The economic value of misbehavior

There is a new paper by Papageorge, Ronda, and Zheng, with a very interesting thesis, namely that preparing rowdies for better schooling results may not help their long-term prospects in life:

Prevailing research argues that childhood misbehavior in the classroom is bad for schooling and, presumably, bad overall. In contrast, we argue that childhood misbehavior reflects underlying traits that are potentially valuable in the labor market. We follow work from psychology and treat measured classroom misbehavior as reflecting two underlying non-cognitive traits. Next, we estimate a model of life-cycle decisions, allowing the impact of each of the two traits to vary by economic outcome. We show the first evidence that one of the traits capturing childhood misbehavior, discussed in psychological literature as the externalizing trait (and linked, for example, to aggression), does indeed reduce educational attainment, but also increases earnings. This finding highlights a broader point: non-cognition is not well summarized as a single underlying trait that is either good or bad per se. Using the estimated model, we assess competing pedagogical policies. For males, we find that policies aimed at eliminating the externalizing trait increase schooling attainment, but also reduce earnings. In comparison, policies that decrease the schooling penalty of the externalizing trait increase both schooling and earnings.

For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.


Of course, what would the effect of allowing the "externalizing trait" (i.e. misbehavior) in school be on everyone else's success in life?

Also, bear in mind that they haven't actually measured the effect of different approaches to misbehavior in school. Instead, they have modeled this using a series of questionable assumptions.

Misbehavior and high earnings are both associated with "the externalizing trait". Therefore they assume that targeting misbehavior will reduce the externalizing trait, thereby reducing earnings. Two different associations were assumed to be causative relationships--all because some evidence shows that behavioral traits are quite malleable up to age 30.

I'm not convinced. Punishing misbehavior might not reduce "the externalizing trait". Or it might reduce some negative aspect of it while leaving positive aspects unchanged. Or it might support the development of other, beneficial traits more than it harms a good trait. Also, the status quo is that nearly everyone who misbehaves is receiving some punishment. Removing that may have unknown deleterious effects.

That is the nice version. The not nice version is that it should be blindingly obvious to everyone that society will not benefit from letting a bunch of little jerks run amok.

I have not read the paper, but I would assume it aims to provide descriptive observations, not normative suggestions. This would require that they knew more about the disruptive behavior.

For example, I am pretty sure that captured within the broad range of "misbehaviors" being "suppressed" (with consequences, as observed) may be things like behaviors induced by ADHD (both its male and female "variations"), dyslexia, and some other learning disability. It is clear that in these cases, "suppression" may do the job more quickly than "proper accommodation", but it is clear that it will come at a cost to the "non-conforming" student. (And that the negative "externalities" cuold have been minimized at a smaller cost.)

There's a recreation of Henry Ford's schoolhouse at Greenfield Village outside Detroit. Part of the "teacher's" script is to explain Henry is truant - again. It seems many highly creative minds dislike sitting in a classroom and act out in different ways.

Yes and Bill Gates did not graduate from University, but most college drop outs don't become billionaires.

It's odd. There is some evidence that the very rich and the very poor have similar personality traits.

What evidence is that?

Poor compliance with excessive rules?

bill his kind did not drop out because they were failing. They dropped out because they were too good for college.

I think this is the plot of the rebooted Star Trek movie.

So, essentially, allowing Bart to be Bart and Nelson to be Nelson in class is good for them and they might become the next Carlin or Disco bouncer.
Of course, who cares about all the other nameless classmates, their schooling outcomes and their parents having to deal with brats by imitations.
Makes you wonder if Papageorge, Ronda, and Zheng have kids and what would they feel should their kids come home with a black eye or something.

Nor do most drop out of Harvard.

I am surprised by the negative reaction. Don't a lot of people think that boys are unfairly treated in school and forced to sit down and shut up so that they hate learning? There must be something in between that and letting bullies control the classroom

We might benefit from sex-segregated classrooms.

I think the real problem is the ethos of schools, which fancy boys are defective girls. Breaking the teacher-certification system might work to alter the balance of social ideologies adhered to by teachers and administrators and ameliorate this problem. Faculties and administrations at the secondary level are not demographically female-dominated, but I'll wager they draw heavily from elements of the male population which are easily rolled, either because they adhere to a certain social ideology or because they just do not have much nerve or loyalty to each other. The latter I've seen in female-dominated workplaces.

I actually agree with the co-ed and everything else. Except that misbehavior is anything but disastrous for a person. Nip that bullshit in the butt when they are young, won't kill the rowdiness, that'll be there regardless, but it will teach them to channel it and walk the line.

One thing to do would be to restore tracking to schools which do not have it, and expand it in those that do. I went to a middle school where there was no tracking and the school had a large minority of Blacks and Mexicans, and as a result I was bored in most of my classes and I would frequently cause trouble.(The other reasons: it was FUN to cause trouble and there were no serious consequences, my parents didn't really care) I now realize the harm my antics had caused the other students who might have actually benefited from the instruction that I continuously disrupted.

If you can find out what the bully likes, you can tailor subparts of lessons to keep them interested.

In one class, I had a student who couldn't stop talking about NBA results with a friend in class. Tossing in enough basketball references and analogies in class seemed to get him his fix during learning time.

The high school bullies in my affluent East Coast public school ended up in prison or with menial jobs. That said, I have read some bullies end up with brilliant careers--who was it last year that was outed as a bully? Some rich, successful guy forget the name. I think however bullies should be kicked out of public schools and not catered to, as the American public school system does. Let their parents send them to private school, where they can be handled better and not impose externalities on the rest of the class. My survival strategy was to be nice and befriend the bully, the one that later went to reform school, and it more or less worked. Also the bully named Tyrone, the one that went to prison, had to be mollified with a respectful, conservative (yes bullies are Republicans) attitude to avoid a welt in your arm or worse. I think by and large American public schools are holding pens for parents that work, kind of glorified day care centers. Certainly I learned almost nothing in high school and learned everything I know not in First Grade but with self-study and in college.

Some rich, successful guy forget the name.

The Emanuel brothers, Rahm and Ari. The latter works in Hollywood. The former made his millions at Wasserstein, Perella. Why a man who had spent his entire working life in the employ of politicians and whose tertiary schooling was in the performing arts was hired by an investment bank and paid an eight figure sum by them is a question the answer to which might go a long way toward understanding our political-economic pathology. Also, why a man like Rahm Emanuel who has long been known as a horror show to work with is employable anywhere is another interesting question.

Our elites suck hump.

"yes bullies are Republicans" -Rahm Emanuel says he's coming to beat the crap out of you for pigeonholing people.

I think he just mentioned that because it's more of the exception. Like 'are Republicans too'

The high school bullies in my affluent East Coast public school ended up in prison or with menial jobs.

That has been my experience also. The guy who bullied me the most ended up seriously mentally ill. I am sure he ended up in a mental institution.

I do not know him personally so I just talking about how he appears and speaks but Rahm Emanuel does come across as an evil bastard.

Joe Biden Chris Christie, Mayer of Toronto, Almost all big city matters for that matter.

Bullies in the schools are a precious resource. They make the environment more stressful and less cloistered. This makes the student body as a whole stronger and more fit to compete in the outside world.

Before you know it, bullies will become a protected class...

Yes, I agree. It's a nice idea, but, I believe that people like Tyrone don't need government protection. They just need to get the government off their back. They needs an "open school" where they can freely contribute and profit from their unique talents.

For all we know, without all of this detestable government interference, Tyrone would have the opportunity to become a 21st century Genghis Khan.

Death to anti-bully regulations. It's that simple.

Like maybe if they hadn't sent his dad to prison for selling dime bags after losing his job for not taking it sufficiently up the a** for the tastes of his superiors?

How many millions of times over can that story be told the last three generations?

That´s awesome for kids living in gated developments, what about the rest that already have enough stress in life?

He's making fun of RL's pro-open borders arguments elsewhere.

Only if you mate with them Al. You are still stuck on the eugenics thread haha.

Many leading cockroaches were once bullied mercilessly.

I suspect that stereotypical bullying is a narrower and more economically negative trait than the "misbehavior" trait considered in the study.

Well, "The Externalizing Trait" is related to the two-factor model of personality and psychopathology - basically the extroversion vs. introversion split - which by its very name should clue one in to its limited usefulness for analysis because of over-aggregation of distinct clusters which manifest that sort of behavior in distinguishable ways. Some act out aggressively or even violently, while others are impulsive yet smooth talkers who can avoid trouble and go on to earn more because of their social talents.

People - and especially men - who can misbehave and defect from social norms and get away with it (that is, they have 'privilege' for some reason) have tremendous adaptive advantages in any society, and conspicuous demonstration of that misbehavior is a signal to others of their privilege with is a good proxy for fitness and status. That's why they tend to trigger natural instincts and coalition-emotions, which attracts friends and is highly attractive to potential mates.

Girls like 'bad boys' for a good reason. Or, at least, what was once a good reason, way, way back in the day. Now, not so much.

That's a bit like the Eddie Haskell theory of education which included not studying history because you can't do business with dead people.

"For males, we find that policies aimed at eliminating the externalizing trait increase schooling attainment, but also reduce earnings."

So more gender equality on both fronts!

Who ever would have thunk that repeatedly having to write lines, stay for detention, etc. would reduce a child's interest in academics.

My teaching model involved a lot of student-direct question and answer, where they would jokingly pelt each other with ideally off-the-wall manipulations of recently learned material. The rowdies usually weren't very good students, so I figured they needed the practice and would often intervene to throw one or two that they could handle their way. Then they would spend their time trying ot figure out how to "get" fellow students when their turn to ask came after answering.

Never gave a detention, but I had to give a 0 on a test for looking at another student's test paper. He easily became the most improved student in the second half of the year.

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