Your GPA Shows Up In Your Paycheck

by Patrick Appel


Jonnelle Marte examines a new study that uses GPA to predict future earnings:

A report published Monday in the Eastern Economic Journal by researchers from the University of Miami found that a person’s grade-point average in high school not only indicates the person’s chances of getting into college and whether he or she will finish college or graduate school. It could also be an indicator of how much that person will earn later in life.

Indeed, for a one-point increase in a person’s high school GPA, average annual earnings in adulthood increased by about 12 percent for men and about 14 percent for women, the report found. (Men and women were looked at separately since women have lower average earnings than men, making about $30,000 on average in adulthood compared with the average of $43,000 for men.)

Bryce Covert focuses on the gender gap:

The team of University of Miami researchers found that a one-point increase in GPA means a 12 percent boost in earnings for men and a 14 percent boost for women. Even so, there’s a big gender gap in total earnings. A woman who got a 4.0 GPA in high school will only be worth about as much, income-wise, as a man who got a 2.0. A woman with a 2.0 average will make about as much as a man with a 0 GPA. The data also show that average high school GPAs are significantly higher for women, but men will still end up having significantly higher income later on.

It also found that high school grades can indicate the likelihood of going to college, and that a one-point increase doubles the chances of completing a degree for both genders.

Last week, Philip N. Cohen put these kinds of studies in context. He used the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to compare the “Armed Forces Qualifying Test scores, taken in 1999, when the respondents were ages 15-19 with their household income in 2011, when they were 27-31.” He found “a very strong relationship—that correlation of 0.35 means AFQT explains 12 percent of the variation in household income”:

But take heart, ye parents in the age of uncertainty: 12 percent of the variation leaves a lot left over. This variable can’t account for how creative your children are, how sociable, how attractive, how driven, how entitled, how connected, or how white they may be. To get a sense of all the other things that matter, here is the same data, with the same regression line, but now with all 5,248 individual points plotted as well (which means we have to rescale the y-axis):

Test Scores

Each dot is a person’s life—or two aspects of it, anyway—with the virtually infinite sources of variability that make up the wonder of social existence. All of a sudden that strong relationship doesn’t feel like something you can bank on with any given individual.

The Flexibility Of Racial Categories

by Patrick Appel

The latest example of it:

The researchers found that 2.5 million Americans of Hispanic origin, or approximately 7 percent of the 35 million Americans of Hispanic origin in 2000, changed their race from “some other race” in 2000 to “white” in 2010. An additional 1.3 million people switched in the other direction. A noteworthy but unspecified share of the change came from children who weren’t old enough to fill out a form in 2000, but chose for themselves in 2010.

The data provide new evidence consistent with the theory that Hispanics may assimilate as white Americans, like the Italians or Irish, who were not universally considered to be white.

Recent Dish on the social construction of race here.

Why Pull The Trigger? Ctd

by Patrick Appel

Trigger warnings are in the news again. Dan Savage’s objection to them:

Here’s what has always annoyed me about trigger warnings—even when they’re being used for their original purpose, i.e. to warn rape victims about content that discusses rape and not to warn morons about Shylock: Someone who uses a trigger warning before writing about rape or sexual violence will probably write about rape and sexual violence with enough sensitivity that the trigger warning wasn’t necessary. And someone who writes about rape and sexual violence in an insensitive manner won’t be sensitive enough to use a trigger warning. So the kind of writing about rape and sexual violence that may actually trigger someone won’t have trigger warnings and the kind of writing about rape and sexual violence that’s unlikely to trigger someone will have trigger warnings.

So what purpose, then, do trigger warnings serve? It seems to me that they exist not to protect the reader, but to draw attention to the writer. You’ve heard of false consciousness? Well, trigger warnings are false conscientiousness. The writer who uses trigger warnings isn’t saying, “I care about you.” The writer is saying, “Look at meeeeee.” It’s narcissism masquerading as concern.

Alan Jacobs raises another fair point. He decries the “failure to realize that just as important as what you read is whom you read it with — the social and personal context in which you experience and discuss and reflect on a book”:

A list of troublesome “topics” — basically, tagging books with simplistic descriptions — is an utter trivialization of all these matters. Any teachers who think that they have met their moral responsibilities to students by loading their syllabuses with such tags — and any institutions who  find such tags adequate — have grossly misunderstood what education is. And that would be true even if such tags could adequately capture the ways in which a given theme (sexual violence, say) is treated in a given work of art, which they can’t.

If you trust your teacher and your fellow students, then you can risk intellectual encounters that might be more daunting if you were wholly on your own. That trust, when it exists, is grounded in the awareness that your teacher desires your flourishing, and that that teacher and your fellow students share at least some general ideas about what that flourishing consists in.

Richard McNally adds that “these warnings may be counterproductive”:

Trigger warnings are designed to help survivors avoid reminders of their trauma, thereby preventing emotional discomfort. Yet avoidance reinforces PTSD. Conversely, systematic exposure to triggers and the memories they provoke is the most effective means of overcoming the disorder. According to a rigorous analysis by the Institute of Medicine, exposure therapy is the most efficacious treatment for PTSD, especially in civilians who have suffered trauma such as sexual assault. For example, prolonged exposure therapy, the cognitive behavioral treatment pioneered by clinical psychologists Edna B. Foa and Barbara O. Rothbaum, entails having clients close their eyes and recount their trauma in the first-person present tense. After repeated imaginal relivings, most clients experience significant reductions in PTSD symptoms, as traumatic memories lose their capacity to cause emotional distress. Working with their therapists, clients devise a hierarchy of progressively more challenging trigger situations that they may confront in everyday life. By practicing confronting these triggers, clients learn that fear subsides, enabling them to reclaim their lives and conquer PTSD.

But Kat Stoeffel, formerly a critic of trigger warnings, has changed her mind. She writes, “what now strikes me most about trigger warnings is how small a request they are, in proportion to the backlash they incite”:

There’s some debate about the legitimacy of trigger warnings, since the triggers of post-traumatic-stress disorder are often so personal and idiosyncratic (a smell, a song, an elevated heart rate) that no one could effectively “warn” everyone. But when it comes to what’s helpful for, say, survivors of sexual assault, shouldn’t we defer to survivors of sexual assault? Activists at U.C. Santa Barbara would simply like to have known ahead of time that an assigned film contained a rape scene, a neutral disclaimer that impinges on neither the filmmaker’s freedom of speech nor the other students’ intellectual development. At worst, it’s a plot spoiler.\

In a more mainstream context, the trigger-warning backlash feels like part of a larger reaction against the needs of marginalized groups — even when they’re perfectly easy to accommodate — simply because they are the minority.

Laurie Penny also defends trigger warnings:

Trigger warnings are fundamentally about empathy. They are a polite plea for more openness, not less; for more truth, not less. They allow taboo topics and the experience of hurt and pain, often by marginalised people, to be spoken of frankly. They are the opposite of censorship.

In the mainstream press, it is common for newscasters to warn viewers if they are about to see “potentially distressing” content, but it is more common still for reports and narratives to be censored for the benefit of the delicate. Instead of hearing what precisely a famous publicist did to an underage girl in his car, writers simply tell us that he “abused” her. Instead of hearing exactly what a famous comedian said about Asian people, or black people, we are told that he used “offensive language”.

And in all the coverage of the “trigger warning phenomenon”, what I can’t help but pick up on is bristling outrage at the very idea that alternative readings of culture might have to be taken into account. Outrage that there might be different ways of telling stories, different experiences that have hitherto been silenced but are now being voiced en masse, different outlooks that are being introduced to culture and literature by readers, writers and creators who have grown up expecting to suffer trauma but not to speak of it. Trigger warnings are not about censorship – they are about openness, and that’s what’s really threatening.

The Price We Pay For Cost-Sharing

by Patrick Appel

Cost Sharing

Aaron Carroll notes that high copays keep people with chronic illnesses from getting medical care:

study just published in JAMA Pediatrics looked at how children with asthma obtained care under different levels of cost-sharing, and how much stress their families were under financially because of their child’s illness. It’s important to understand that children with asthma, by definition, require care. We want them to use the health care system. With respect to asthma, prevention and maintenance are far better than trying to treat a child already suffering from an attack.

What we see from this study is that families with higher levels of cost-sharing were significantly more likely to delay or avoid going to the office or emergency room for their child’s asthma. They were more likely to have to borrow or cut back on necessities to afford care. They were more likely to avoid care. This isn’t a good outcome. We’re talking about children with a completely manageable chronic condition who are being hampered by cost-sharing. That’s not what cost-sharing is supposed to do.

He points out that it “doesn’t have to be this way”:

In France, co-pays are set by levels of sickness. Those who have chronic conditions have all of their co-pays waived. Even Singapore, beloved among conservative health care wonks because of its reliance on cost-sharing, makes exceptions for many with chronic illnesses. The rules do so explicitly to encourage them to seek care.

The Ideologue Who Doesn’t Know He’s An Ideologue

by Patrick Appel

Luke Ford interviews Nicholas Wade about his shoddy book on race and genetics:

Luke: “What were the biggest challenges in writing this book?”

Nicholas: “I think the biggest challenge was that I had so few scientific sources to guide me in interpretation because this is an area where academics cannot tread for fear of being accused of racism and careers destroyed. All of the coverage of this topic in the scientific literature has the basic facts but few people draw them together. So I found the lack of guidance difficult, even more so when I came to the second part of the book. Historians and economics just never consider human evolution as a variable. They just assume all of the populations they are dealing with are interchangeable and that natural selection never need be an explanation to even consider. So there again, there was no guidance for someone trying to figure out the possible consequences of the fact that human evolution has continued and has never come to a stop.”

This is a clever way for Wade to explain why he couldn’t find many academics who agree with his thesis. By blaming political correctness, as Wade does repeatedly in his book, he attempts to portray himself as a brave truth-teller and academics as victims of political correctness. Here’s a representative passage where Wade deploys this trick:

[A]t present most university departments lean strongly to the left. Any researcher who even discusses issues politically offensive to the left runs the risk of antagonizing the professional colleagues who must approve his requests for government funds and review his articles for publication. Self-censorship is the frequent response, especially in anything to do with the recent differential evolution of the human population. It takes only a few vigilantes to cow the whole campus. The result is that researchers at present routinely ignore the biology of race, or tiptoe around the subject, lest they be accused of racism by their academic rivals and see their careers destroyed.

This is a feeble attempt to dismiss the views of the academic community. At the very least, there are valid arguments to be made in defense of seeing race as a social rather than biological construct. Wade is free to reject those arguments, but he hardly bothers to recognize that they exist. Instead, he thinks “commonsense” refutes them. In most situations, I side with the belief favored by the majority of experts with relevant knowledge. Saying they are wrong because commonsense says so is a laughably weak attempt to challenge the general consensus in the relevant literature. Jonathan Marks’s review touches on Wade’s sleight of hand:

At the heart of A Troublesome Inheritance is a simple dissimulation. Wade repeatedly asserts that his interlocutors are mixing their politics with their science, but he isn’t, for he is just promoting value-neutral, ideology-free science. And yet the primary sources for Wade’s discussion of the history of human society are Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington. One gets the impression that either Wade is lying, or he wouldn’t be able to recognize ideology if looked him in the eye and slapped him silly.

Noah Smith explains the psychological trap Wade has fallen into:

Academic racism is very alluring, for at least three reasons. First, it tells us that all our stereotypes and prejudices are basically right – and we humans like to be told that all our preconceptions are right. We suffer from confirmation bias. Second, academic racism feels cool and edgy and rebellious, because political correctness still often banishes it from the realm of acceptable discourse. It’s fun to feel like the scientific rebel, fighting for The Facts against the thought control of The Establishment. And third, academic racism provides a convenient excuse for racism of the non-academic kind. Scared that a big, masculine black guy will take your girlfriend? Worried that hard-working, intelligent (but “uncreative”) immigrants will take your job? Academic racism provides convenient stories to justify policies that protect you against threats like these – at the expense of the black guys and the immigrants, of course.

Previous Dish on Wade’s book here.

What Did The Establishment Win Last Night?

by Patrick Appel

David Graham warns observers not to read too much into Mitch McConnell’s win last night:

[H]ere’s what this tells us about the Tea Party-establishment war, and what my colleague Molly Ball calls The Dynamic, the national theme that explains all races: Probably not much. What it shows is that it’s not enough to challenge an incumbent from the right in a red state. It’s not even enough for the incumbent to be very vulnerable. The two cases where Tea Party candidates unseated sitting senators—Mike Lee in Utah and Richard Mourdock in Indiana—have come when the incumbent was caught off-guard and the challenger was a strong candidate. Neither was the case in Kentucky.

Michael Tomasky thinks this election is just a bump in the road for the Tea Party:

[W]hile 2014 is, to be sure, going to go down as a bad Tea Party year in electoral terms, we certainly can’t yet say the same of 2016—a much more important year, i.e. presidential.

In fact, as of today, what we can say about 2016, speculative as it may be, is that the tea party is if anything in the driver’s seat. The guy we’ve all taken to calling the GOP front-runner, Rand Paul, is a Tea Party guy. That simple fact alone hardly makes for anything I’d call dead.

Beyond Paul, numerous potential candidates are backed by the Tea Party or in some sense have that aura about them. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker—even Mike Huckabee, if he casts his lure [good] into the waters, will be fishing in the Tea Party pond for votes. Yes, there’ll be a Chris Christie or a Jeb Bush to represent the establishment. But if most of the candidates are flat-out Tea Party people or at least Tea Party-friendly creatures, that means to me that the pull of gravity in that primary season is still going to be pretty far to the right, and driven to some decent extent by Tea Party priorities. And let’s face it: If the party does nominate Paul, the Tea Party will have won the biggest prize in intra-party politics: determining the presidential nominee. So 2016 could well be a huge Tea Party year.

Ben Jacobs makes an important point has been made before:

[T]he lesson is not that the Establishment beat the Tea Party or vice versa but that the two are becoming increasingly similar. There aren’t primaries as there were two or four years ago with moderate mandarins like Mike Castle or Dick Lugar. Instead, the candidates from each wing of the Republican Party are starting to look more alike and taking positions on issues like taxes, immigration and climate change that would have been considered far right wing in George Bush’s GOP. The fights between establishment candidates and Tea Party candidates increasingly bear a greater resemblance to nitpicking theological disputes than to Rockefeller vs. Goldwater in ideological magnitude


Kilgore unpacks last night’s results:

According to the “Year of the Republican Establishment” narrative, it was the finest of nights for Mitch McConnell and his GOP elite friends. He crushed his own tea party opponent, Matt Bevin and the “Establishment” candidate for Senate in Oregon got lucky when a multi-faceted stalking scandal occurred after most voters had cast ballots by mail. And best of all, in a state where a wild primary threatened GOP calculations to take over the Senate, Georgia, the two “Establishment” candidates will meet in a runoff after snuffing potential Todd Akin clones Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey and possible trouble-maker Karen Handel.

It’s a nice picture, and welcome after the troublesome Senate results last week in Nebraska. But its linchpin, the Georgia Senate race, is a bit — actually a lot — more complicated than that.

One reason why:

It will be interesting to see how Georgia Tea Folk line up for the runoff. Herman Cain is already in Perdue’s corner. Late in the night, major Handel backer Erick Erickson said he’d support Kingston. In an unusually long runoff campaign (nine weeks), with both candidates having access to plenty of money, the steady drift-to-the-right that characterized the entire primary field could continue.

Molly Ball provides more background on the Georgia race. Nate Cohn considers the chances of Michelle Nunn, the Democrats’ nominee:

Ms. Nunn’s job could be made easier if Mr. Perdue or Mr. Kingston proves to be an especially weak candidate. Mr. Kingston, an experienced congressman, seems less likely to make a major mistake, but Mr. Perdue is a political novice.

Ms. Nunn’s chances, then, can’t be completely dismissed. Demographic change has pushed Georgia far enough that a Democrat could conceivably squeak out a narrow win if everything goes right. But there should be no mistaking this race for a true tossup. Ms. Nunn will need to match the best performance by a Democratic candidate for federal office in more than a decade, even though she’s not an incumbent and the state’s white voters have become more conservative. It is possible, but hardly an outcome to count on.

Marriage Equality’s Remarkable Winning Streak

by Patrick Appel

Jay Michaelson worries that the recent state marriage equality rulings are on a collision course with the Supreme Court:

[T]he lofty rhetoric of these [state] decisions and their legal reasoning are a far cry from Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in United States v. Windsor, which invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act less than a year ago. As a challenge to a state marriage amendment or law now seems destined to end up at the Supreme Court, probably in the next term, these discrepancies should be cause for concern.

Emily Bazelon isn’t fretting:

[T]he momentum raises a question no one would have dreamed of a year ago: Will gay marriage become the law of the land without the Supreme Court doing anything more? … Add it all up, including Pennsylvania, and we’ve arrived at 29 states where same-sex marriage is legal or on its way there unless an appeals court blocks it—past the halfway point and far past the tipping point. (Yes, 32 states still have laws or constitutional amendments on the books that deny marriage equality to same-sex couples. But those are the laws that are toppling like a line of dominoes.)

We’ve arrived here so much faster and more agreeably than anyone could have predicted even a year ago, when the challenges post-Windsor looked like they would split the district courts, take their time wending their way through the appellate process, and maybe arrive back at the Supreme Court in, say, 2017, safely after the next election. Instead, no judge wants to write the opinion denying the benefit of marriage. Judge John Jones of federal district court in Pennsylvania, who issued [yesterday’s] ruling, was endorsed by none other than Rick Santorum, beloved of the religious right. Judges aren’t supposed to rule by the polls, but that doesn’t mean they’re unaffected by the rising tide of public support, especially among young people. As Northwestern University law professor Andrew M. Koppelman said to Adam Liptak in the New York Times: “It is becoming increasingly clear to judges that if they rule against same-sex marriage their grandchildren will regard them as bigots.”

Dale Carpenter analyzes the PA ruling:

Unlike most other district courts recently, Judge Jones held that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry.  He held that the Pennsylvania couples were not seeking a “new” right but only participation in an old one, the right to marry.

Carpenter also points out that, “unlike most other district courts, he determined that sexual-orientation discrimination triggers intermediate scrutiny”:

This intermediate-scrutiny approach seems to me to be the most doctrinally grounded way to strike down bans on same-sex marriage. It leaves in place the deferential caste of rational-basis review. It also makes clear what every court seems to have recognized recently: that there is a long history of discrimination against gays and lesbians, that sexual orientation is unrelated to individual merit, that it continues to be difficult for homosexuals to get legal protection through the political process in many areas of the country, and that there is not an “exceedingly persuasive” reason to exclude gay couples from marriage (even if there is a jurisprudentially “rational” one).

John Culhane notes that the plaintiffs in PA “won on both liberty and equality arguments”:

Early on, the marriage equality litigation focused on the denial of equality to same-sex couples. That was thought to be a more sympathetic strategy than trying to claim that the fundamental right to marry (a liberty interest, constitutionally speaking) extended to same-sex marriages. That’s because the Supreme Court has sometimes defined “fundamental rights” quite narrowly and limited those rights to those who were historically protected. But increasingly, courts are finding that the fundamental right to marry means a right to marry the person of one’s choice, history aside. That’s what Judge Jones held, with pointed reference to Loving v. Virginia, where the high court struck down an anti-miscegenation law. That states had long barred interracial marriages didn’t make Virginia’s historical choice acceptable, and it’s no longer acceptable in the same-sex marriage context, either.

What Will Clinton Campaign On?

by Patrick Appel

Andrew Prokop picks up on Hillary’s new inequality rhetoric:

[In a recent speech,] Clinton is positioning herself as a kind of global crusader against income inequality, urging corrupt and wealthy elites to do something about this challenge. And by bringing up the Arab Spring, she alludes to the “explosive results” that could occur if the US doesn’t do something to address it. “Many Americans feel frustrated, even angry,” she said. Though Clinton never explicitly argues that social upheaval akin to the Arab Spring could happen here, bringing it up in this context clearly underscores the need for urgent action. So rather than arguing that her Secretary tenure makes her qualified to lead on foreign affairs, she’s saying it beefs up her qualifications on domestic policy.

Beinart thinks Hillary is already targeting Jeb:

Clinton is not a great inspirational speaker. She’s at her best arguing a case. And the most effective part of her speech Friday was her case for why Clinton-administration policies—an expanded earned-income tax credit, a higher minimum wage, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program—helped poor and middle-class Americans get ahead, while the Bush administration policies that followed—tax breaks for the rich, unfunded wars—made their struggles harder.

If Republicans are smart, they’ll do everything in their power to avoid this debate. First, because they want to portray Hillary as running for Barack Obama’s third term, not her husband’s, since the Obama legacy is trickier to defend. Second, because the 2016 GOP nominee needs to embody change, which is hard to do when you’re depicted as George W. Bush. Third, because Bill Clinton is about 20 points more popular than Bush, and that’s highly unlikely to change over the next two years.

The one Republican presidential candidate who can’t avoid this debate is Jeb, a man who is known to the vast majority of Americans only as George W. Bush’s brother. Running him in 2016 is like nominating a close relative of Jefferson Davis as the Democratic Party’s nominee in 1872 or nominating a prominent member of Herbert Hoover’s cabinet to represent the GOP in 1948: It dredges up a past the party desperately needs to transcend.

An Atrocity Early Warning System

by Patrick Appel

Mass Killings

Jay Ulfelder is working on one:

For the past couple of years, I have been working as a consultant to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for the Prevention of Genocide to help build a new early-warning system for mass atrocities around the world. Six months ago, we started running the second of our two major forecasting streams, a “wisdom of (expert) crowds” platform that aggregates probabilistic forecasts from a pool of topical and area experts on potential events of concern. (See this conference paper for more detail.)

The chart [above] summarizes the output from that platform on most of the questions we’ve asked so far about potential new episodes of mass killing before 2015. For our early-warning system, we define a mass killing as an episode of sustained violence in which at least 1,000 noncombatant civilians from a discrete group are intentionally killed, usually in a period of a year or less. Each line in the chart shows change over time in the daily average of the inputs from all of the participants who choose to make a forecast on that question. In other words, the line is a mathematical summary of the wisdom of our assembled crowd—now numbering nearly 100—on the risk of a mass killing beginning in each case before the end of 2014.