenges and adversity.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:53 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

I Do Not Know About You People....

...but I just hate it when this sort of thing happens:

Elaborate greetings are the norm, I’ve found, when one enters a Central African village. So it was a surprise when I noticed that many people weren’t shaking hands the morning I arrived in Tiringoulou, a town of about 2,000 people in one of the remotest corners of the Central African Republic, in March 2010. I soon found out the reason: the day before, a traveler passing through town on a Sudanese merchant truck had, with a simple handshake, removed two men’s penises.

As best I could reconstruct from witness accounts, the stranger had stopped to purchase a cup of tea at the market. After handing over his money, he clasped the vendor’s hand. The tea seller felt an electric tingling course through his body and immediately sensed that his penis had shrunk to a size smaller than that of a baby’s. His yells quickly drew a crowd. Somehow in the fray a second man fell victim as well.

Be careful out there.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:23 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 25, 2013

Excellent Post on the Marriage Premium

A rebuttal to the theory that there's no causal relationship between marriage and the higher wages for married men. I've excerpted just a few items but you should read the whole thing:

- No credible evidence? How about the mere fact that the marriage premium (for men) and marriage penalty (for women) persists after controlling for age, education, race, and a long list of other confounding variables?

- Following Heckman's lead, education economists increasingly emphasize the importance of non-cognitive skills (conscientiousness, ambition, organization, etc.). Isn't it plausible that marriage would causally raise men's non-cognitive skill via expectations, praise, nagging, devotion, etc.?

- It's easy to see the appeal of the selection story: Married people have many traits in common: willingness to commit, to defer gratification, to conform to social norms. Why then, though, do married men earn a large premium, while married women earn a modest penalty? Shouldn't favorable selection enhance women's earnings, too?


- If you say, "Women de-emphasize their careers after they marry," you're appealing to a treatment effect. And if you can believe that women de-emphasize their careers as a result of marriage, why can't you believe that men emphasize their careers as a result of marriage?

- Kids substantially reduce female earnings. Few doubt that this effect is causal: Kids don't just take time; they change priorities. If you can believe that kids change their moms' labor market behavior, why can't you believe that spouses change each others' labor market behavior?

Food for thought.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:41 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Tests "Measure What They Measure"

...which is not always the same thing as "measuring what we want to measure"

A growing body of evidence shows, however, that we have grossly underestimated both the scope and the scale of animal intelligence. Can an octopus use tools? Do chimpanzees have a sense of fairness? Can birds guess what others know? Do rats feel empathy for their friends? Just a few decades ago we would have answered "no" to all such questions. Now we're not so sure.

Experiments with animals have long been handicapped by our anthropocentric attitude: We often test them in ways that work fine with humans but not so well with other species. Scientists are now finally meeting animals on their own terms instead of treating them like furry (or feathery) humans, and this shift is fundamentally reshaping our understanding.

Elephants are a perfect example. For years, scientists believed them incapable of using tools. At most, an elephant might pick up a stick to scratch its itchy behind. In earlier studies, the pachyderms were offered a long stick while food was placed outside their reach to see if they would use the stick to retrieve it. This setup worked well with primates, but elephants left the stick alone. From this, researchers concluded that the elephants didn't understand the problem. It occurred to no one that perhaps we, the investigators, didn't understand the elephants.

Think about the test from the animal's perspective. Unlike the primate hand, the elephant's grasping organ is also its nose. Elephants use their trunks not only to reach food but also to sniff and touch it. With their unparalleled sense of smell, the animals know exactly what they are going for. Vision is secondary.

But as soon as an elephant picks up a stick, its nasal passages are blocked. Even when the stick is close to the food, it impedes feeling and smelling. It is like sending a blindfolded child on an Easter egg hunt.

What sort of experiment, then, would do justice to the animal's special anatomy and abilities?

On a recent visit to the National Zoo in Washington, I met with Preston Foerder and Diana Reiss of Hunter College, who showed me what Kandula, a young elephant bull, can do if the problem is presented differently. The scientists hung fruit high up above the enclosure, just out of Kandula's reach. The elephant was given several sticks and a sturdy square box.

Kandula ignored the sticks but, after a while, began kicking the box with his foot. He kicked it many times in a straight line until it was right underneath the branch. He then stood on the box with his front legs, which enabled him to reach the food with his trunk. An elephant, it turns out, can use tools—if they are the right ones.

While Kandula munched his reward, the investigators explained how they had varied the setup, making life more difficult for the elephant. They had put the box in a different section of the yard, out of view, so that when Kandula looked up at the tempting food he would need to recall the solution and walk away from his goal to fetch the tool. Apart from a few large-brained species, such as humans, apes and dolphins, not many animals will do this, but Kandula did it without hesitation, fetching the box from great distances.

Another failed experiment with elephants involved the mirror test—a classic evaluation of whether an animal recognizes its own reflection. In the early going, scientists placed a mirror on the ground outside the elephant's cage, but the mirror was (unsurprisingly) much smaller than the largest of land animals. All that the elephant could possibly see was four legs behind two layers of bars (since the mirror doubled them). When the animal received a mark on its body visible only with the assistance of the mirror, it failed to notice or touch the mark. The verdict was that the species lacked self-awareness.

But Joshua Plotnik of the Think Elephant International Foundation modified the test. He gave the elephants access to an 8-by-8-foot mirror and allowed them to feel it, smell it and look behind it. With this larger mirror, they fared much better. One Asian elephant recognized herself. Standing in front of the mirror, she repeatedly rubbed a white cross on her forehead, an action that she could only have performed by connecting her reflected image with her own body.

Same problem, different context:

Somehow we're always designing tests, disliking the results, and arguing that they don't really measure the right thing, or that the tests are OK in their way but are being used for the wrong purpose, though it's not always easy to see what the right purpose would be and how it's different. The Rhode Island students argue, for instance, that the standardized test under discussion for their school district was "explicitly not designed to be used to make decisions about individual students," which certainly would make it an odd test for the school district to have invested public money in.

Sometimes the problem really is that the test doesn't measure what it was designed to measure. This is the elephant example above. But I suspect that more often, we just don't like what the test is telling us (or we're misusing it).

Maybe what we really need to do is eliminate people from the testing process :p

Posted by Cassandra at 08:25 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The NFL's First Female Wide Receiver...

...and we do mean, wiiiiide receiver. Her name is Kelly Ann:

kelly_ann.jpg

Even better, she's a Redskin.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:15 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Proposed: A Gender-Neutral Standard for Identity Group Whining

Last week we espied yet another idiotic piece of identity group bean counting in the NY Times:

In the United States, girls have outshined boys in high school for years, amassing more A’s, earning more diplomas and gliding more readily into college, where they rack up more degrees — whether at the bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral levels.

But that has not been the trend when it comes to one of the highest accomplishments a New York City student can achieve: winning a seat in one of the specialized high schools. At all eight of the schools that admit students based on an eighth-grade test, boys outnumber girls, sometimes emphatically.

The problem, as the Times sees it, is that NYC's elite schools rely more on standardized test scores than grades. That's bad, we are told, because girls were more likely to be admitted under the older system that balanced grades and standardized test scores:

Even the specialized schools with a focus on the classics and humanities, Brooklyn Latin and the High School of American Studies at Lehman College, now have a majority of male students. It was not always that way: Girls outnumbered boys at both schools until recently. American Studies has used the specialized admissions test since it opened a decade ago.

But in the first few years at Brooklyn Latin, founded in 2006, it had a broader admission policy based on grades and exams. Once it was made one of the specialized test schools, its population swung toward males.

“Sometimes, we see boys who are very bright, and can do well on an admissions test,” said Jason K. Griffiths, the principal. “But then I think the skills that a student needs to succeed in a school may be a little bit different.”

A corollary, perhaps, of the masculine leanings of the eight schools is the makeup of some of the elite high schools that do not use the specialized admissions test for admission.

At Fiorello H. La Guardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, which admits students based on grades and auditions or portfolios of artwork, 73 percent of the students are girls. At Bard High School Early College, which has campuses in Manhattan and Queens, as well as at Millennium, Beacon and Townsend Harris High Schools, girls outnumber boys by at least 3 to 2.

Shael Polakow-Suransky, the chief academic officer in the city’s Education Department, said the eight specialized-test schools represented just a portion of the city’s best schools, so there was a flaw in studying gender disparities solely in those eight schools. “These are not the best schools in the city,” he said of the eight specialized schools. “They are among the best schools in the city.”

He said that at the highest echelons of test-takers, girls scored as well as boys, but that overall, fewer of the strongest female students were taking the exam.

Hmmm... where have we heard this reasoning before? Here, perhaps?

Boys score as well as or better than girls on most standardized tests, yet they are far less likely to get good grades, take advanced classes or attend college. Why? A study coming out this week in The Journal of Human Resources gives an important answer. Teachers of classes as early as kindergarten factor good behavior into grades — and girls, as a rule, comport themselves far better than boys.

The study’s authors analyzed data from more than 5,800 students from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that boys across all racial groups and in all major subject areas received lower grades than their test scores would have predicted.

So when fewer girls choose to take specialized entrance exams (and therefore are outnumbered at elite schools), but are admitted at higher rates when both grades and test scores are considered, gender injustice has occurred and we should be concerned.

And when fewer boys choose to complete assignments on time (or at all), take challenging Advanced Placement classes, or put in the time required to get good grades, or even bother to apply for college (and therefore are outnumbered in all BUT the most elite colleges), gender injustice has occurred and we should be concerned.

Here's a suggestion: why don't all the zero sum game grievance peddlers just quit whining?

This used to be a country famous for opportunity. No one was guaranteed to be evaluated by the instrument that most favors their disaffected identity politics group. Whatever the criterion, America offered the chance to try to meet that standard. If you want to attend an elite school in NYC and standardized tests aren't your forte, you need to try harder and figure out a way to do well on the test. And if you want to attend college, but completing assignments, taking AP classes, and filling out all those applications just seems like too much of a hassle, you need to try harder and figure out a way to do these things anyway. Just try finding a job where your boss allows you to opt out of tasks you find too "boring" because you're just super-smart. Most employers will take an employee of average or above average intelligence and strong work skills over a brilliant one who only does what he/she thinks is important every time. And for God's sake, can both sides please quit crying "sexism" every time we don't have exactly equal numbers of pink and blue jelly beans in the national Easter basket?

For decades, we've been listening to radical feminists complain about how The Patriarchal Hegemony unfairly favored boys and men, discouraging girls from even trying. Now we're listening to the same kind of nonsense from conservatives about Feminized Pretty-Much-Everything-on-the-Planet and how The Matriarchy discourages helpless boys and men, preventing them from even trying.

Frankly this last is a bit much, given that the vast majority (it's somewhere around 85%) of American companies and high level government positions are still held by men. And that's just fine with me - it's not gender injustice because no one is actively preventing women from competing for these positions. Success in certain endeavors may or may not be harder for women than it is for men (and vice versa). But women appear to be opting themselves out of the top echelons for reasons - family, a more healthy work/life balance, an aversion to the insane hours and stress levels that characterize jobs in the top echelon - that seem good to them. Meanwhile, whilst we weep and wail about how boys are being "left behind" because of feminized schools, young men still predominate at the nation's most competitive universities. Are we seriously to believe that there is some kind of magical exemption from the prevailing attitude of female sexism that only benefits Princeton and Yale students? How does that happen?

Glenn Reynolds, linking to the NYT piece about girls at elite schools, writes (without providing examples of anyone claiming boys are inferior):

WHEN BOYS FALL BEHIND, IT’S BECAUSE THEY’RE INFERIOR.

Who has said this? I've read numerous studies claiming that boys put forth less effort in school, or that they are socialized (by their parents, mind you!) to think that real men don't study or go to college. Oddly, boys with parents who teach them to work hard are doing just fine:

Boys’ underachievement compared to girls has nothing to do with intelligence. Study after study shows that boys and girls are very similar in terms of cognitive ability.

“But what is striking is that at every level of cognitive ability, boys are getting lower grades than girls. It is not about ability – it is about effort and engagement,” Buchmann said.

More girls than boys report that they like school and that good grades are important to them. They also study more than boys.

“Success in academics, like success in sports, requires time and effort. Because boys put forth less effort and are less engaged, they get lower grades and are less likely to get through college,” Buchmann said.

Some of boys’ underperformance is related to outdated views of masculinity that devalue hard work and effort in school, she said. This is particularly true for boys from blue-collar and lower-class families. Working class fathers may reinforce the idea that school is feminizing because, for them, masculinity is more about physical strength and manual labor than about getting good grades.

Many boys from middle-class families, whose fathers have managerial and white-collar jobs, often develop an “instrumental” approach to school, Buchmann said. Regardless of how much they like school, they have learned how to do well in school in order to get a well-paying job and achieve material success.

“For these boys, notions of what it means to be a man are much more in tune with what is required to be successful in today’s economy,” she said.

Like it or not, the entrance criteria for college (and most decent paying jobs) has less to do with how one scores on a test than with a candidate's work ethic, dependability, and ability to complete work without constant prodding or intensive oversight. These are the qualities that traditionally led to success: perseverance, hard work, and the ability to do what needs to be done whether or not one finds the task personally fascinating. This is an insight that applies equally to men and women.

Women: if you want equal pay, a spot in the executive suite, or a career in a tech field, you need to put in the same hours men do and make your career (not your husband or children) your first priority. That's what successful men do, and women who do those things are paid just as well as men.

Men: if you want to succeed in today's economy, you need to figure out how to get a job with a decent living wage. If you can figure out a way to become economically secure without a college degree, go for it. But don't cry "unfair" when you find out that high paying jobs that don't require a degree are scarce, or your job is the first to go (and the last to come back) during an economic downturn. Here, history is not on your side. Do what is needed to get and hold onto the job you want. Even if it requires going to college. Young men who are willing to do those things are doing just as well academically as young women.

We really need to get a grip on this "War on Men/Women" business. Life is hard enough as it is. It's even harder if you go through it expecting everything to be fair and balanced. Repeat after me:

THERE IS NO WAR ON WOMEN (or girls, for that matter)

AND THERE IS NO WAR ON MEN (or boys, for that matter)

There are only differences, most of which you will never be able to control: differences in aptitude, work ethic, effort, luck, and yes - often policy that may favor you or make succeeding harder. That's no excuse. Figure out what you want and put in the hard work needed to meet or exceed whatever threshold is required to get you in the door. Whining about how the prevailing standard doesn't play to your unique snowflake status isn't just unimpressive.

It's borderline suicidal, both at the individual and societal level.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:28 AM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

March 20, 2013

Sooooooooooo Wrong...

CWCID: a co-worker

Sorry, guys. Mad busy this week. Started work at 4:15 and still have not had breakfast.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:07 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 18, 2013

No Fault Divorce and Child Support: Myths and Facts

Whilst reading a post on marriage over at Elise's place, I was reminded of two old posts that have been getting a lot of links lately. One of them touched on an observation made by David French over at the National Review (see Elise's post for the link):

I agree with Tim’s explanations, but I’d like to add another. After more than a generation of no-fault divorce, the very concept of “traditional marriage” is seeping out of our cultural DNA, replaced, sadly, by the core conviction that marriage is no longer a covenant, but a contract — specifically a contract for the fulfillment and enjoyment of adults.

I see pervasive misconceptions about the effect of no fault divorce on the divorce rate all the time on conservative sites. This is not particularly surprising. Before I did the research, I, too, believed no fault was largely responsible for the decline of traditional marriage. Inconveniently for my cherished illusions, it's pretty obvious from looking at the data that some of us (to paraphrase Ronald Reagan) know an awful lot of things that just aren't so:

If no fault divorce laws incent more women to leave their marriages, shouldn't we see an increase in divorce rates following the advent of no fault?... Note that the steepest rate of increase in divorces occurs during time periods before no fault existed. Beginning with the passage of no fault laws in ONE state - California - and continuing as no fault spreads to 9 states and then to 48 of the 50 states, the slope of the divorce rate curve decreases and then goes negative (i.e., the divorce rate declines).

The long term divorce trends are even more compelling:

...if we extrapolate the long term trend for divorce rates, we find that present rates of divorce are entirely consonant with what statisticians would have predicted long before feminism or no fault came along to harsh the collective mellows of so-called beta males.

A frequent tactic of the simple/single cause supporter is to truncate long term historical trends, notably beginning with an unrepresentative period for marriages and divorces in the US: the 1950s. I'm not sure whether this is deliberate or simply lazy but there's no denying that the practice conveniently airbrushes away over a century of steadily and rapidly rising divorce rates.

Speaking of misinformation, "what everyone knows" about the divorce rate itself is suspect:

A false conclusion in the 1970s that half of all first marriages ended in divorce was based on the simple but completely wrong analysis of the marriage and divorce rates per 1,000 people in the United States. A similar abuse of statistical analysis led to the conclusion that 60 percent of all second marriages ended in divorce.

These errors have had a profound impact on attitudes about marriage in our society and it is a terrible injustice that there wasn’t more of an effort to get accurate data (essentially only obtainable by following a significant number of couples over time and measuring the outcomes) or that newer, more accurate and optimistic data isn’t being heavily reported in the media.

It is now clear that the divorce rate in first marriages probably peaked at about 40 percent for first marriages around 1980 and has been declining since to about 30 percent in the early 2000s. This is a dramatic difference. Rather than viewing marriage as a 50-50 shot in the dark it can be viewed as having a 70 percent likelihood of succeeding. But even to use that kind of generalization, i.e., one simple statistic for all marriages, grossly distorts what is actually going on.

Ah, if only we could go back to the good old days when women married young (and up!, whatever that means).

The second post dealt with Child Support/Custody Facts & Figures. It contrasts popular (often anecdotally based) perceptions about custody and child support with studies looking at thousands of actual custody and child support awards. It's surprising how much misinformation is out there.

A few examples:

What percentage of custodial mothers and fathers have any form of child support agreement? Only half: 50.6%

What percentage of the average custodial parent's total income comes from child support? About one-sixth, or 16.1%

Did you know that:

* The average monthly child support award/payment (support awarded, but not necessarily paid) is $496. The most generous possible comparison would be to low income families, though this average reflects all income levels. (Source)

* The average monthly child support actually received (support paid) is only $303? Again, The most generous possible comparison would be to low income families, though this average reflects all income levels. (Source)

* This study looked at the average monthly cost of raising a child for households at various income levels over a child's lifetime:

* lower income parents: $791
* middle class parents: $1125
* upper income parents: $1875

To help put this into perspective, let's look at monthly average non-custodial child support payments owed and paid against the average monthly cost of raising a single child:

cost_vs_support.png

How do we get things so wrong? A strong possibility is availability bias - sensationalistic stories are covered more by the media than the average case (that's why they're news). And they upset us, so we remember them. But there's also our own tendency to pay more attention to news that confirms our pre-existing beliefs and ignore news that undermines them.

A third possibility is the absence of perspective. If we don't know how many fathers ask for custody (or how many custody cases end up in court, as opposed to being settled by agreement of the parties), how can we possibly make informed decisions about what a "fair" outcome looks like?

Posted by Cassandra at 06:16 PM | Comments (42) | TrackBack

March 15, 2013

Mirabile Dictu!!!

At long last, the media discovers that rarest of rare things: something women *can't* do better than men:

In the war of the sexes, it is their perceived talent at multi-tasking that often gives women the upper hand.

But the belief that they are better at juggling jobs than men is a myth, psychologists claim.

Both sexes are equally poor at dividing their attention, according to research.

Equality being all the rage these days, we find ourselves profoundly grateful that in this one instance at least, no one is any better than anyone else. Men of VC, you are on notice: please avoid your tiresome displays of masculine competence, lest they upset this precarious balance and upset the equality apple cart :p

Posted by Cassandra at 06:08 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 14, 2013

Thursday Morning Lyrics

If I had to take ten songs with me to a deserted island, I think this would be one of them. I've loved it for as long as I can remember. It captures the constant tension between idealism and desire and illusions and the demands of living in an imperfect world that requires us to compromise all these things and more. Most of all, I love the gentle skewering of the beautiful and natural urge to feel sorry for ourselves. That, and the final, "Lighten up, Francis".

Because there ain't no reason to stop trying:

When paradise is no longer fit for you to live in
And your adolescent dreams are gone
Through the days you feel a little used up
And you don't know where your energy's gone
It's just your soul feelin' a little downhearted
Sometimes life is too ridiculous to live
You count your friends all on one finger
I know it sounds crazy - it's just the way that we live

Between a laugh and a tear
Smile in the mirror as you walk by
Between a laugh and a tear
And that's as good as it can get for us
And there ain't no reason to stop tryin'

When this cardboard town can no longer amuse you
You see through everything and nothin' seems worthwhile
And hypocrite used to be such a big word to you
And it don't seem to mean anything to you now
Just try to live each and every precious moment
Don't be discouraged by the future. Forget the past.
That's old advice, but it'll be good to you
I know there's a balance 'cause I see it when I swing past

Between a laugh and a tear
Smile in the mirror as you walk by
Between a laugh and a tear
And that's as good as it can get for us
And there ain't no reason to stop tryin'

Posted by Cassandra at 06:42 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

March 13, 2013

Are Men/Boys Really Doing "Worse" Over Time?

Because no one measure can tell us the entire story, let's look at several measures of academic achievement.

Exhibit I: a higher percentage of young men are completing college now than in the 1960s:

college_attainmentrates.png

CWCID.


Exhibit II: In absolute numbers, more young men are completing college too:


men_college.png


Exhibit III: The % of boys dropping out of HS has gone down over time by almost 50%:


dropouts.png


Exhibit IV: Over time, average boys' grades have increased, too:


gpa_overtime.gif


Exhibit V: Boys' Math SAT scores over time have increased:

SAT scores.png

After work, I'll get you the verbal scores. They're more difficult, but I can tell you that both boys and girls are doing worse over time and the rates of decline are pretty much parallel.


Posted by Cassandra at 07:51 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Young Men and College Attainment: What is "Fair"?

Inflammatory debate question of the day: with regard to the college attainment (graduation) rates of young men aged 25-34, what do you think would be an equitable/optimal result, and why?

Here are your choices. Please record your vote in the comments section:

1. College attainment rates should exactly mirror the relative proportions of men and women in the population. In other words, we don't care what the individuals involved aspire to - the only acceptable outcome is gender parity. This is essentially what feminists used to argue, before women inconveniently began to outperform men in some areas (thus depriving them of their former argument): if fewer women do X than men, that's a systemic problem that must be remedied. And if fewer men do X than women, that's also a system problem that must be remedied.

2. College attainment rates should reflect current market forces and the values and aspirations of individuals, be they male or female. Who cares whether more men or more women graduate from college? What matters is that people have the chance to pursue their own goals and order their own lives.

3. College attainment rates should remain the same over time, because they reflect the inherent differences between men and women. Men once earned the vast majority of college degrees. Their former dominance reflects inherent differences in ability between men and women. As these differences are inherent (and therefore unchangeable), it logically follows that the historic rate of college attainments for men and women should remain the same, relative to each other, over time.

4. The goal should be equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. Men once earned the vast majority of college degrees. This unnatural imbalance was a reflection of differences in opportunity, not ability. Women's rising college attainment rates over time reflect their increased opportunity. So do men's rising college attainment rates.

5. Supply your own explanation and back it up.

Food for thought as you ponder the mysteries of life in an uncaring, zero sum world:

college_attainmentrates.png

CWCID.

More food for thought:

...even as their share of enrollment on college campuses declines, young men are actually more likely to attend and graduate from college than they were in the 1970s and 1980s. The share of men 25 to 29 who hold a bachelor’s degree has also increased, to 22 percent—a rate significantly higher than that for older cohorts of men. But the number of women enrolling in and graduating from college has increased much more rapidly during the same time period. The proportion of women enrolling in college after high school graduation, for example, increased nearly 50 percent between the early 1970s and 2001, and nearly 25 percent of women ages 25 to 29 now hold bachelor’s degrees.

While it’s possible to debate whether men’s college attendance is increasing fast enough to keep up with economic changes, it’s simply inaccurate to imply that men are disappearing from college campuses or that they are doing worse than they were 10 or 20 years ago. Men’s higher-education attainment is not declining; it’s increasing, albeit at a slower rate than that of women.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:11 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

March 12, 2013

Kafka-esque, It Is!

The President's much-vaunted transparency:

The most absurd example came a couple years ago when a group of Washington watchdogs went to the White House to give the president a “transparency” award, and the president refused to accept the award in public. The meeting wasn’t even listed on the president’s public schedule.

The watchdogs shouldn’t be fooled so easily. In March 2010, the Associated Press found that, under Obama, 17 major agencies were 50 percent more likely to deny FOIA requests than under Bush. The following year, the presidents of two journalism societies— Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Professional Journalists—called out President Obama for muzzling scientists in much the same way President Bush had. Last September, Bloomberg News tested Obama’s pledge by filing FOIA requests for the 2011 travel records of top officials at 57 agencies. Only about half responded. In fact, this president has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all prior administrations combined. And an analysis released Monday by the Associated Press found that the administration censored more FOIA requests on national security grounds last year than in any other year since President Obama took office.

Even when members of his own party ask questions, the Obama White House throws down an iron curtain. After demanding answers about the government response to the BP oil spill, Democratic Arizona Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva sent a long letter to Obama expressing disappointment with the “unjustifiable” redactions he received, “including entire pages blacked out in the middle of pertinent e-mail conversations.”

One of the most glaring examples of Obama’s failure on transparency is his response to the “Fast and Furious” fiasco—the botched attempt by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to find Mexican drug lords by tracking guns smuggled from the United States into Mexico. The debacle came to light when ATF whistleblowers met with investigators working for Sen. Grassley. Grassley sent a letter to the Department of Justice demanding answers; not realizing Grassley already had documents that laid out the operation, officials at Justice responded with false and misleading information that violated federal law. When Grassley pressed the issue, the Justice Department retracted its initial response but refused to say anything more, which has resulted in multiple hearings and subpoenas.

The storyline is classic Washington: Whistleblowers run to Congress about bad behavior; Congress demands answers; the White House throws up a wall. But where is the outrage, especially from the very groups who are supposed to be holding the government accountable? It doesn’t exist. Writing about Fast and Furious for the Huffington Post, Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight mused whether the entire inquiry being led by Republicans was merely “partisanship” run amok. Wouldn’t it have been more logical for her to ask why Democrats hadn’t joined Republicans in demanding that the White House respond?
Such a poor grasp of the facts could be caused by the involvement of Rep. Darrell Issa, who was ordered years ago by the Republican leadership to turn the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform into a war machine against the White House. However, in this case, Issa was in the right.
As the administration continued to insist they had no involvement or knowledge of the ATF program, Issa released several Fast and Furious wiretap applications with signatures of top Justice Department officials. Rather than attacking the administration’s stonewalling, Melanie Sloan, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, attacked Rep. Issa for releasing the sealed documents.

Never mind that every investigative committee releases sealed documents. (I cannot tell you how many times my Senate Finance Committee colleagues and I released documents that were under seal.) It’s how Congress functions and does its job. However, CREW’s close ties to ethics czar Eisen might explain why Sloan was so quick to go on the partisan attack.
Tired of stonewalling, House Republicans threatened Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt, forcing Obama’s hand. In 2007, presidential candidate Obama told the Boston Globe, “My view is that executive privilege generally depends on the involvement of the president and the White House.” He must take a different view of it now, as Obama declared executive privilege to protect the Department of Justice as well, compelling the House to vote for contempt.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Serious Suggestion to "Fix" Schools So Boys Will Get Better Grades

If this didn't exist, we'd have to make it up:

Solution

Lynn Mack teaches math at Piedmont Technical College in South Carolina. A young African American man fails to show up for the final exam. But Lynn really wants him to pass the course, so she puts the final exam in the college testing lab and tells them to give it to him if he shows up within seven days.

Two weeks later he shows up. But Lynn really wants him to pass the course, so she tells the testing lab to give him the exam. He gets a 97. He aces the exam!

Most faculty are horrified by this story and indicate they would have failed the student, preventing yet another African American male from completing college. Homework should be graded based on the learning and knowledge gained, not unrelated behavior such as when it is completed.

The solution:

Woodward supports the contention that grades should not be based on behavior unrelated to learning and knowledge

Grades should not be based upon attendance, punctuality, or behavior in class.

Grades should not be used to reward or to punish students. The purpose of the grade is to represent what students have learned.

Homework completion should not be a part of the grade. For many reasons homework completion is not an indicator of what was learned.

Based on this seminal (pun fully intended) research, the Editorial Staff have decided to eliminate all deadlines from the workplace... but only for male co-workers, who cannot be expected to follow rules, complete assignments on time, or - apparently - even be at work during normal working hours. The poor dears - one must make allowances :p

In future, we shall forget all this nonsense about punctuality and dependability and only hire people who do really, really well on tests. We bet this sort of out-of-the-box thinking will work really well in the Marine Corps, too.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:56 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

March 11, 2013

All Right, So You're Bored. Do It Anyway

If we had a dime for every time we said this when our sons were growing up, we'd be richer than Al Gore.

Because we haven't had time to get to that mega-post on why boys and young men aren't doing as well as girls and young women in school, we offer this as prelude. An educator who specializes in gifted and talented kids explains why parents shouldn't be take complaints that school is "boring" too seriously:

Sometimes, in an effort to advocate for our child’s happiness, we forget that being bored is a part of life—and that extremely valuable lessons can come out of facing it head on. Everyone is bored at some point--in school, in a job, in life. No matter what dream occupation we may eventually hope to have, parts of it are bound to be dull, tedious, monotonous. As adults we learn that there are ways to cope with these realities, if only to get through them. We sit down, we suck it up, and we power through filing our taxes because, when we are done, we’ll know how much money our refund check will be worth. We’ll clean out that garage, the project we’ve been dreading for months, and when it’s done perhaps we’ll congratulate (and reward) ourselves with a celebratory beer. Persevering against boredom in the very face of that boredom is what builds tenacity and the patience to solve long-term problems. Scientists have not discovered a cure for cancer yet, but surely they are far less likely to do so if they find the task of crunching the numbers after an elaborate experiment too dull or boring to do.

Struggling through tasks that seem tedious or remedial may in fact be the very ones that, in the long run, add up to mastery. Michaelangelo is credited with commenting that, “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.” Tedium may not be useless. Ask yourself this question: what are you really good at and how many times did you have to go through the boring stages of practice before you got there? How many thousands and thousands of backhand swings must Venus Williams have executed before she became a pro? Students in school need the opportunity to figure out these lessons as well.

The Editorial Staff have been bemused of late by righty pundits who latch on to every excuse in the book to explain poor performance in school... well, at least when the students in question are boys. The "I'm bored" excuse is quite possibly the lamest of a long litany of ludicrous excuses parents clutch at when their little darling brings home bad grades.

Note to parents: the world, whether it manifests itself as a prospective employer, a boss, a professor, or a spouse, is under no obligation to rearrange itself to keep your child amused and entertained.

Our own job contains many tedious and even unpleasant tasks, and the notion that one needn't complete assignments unless they are designed to be personally fascinating (or worse, that we need only do things we "see the point of") is about as good a recipe for a lifetime of chronic unemployment and failure as we can imagine.

Adults are - or ought to be - capable of drawing the line between spineless obedience and entitled narcissism. What gets most of us to the point where we're able to make such choices wisely is a lot of experience (much of which involves having our own stupidity and lack of foresight pointed out to use by older and wiser humans).

Children, on the otter heiny, rarely have the wisdom or experience to see the point of most things adults ask them to do. If they did, kids would be running the world and adults would be going to their 10 year olds for pocket money.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:20 AM | Comments (45) | TrackBack

Maryland Congresscritter Proposes "Get a Grip" Law

“I just kept on biting it and biting it and tore off the top of it and kind of looked like a gun,” the seven-year-old told Fox News.

“But it wasn’t,” he astutely added.

- Josh Welch, 2nd Grader, displaying the kind of critical thinking skills schools are supposed to encourage

Just when we were beginning to think that nothing could ease the shame of residing in the People's Republic of Maryland...

A Maryland state senator has crafted a bill to curb the zeal of public school officials who are tempted to suspend students as young as kindergarten for having things — or talking about things, or eating things — that represent guns, but aren’t actually anything like real guns.

Sen. J. B. Jennings, a Republican who represents Baltimore Harford Counties, introduced “The Reasonable School Discipline Act of 2013″ on Thursday, reports The Star Democrat.

...Senate Bill 1058 restricts the disciplinary options Maryland public school officials can use for any student who “brings to school or possesses” an image of a gun or an object that might look like a gun but isn’t one.

Students could also form their fingers in the shape of a gun without fear of reprisal.

The bill also includes a section mandating counseling for school officials who fail to distinguish between guns and things that resemble guns. School officials who fail to make such a distinction more than once would face discipline themselves.

If we weren't utterly convinced that no good can come from the Maryland Assembly, we'd be tempted to opine that this sounds suspiciously like common sense.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:20 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 08, 2013

Mein Gott im Himmel!!!

knut_abased.jpgHomo sapiens to Ursus maritimus: get stuffed.

Adorable in life, still attracting admirers in death: Knut the polar bear's hide has been mounted on a polyurethane body and is going on display in a Berlin museum.

The Natural History Museum on Friday unveiled the statue prepared by taxidermists featuring the famous Berlin Zoo bear's fur and claws, with the synthetic body and glass eyes.

The display runs through March 15. Knut will then be added to the museum's scientific collections.

Those wacky, anthropomorphizing Krauts! Can't they leave a dead polar bear in peace?

Tragically, it appears the Germans are determined to leave no re madly lucrative merchandizing opportunity unplumbed. Even in death, our beloved Knut (the Adorably Psychotic Gay Teen Bear) will not be free from the cold, uncaring stares of specie-ist humans; to say nothing of their insatiable desire to project their neuroses onto a helpless, melanin-deprived member of the Deutsche-Ursinian Community.

Knut has endured his share of travails over the course of his too-brief life. Depressed by the Bush administration's reckless and arrogant cowboy diplomacy, our hero first sought refuge in forays into the world of bad-bear culture and tabloid publicity:

...stories of Knut's increasingly embarrassing encounters with bootleg sex tapes, anorexic Czech supermodels, designer drugs, and bad techno music continue to spin out of control, largely thanks to the environmental depredations of an uncaring Bush administration and its inexplicable refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocols. Naturlich, the NY Times laps up every last delicious detail...

This regrettable chapter in Knut's life was quickly eclipsed by his admirable attempts to raise global awareness of The Horror of Ursine Misandry and woman-on-man domestic violence:

When last we left our fave sexually confused teen bear, he was sporting a soul patch and cavorting with sloe-eyed Italian bear-babes whilst PETA operatives schemed to deprive him of his Lucky Charms:
PETA is now demanding that Berlin zookeepers castrate Knut, as things have started to get fairly serious between the Vanity Fair cover bear and his girlfriend Giovanna. Giovanna hails from Munich, but has been temporarily crashing with Knut while her place there was getting fixed up. Of course things were a little tense at first—she hit his face; he gradually grew out of his boyish good looks—but over time they just got used to living together and eventually they fell in love. The twist is that Giovanna and Knut actually share a grandfather. It’s always something, isn’t it? “Knut fans should be aware that only Knut’s castration would allow a long-term cohabitation of Giovanna and Knut. All other hopes and desires would bring the polar bear population in captivity to its pre-programmed demise even more rapidly,” said a PETA spokesman, as reported in Der Spiegel.

Ah, but the course of true love ne'er doth run smooth, doth it? In the fullness of time it was revealed that the young hussy was more interested in his carrots than his stick (groan...):

Even in the Afterlife, poor Knut is not safe. But perhaps he can look down from that Big Ice Floe in the Sky and take comfort that he is making some of his fellow Germans extremely wealthy.

He gives and he gives and he gives...

Posted by Cassandra at 04:22 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 07, 2013

These People Need Your Help...

...to buy hats (inside joke - a stuffed marmoset by parcel post to the lucky reader who recognizes the reference). This came in over the transom from a co-worker:

A driver was stuck in a traffic jam on the highway outside Washington, DC.

Nothing was moving.

Suddenly, a man knocks on the window.

The driver rolls down the window and asks, "What's going on?"

"Terrorists have kidnapped the entire US Congress, and they're asking for a $100 million dollar ransom. Otherwise, they are going to douse them all in gasoline and set them on fire.

We are going from car to car, collecting donations."

"How much is everyone giving, on an average?" the driver asks.


[wait for it....]


The man replies, "Roughly a gallon.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:49 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 06, 2013

Apparently, The Post Does Not Actually Regret the Error

In fact, they'd prefer it if we just didn't mention it at all:

Without informing readers in the story or elsewhere, on Monday night The Washington Post deleted its explicit claim that the Dominican prostitute who recanted her allegation against Sen. Robert Menendez had appeared in a video posted to The Daily Caller.

...Readers were not notified of the update anywhere on the article page of Leonnig’s story, and the time stamp was removed to make it impossible to know when the edits went into effect.

The Post published another story at noon on Monday by Leonnig covering TheDC’s refutation of her original piece. In it, Leonnig does not explicitly state her investigation covered the same women interviewed by TheDC.

We're beginning to understand the value of the professional media's rigorous layers of editorial fact checking and control. The use of anonymous sources whose motivation can't be questioned can be quite helpful here, along with the use of subtle hints about connections that don't actually exist. All this indirection is so much harder to fact check:

A Dominican politician related to a top political donor to Sen. Bob Menendez was the driving force promoting new claims from a woman who now says she concocted an allegation that the senator paid her for sex in 2012.

The Miami Herald reported Tuesday that Vinicio Castillo Semán, the cousin of Dr. Salomon Melgen, first released an affidavit Monday from a Dominican escort named Nexis de los Santos Santana, who recanted what she said were accusations she made in a media report.

The Washington Post quickly connected that affidavit to The Daily Caller’s Nov. 1, 2012 report, in which two women said on videotape that they were paid to provide sexual favors to Menendez. But de los Santos’ statement Monday appears to describe a different interview that was never published.

Isn't this the kind of thing that normally shows up in the corrections section of a major newspaper? Oh well, at least the media can comfort themselves that they're far more professional than the blog rabble.

Sheesh. This is twice in the space of a week Monsieur O'Spades has done something that makes us feel positively tingly. If he keeps this up, we'll have to create a new category just for him.

Full marks. CWCID: Patterico.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:23 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 05, 2013

And In Other News...

...water is wet:

The reaction on Twitter to major political events and policy decisions often differs a great deal from public opinion as measured by surveys. This is the conclusion of a year-long Pew Research Center study that compared the results of national polls to the tone of tweets in response to eight major news events, including the outcome of the presidential election, the first presidential debate and major speeches by Barack Obama.

At times the Twitter conversation is more liberal than survey responses, while at other times it is more conservative. Often it is the overall negativity that stands out. Much of the difference may have to do with both the narrow sliver of the public represented on Twitter as well as who among that slice chose to take part in any one conversation.

Next they'll be telling us that people who stop and think about things before making up their minds are different from those who don't. Or even worse, that surveys may not accurately reflect public opinion either.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:22 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Hollow Middle

Via Tyler Cowen, an interesting observation:

Mid-wage occupations, paying between $13.83 and $21.13 per hour, made up about 60 percent of the job losses during the recession. But those mid-wage jobs have made up just 27 percent of the jobs gained during the recovery.

By contrast, low-wage occupations paying less than $13.83 per hour have utterly dominated the recovery, with 58 percent of the job gains since 2010.

job-losses-gains.png

The linked article continues:

This isn’t a new phenomenon: Over the past decade high-wage and low-wage jobs have been growing at a decent clip. But that middle rung continues to get hollowed out. Mid-wage jobs endured a major drop after the 2001 recession, largely stagnated during the 2000s, and have now declined even further in the most recent downturn.

OccupationalGrowthRates.jpeg

Are we experiencing a repeat of the industrial revolution?

If we turn to the industrial revolution, what do we see? Relatively high productivity from “restructuring,” (machinery replacing labor) but relatively low productivity from innovation or total factor productivity.

...During the early 19th century, there is much creative ferment, but much less in terms of products which translate into gains in living standards for the average person.

By the way, you also have theorists — Malthus, Lauderdale, Chalmers, Attwood, and others — who thought the main problem was simply lack of aggregate demand, which Malthus called effectual demand. They were absolutely right about part of the picture in the short run but missed most of the larger truths.

Eventually all of the creative ferment of the industrial revolution pays off in a big “whoosh,” but it takes many decades, depending on where you draw the starting line of course.

If middle-wage jobs are hollowing out while low and high wage jobs grow, how much sense does the current flirtation with "going Galt" make for young men (don't go to college, don't get married, don't "play their game")? That road seems to lead almost inevitably to relative poverty and a lifetime of dependence and economic insecurity. It's certainly not advice I'd give either of my sons.

In a labor market where "living wage" jobs have grown increasingly scarce, the economic benefits of partnership (aka, marriage) would seem to be maximized. On an earlier post, Texan 99 alluded to a conversation among conservatives who were waxing uber-outragey about "all those pesky women taking jobs that rightly belong to men". The Spousal Unit and I were discussing this over the weekend and were a little surprised to realize that, of our four grandmothers, 3 had college degrees and 3 had careers. Not one had neither a degree nor a job.

All of which got us thinking about skewed perceptions of history. The most interesting part of this chart is the percentage of women working during the 1940s and '50s. I was surprised to see that over one third of women worked:

Labor Force Participation Rate by Gender Over TIme.jpg

During our growing up years (the 60s to mid 70s), that percentage grows from 40-50%. Compare and contrast rising female labor force participation with fluctuations in male unemployment over time:

unemployment rate for men over time.jpg

If there's a clear and compelling argument for the existence of oppression or gender injustice in any of this, we're not seeing it. But lest it be averred that we're not all "equal opportunity" in our goring of gendered oxen, we found this observation on the much-ballyhoo'ed gender pay gap darkly amusing as well:

To what extent has legislation narrowed the gender gap? One piece of legislation is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sex in hiring, promotion, and other conditions of employment. The other is affirmative action. There is only scant evidence that either law has had any effect on the gender gap in earnings or occupations, although not enough research on this has been done to justify strong conclusions one way or the other...

No doubt this phenomenon explains why, in the wake of The Most Significant Blow for Equal Pay Evah, WRA are now clamoring for yet another piece of landmark legislation that will finally (!) level that pesky playing field. Lily Ledbetter, we hardly knew ye!
*sigh*

Never attribute to other factors what can conveniently be attributed to discrimination. Data be damned, how we mortals love the simplistic/single cause theory of pretty much everything. Especially if it lets us blame our problems on the opposite sex.

Discuss amongst yourselves, oppressed knuckle draggers of both sexes.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:01 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack