Arrived in my pile

by on January 29, 2014 at 2:50 pm in Books | Permalink

1. The Myth of Achievement Tests: the GED and the Role of Character in American Life, edited by James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries, and Tim Kautz.

2. Dale W. Jorgenson, Richard J. Goettle, Mun S. Ho, and Peter J. Wilcoxen, Double Dividend: Environmental Taxes and Fiscal Reform in the United States.

3.  Arnon Grünberg, Mit Haut und Haaren.  This Dutch novel, now translated into German, is partially set in the economics department at George Mason University, circa the turn of the millennium.  A quick browse revealed one scene with a character clearly based on Andrew Sellgren, I wonder who else shows up?  The author is best known for writing Tirza, however.

1 john personna January 29, 2014 at 2:56 pm

I always thought that the GED only documented that someone did something constructive to get out of the “nothing” state. The GED being better than.

2 PD Shaw January 29, 2014 at 3:54 pm

If this is the material i heard on NPR a few weeks ago, I think they are claiming a person with a GED is not really better than someone without a high school degree. However, the NPR program was not using the term “character” to describe the issue, so much as social intelligence. It might be better for an employer to disregard a GED and consider other factors.

3 PD Shaw January 29, 2014 at 4:08 pm

. . . and there was discussion about young people treating the GED as an alternative to a traditional high school diploma and dropping out, instead of using as a second chance.

4 Samantha Erickson January 29, 2014 at 8:42 pm

Think about it from their perspective. Why bother with high school when you can easily pass the GED and move on with your life? Its faster and less of a pain.

5 R January 29, 2014 at 4:09 pm

The biggest problem with the GED is that it often counts the same as graduation on statistics. Because many schools and systems are evaluated on their graduation rate, this means that schools actively encourage borderline kids to get a GED rather than sticking with a traditional high school diploma. If it weren’t for that then the GED would be fine. It wouldn’t do much good, as it’s not a great signal, but it wouldn’t be hurt anyone either.

6 Steve Sailer January 29, 2014 at 2:57 pm

According to Heckman, a big problem with the GED, especially for black males, is that a large fraction are earned in prison:

7 albatross January 31, 2014 at 11:10 am

My guess is that if GEDs became the way most homeschooled kids got their high school diploma, or a standard way for bright 15 year olds to test out of the rest of their high school classes all at once, then we would suddenly see GEDs correlate with good outcomes and become a meaningful signal. Some employers would even seek them out.

On the other hand, if GEDs are mainly gotten by prisoners and high-school dropouts who are trying to improve their lot later in life, they’re going to correlate with all kinds of bad outcomes.

8 Marie January 31, 2014 at 8:08 pm

I think there was a blip of time when that might have been a direction, but these days if you have an inclination to have an institution rubber stamp your home schooling (which is becoming less and less necessary) there are ways to do it that don’t sound GEDish.

9 mulp January 29, 2014 at 3:23 pm

2. The unread review copies sell for $47, but the used review copies sell for the $60 list price???

Does that signal the immediate rejection of the idea of taxes by half the economists without even reviewing the thesis?

10 Z January 29, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Using the GED as a proxy for all achievement tests is a bit strange. From the marketing material on Amazon, it appears that’s what he is doing here. The GED could be useless, but that has nothing to say about the validity of other competency tests. Now, if he is arguing that a test does not tell us as much about a person’s knowledge base as completion of a program, then that is a different matter. In fact, that would be interesting as the growth of on-line learning and self-study proliferates.

11 Steve Sailer January 29, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Why is the federal government’s favored measure of high school graduation misleading? It’s biased in large part by counting as graduates those dropouts who subsequently pass the GED test (the “General Educational Development” exam, often referred to, incorrectly, as the “Graduation Equivalency Degree”.) Heckman’s earlier research shows, however, that the GED counts for less in the eyes of potential employers than does a genuine high school degree:

“Although GED recipients have the same measured academic ability as high school graduates who do not attend college, they have the economic and social outcomes of otherwise similar dropouts without certification.”

Dropouts who can pass the GED test are generally smarter than dropouts who can’t, but they tend to have poor work ethics:

“Despite measures of cognitive ability similar to high school graduates, GED recipients perform significantly worse in all dimensions when compared to them (Heckman and Rubinstein [2001]). GED recipients lack noncognitive skills such as perseverance and motivation that are essential to success in school and in life.”

Indeed, over 10 percent of all GEDs are earned in prison:

“However, minority male high school completers are almost twice as likely as white males to possess a GED certificate (Cameron and Heckman [1993]). … A significant portion of the [ethnic] convergence reported in the official statistics is due to black males obtaining GED credentials in prison.”

Needless to say, boning up for the GED is a better way to pass the time in the slammer than such popular alternatives as sharpening a shiv on your cell’s concrete floor or making Pruno wine out of ketchup in your toilet. But it likely won’t do you as much good as staying in school and out of prison in the first place.

12 Z January 29, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Ah. Now I see. Thanks.

Years ago when I was involved in a business employing unskilled labor, I hired hundreds of people with and without GED/ high school diplomas. I don’t recall every caring about it. But, I probably, without thinking about it, held a bias against GED holders. It is something that has always brought to mind unwed mothers, drug addicts and criminals. I suspect I’m not unique in that regard.

13 Matt January 31, 2014 at 11:22 am

Dropouts who can pass the GED test are generally smarter than dropouts who can’t, but they tend to have poor work ethics

Is it really just about work ethics? I don’t get the impression that staying in school really takes that much work ethic, in the sense of the ability and willingness to work hard, if you have the intelligence.

It may take some but it does noticeably require a good dash of being able to obey authority, socialization skills, freedom from anxiety. Lack of these qualities will cause disruptions in workplace environments.

Criminal offenders also tend to self rate as more neurotic, less extraverted, less humble and less inquisitive and unconventional than the general population (,367250,en.pdf), and their personality differences from non-offenders may be more a matter of a general factor of personality than any specific facet.

Kind of interesting to me that a lack of a GED could also be kind of a positive quality in a dropout, in certain environments – when they lack a GED its more likely they lack the intelligence, but have functional (if not necessarily morally good) “character”, compared to those with a GED.

14 Gabby's Awesome January 29, 2014 at 6:24 pm

The Myth of Nouriel Roubini by TMQ:

In 2010, Roubini said big banks would nosedive further as they lost another $1 trillion on mortgages; instead, big banks have recovered spectacularly. In 2011, he told NPR there was “more than a two-thirds likelihood of another recession, and if it happens, it will be severe, with 12 to 13 percent unemployment.” Growth since 2011 has been close to the historic norm, with unemployment now 6.7 percent. In 2012, Roubini predicted the entire global economy would collapse in 2013. Instead, the United Nations says global economic growth was 2.1 percent in 2013. Want to pay for Roubini’s highfalutin galimatias? He will sell you some.

[Visit for the hilariously wrong predictions, stay for the excellent American football analysis, skim the lukewarm moderate politics.]

15 freethinker January 29, 2014 at 7:12 pm

#3: “A quick browse revealed one scene with a character clearly based on Andrew Sellgren, I wonder who else shows up?” perhaps an economist who knows and reads everything in the cosmos?

16 NPW January 29, 2014 at 7:15 pm

For what it is worth, I’m currently in a masters program for astronautical engineering and my wife is in a masters program for math. She is currently in a cramming for her MCAT. I’ve got a GED, and she just didn’t bother with anything.
My best friend also didn’t graduate from high school and is in his junior year of a engineering program.
None of my three brothers graduated from high school. All have bachelors.

How about just accepting that high school isn’t that useful. The only problem we’ve run into is masters programs that won’t accept people who went to community colleges instead of high school.

17 Jan January 29, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Interesting. Did you and your kin take community college courses as an alternative to high school, or go back and do CC courses after you would have otherwise graduated high school? I knew kids in high school who took an additional math class or two at community college, but it was a supplement to their school work, since they had already zipped through what was offered. In your wife’s case, how did she enroll in a bachelors program without at least a high school diploma or GED?

18 NPW January 30, 2014 at 10:42 am

She started at a CC at 14 and switched to a four year once she had enough credits to be a transfer student.

19 Anon January 30, 2014 at 11:17 am

MIT let me into their undergrad program without a high school diploma or GED. I went to a very good, but odd and unaccredited school at the time.

MIT didn’t seem to care.

20 Jmo January 29, 2014 at 7:47 pm

All your GED/Aeronautical Engineering degree tells your future boss is that you will refuse to put cover sheets on your TPS reports . Then he’ll have to figure outing your genius is worth the hassle.

21 Jmo January 29, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Grr outing = out if

22 Jmo January 29, 2014 at 7:57 pm

How about just accepting that high school isn’t that useful.

It’s a very useful gauge of your tolerance for bulls*it.

Your future boss needs to know if your response to “Jump!” Is it, “How high?” Or, “Why?”

23 NPW January 30, 2014 at 10:44 am

I also did 5 years enlisted in the Marine Corps, and I’m in the Navy Reserves as an officer now. I can follow rules, and I’m fairly good at pretending to be sorry when I don’t.

24 Marie January 31, 2014 at 8:27 pm

My dad’s a Marine, and my ten year old told me the other day she was going with the “better to ask forgiveness than permission” in something she was working on.

25 Marie January 31, 2014 at 8:23 pm

This is exactly right, which means getting a GED or not graduating at all might be a way to filter your future employers.

But you’d better be really, really good at what you do, eh?

26 Cliff January 29, 2014 at 8:34 pm

WTF is astronautical engineering? Are you talking about aerospace engineering?

-a person who got a real degree

27 dan1111 January 30, 2014 at 9:10 am

Astronautical engineering appears to be a real thing.

-A person who bothered to wiki it.

28 NPW January 30, 2014 at 10:40 am

Astronautical is solely focused on space. All of my coursework is related to satellites.

29 NPW January 30, 2014 at 10:56 am

I’m pretty sure it’s a real degree given that all my full time professors used to work at NASA, and all the part timers still do. I’m the only one of my classmates who hasn’t worked directly at NASA or a indirectly as contractor doing work for NASA.
The undergrad program is recognized by ABET in the catergory as aerospace, but it is titled astronautical at the college. The course work has almost no fluid dynamics or mechanical eng type requirements. The focus is basically just satellites with EE “electives”. EE is the only accepted options for the electives.

30 Age Of Doubt January 29, 2014 at 8:29 pm

In European countries, you take a test before you start High School. High achievers go on a university track, lower achievers go to vocational school. No one is left to rot. The American education system is about elimination. You have one opportunity to go through the system. If you mess that up, you are on your own. It’s not a surprise that many turn to welfare or crime.

31 Cliff January 29, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Seriously. I’m a lawyer but I could probably make about as much money as a plumber or mechanic. Why are people wasting their time struggling and failing to get a BA in comm when they could be apprenticing for something useful?

32 Urso January 30, 2014 at 10:18 am

“I’m a lawyer but I could probably make about as much money as a plumber or mechanic.”

So many lawyers wax poetic about being a plumber. But then I assume they’ve never spent a day half buried in shit.

33 Jan January 29, 2014 at 9:07 pm

It’s not like vocational school or apprenticeship programs aren’t an option here in the states, we just forcibly funnel 1/3 of our students through it. I think it is better than the European system–everyone here theoretically has options. In Europe, I image it is, “Billy, you got a 50 on your exam. That means you’re on the brown team now. The brown team gets to pick between carpentry and plumbing.” And vice versa. Why should a kid who does well on a test be expected to take math and engineering courses if what he really wants to do is be an electrician?

34 zbicyclist January 29, 2014 at 9:41 pm

One thing that’s definitely not true about the US is that you have only one opportunity.
There is no one magical test. You can take time off and go to college later. You can waste your entire 20s but if you right yourself you have opportunities to catch up.
You can leave college without graduating, become a communist, get blacklisted, and still have a successful career in America and die beloved (Pete Seeger).

35 prior_approval January 30, 2014 at 2:26 am

‘In European countries, you take a test before you start High School’

This does not describe any European country I am personally aware of, which includes English (+ Gaelic in one case), French, and German speaking school systems. Germany probably comes the closest to the idea you are attempting to express. Except that the German school system(s – each Bundesland is responsible for its system) has been moving away from this framework.

It is true that for higher education, certain requirements need to be met – most definitely including tests.

36 Jan January 29, 2014 at 9:08 pm

I meant we _don’t_ forcibly funnel 1/3 of our kids through it.

37 Barkley Rosser January 30, 2014 at 4:59 pm

I doubt I show up, but a few years ago I gave a talk at GMU, actually at the Krasnow Institute, and Grunberg was in the audience. He went to dinner with me and David Levy and indeed reported that he was studying the econ department to use it in a novel. He did not provide more details, however. As it is, although I know many people in the department, I have not even heard of the person supposedly identifiable in the book.

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