Did going to college help Michael Corleone?

On this week’s Odd Lots podcast, we speak with Giovanni Mastrobuoni about the relationship between salary and educational attainment in organized crime. He’s the co-author of a paper titled “Returns to Education in Criminal Organizations: Did Going to College Help Michael Corleone?” Based on data sets from the first half of the 20th century, Mastrobuoni and his colleagues were able to show that mafia members who got more education also got paid more in the underworld.

That is from Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal.


Missing a confounding cause perhaps?

It seems likely that this suffers from the same problem as most "going to college pays off" analysis. Attributes that cause people to get college degrees (intelligence, work ethic, family social status) are also causes of success in life generally.

You'd think by this point everyone would be able to admit that college is almost 100% signalling - but I guess people need to feel good about what they do for a living.

I don't agree with that. College actually does involve learning stuff, and in some (not all) cases this is quite important to one's career. Fewer people should go to college than do now, but some subset of people definitely should go.

" Fewer people should go to college than do now, but some subset of people definitely should go." Well that's impossible now because its been baked in. You need a degree for entry into virtually any decent career - in fact graduate degrees are now becoming expected because of this. Its all signalling gone amok but if suddenly fewer people went to college it would take years for HR departments to respond by adjusting job requirements. The thing is I do believe colleges COULD impart useful skills and some colleges do do a better job than others but for the most part curricula are built on what is easiest and cheapest for the colleges to teach.

@JAMC, I have to admit that despite my initial knee-jerk reaction, I agree with you more than I disagree.

Back when I was choosing a college, I received pamphlets from a huge number of institutions. Strikingly, almost without exception, they failed to mention "learning" as a reason for attending. Instead, they were all about "life experience" and of course the employment rate of their graduates.

I do believe higher education is really important, but it is often being done quite poorly, and it is largely being sold as a signalling (and entertainment) exercise.

'to admit that college is almost 100% signalling'

Yep, a mechanical engineering degree is just about the signalling, and has nothing to do with acquiring actual skills.

The same clearly applies to a medical degree, right?

I absolutely think engineering degrees are mostly signalling. Not 100% but certainly at least 70%. The amount of material from an engineering degree curriculum the typical graduate actually ever uses on the job is small. I don't have a medical degree but I have a feeling its similar.

'I absolutely think engineering degrees are mostly signalling. '

If by signalling you mean being able to use math in a fashion that is reflected by whether something functions as designed in real use, then sure. The same would apply to any number of degrees where success or failure is measured against empirical standards, not social ones.

Otherwise, you seem to have a tenuous grasp on the fact that engineers who actually build things cannot just bullshit their way through their professional life. Unlike some, such as CEOs turned politicians.

And considering how the U.S. seems to now had at least a generation long need to import engineering students and engineers, it just might be that anyone in the U.S. who believes engineering is just about signalling is the sort of person incapable of understanding why that process has occurred.

@p_a, are you an engineer? I am. In my experience, it is true that, typically, most of what you do is learned on the job, and the percentage of what you learned in college that you put to use is fairly small. There are plenty of people doing engineering jobs who don't have a degree, but learned through on the job experience only.

I suspect that medical doctors also operate based on learned on-the-job experience rather than their classroom learning a huge percentage of the time, too.

I would not go as far as JAMC in terms of saying "it's all signalling". I think that often a broad theoretical understanding of a topic can be beneficial even when it isn't being applied directly. But they really do have a point.

"If by signalling you mean being able to use math in a fashion that is reflected by whether something functions as designed in real use, then sure."
If you surveyed 10 real, working engineers I think would find at least 9 of them don't use any math beyond high school algebra in their job.

" you seem to have a tenuous grasp on the fact that engineers who actually build things cannot just bullshit their way through their professional life"

I didn't say that I said the majority of the material taught in most engineering curricula is not applicable to the real jobs most engineers end up performing. And frankly LOT of engineering graduates don't actually ever build anything and those that do often acquire the majority of their skills outside of formal schooling. The schooling isn't ALL just signalling, but even in engineering I would certainly say the bulk of the curriculum is in fact a form of signalling. I am willing to admit that the top tier schools probably have higher quality curricula and less signalling time wasting coursework.

"And considering how the U.S. seems to now had at least a generation long need to import engineering students and engineers, it just might be that anyone in the U.S. who believes engineering is just about signalling is the sort of person incapable of understanding why that process has occurred."

No that's only because engineering as a profession is low status and low paid compared to other professions but at the same time acquiring a degree or graduate degree in engineering is a lot of work when compared to acquiring the same credential in other fields - American students are just smart enough to realise that going into a high-work/low-reward isn't such a great move. Engineering is a fine career for poor people or immigrants from poor countries looking to get a foothold in the professional world of the US but it is not a suitable career for people from middle class or upper-middle class American backgrounds.

I also want to add that I think theoretical knowledge is extremely useful for gaining real understanding of a topic but colleges often go too far and crowd out time for useful topics - which I actually do think colleges COULD do more to teach but it would be more expensive for them and more work for the professors. Spending time on solving DEs by hand is far cheaper and easier for the professor and the college, hence that's what you get a lot of.

I think that we should betwen two different questions:

a) Engineers (medical doctors. etc.) use in the job most of the things that they learned in college


b) They learned in college most of the things that they use in the job

If b) is true, then their degrees are not signalling (or at least almost '100% signalling'), even if a) is false ( a) can be justified, not by signalling, but simply because college prepare their its students for many possible jobs, not only for the specific job that they end after college)

[I am an economist, and, in my case, I think both a) and b) are false, but I suspect that economy is different from engineering or medicine]

Civil engineer here. But I haven't designed anything in 10 years, since I went into natural science. Do engineers learn on the job? Yes, but you need a background in math, chemistry, physics and stats. The most important difference between engineers and high school guys that think they do "engineering" is liability. If a structure I designed fell down.....lawsuit for me and the high school engineer looks from far away. Usually high school "engineers" are free lunchers that want status and income but not the burden of liability.

Civil Engineering is actually the only branch of engineering I consider to be a real profession because of the large legal aspect of the profession. My degree was in EE but I do get the sense that the civil engineer's education is actually meaningful.

@Miguel Madeira " ( a) can be justified, not by signalling, but simply because college prepare their its students for many possible jobs"

My criticism is more along the lines that many of these programs don't prepare the student for any job. I certainly acknowledge that one must continue to learn and can't learn everything from college but my personal experience is that engineering programs fail to even prepare the student for ENTRY into the profession unless the hiring firm is willing to invest significant time in training. Fewer and fewer firms are willing to do that these days.

From what my dad has told me ( he was a mechanical engineer before becoming a doctor) he didn't use most of what he learnt for engineering, medical school on the other hand was much more relevant. To be fair most of what you learn there isn't going to be day to day use but every once in a while you'll recognise something rare and exotic. That can be the difference between life and death for the patients.

Keep in mind he told me this when trying to convince me to enter med school.

`@p_a, are you an engineer? I am. In my experience, it is true that, typically, most of what you do is learned on the job, and the percentage of what you learned in college that you put to use is fairly small.`

I am not an engineer, but the engineers I have known in the U.S. (USN nuclear officers, for example, or people involved in the Tomahawk cruise missile and Phalanx programs) did learn some of their job through experience. Except for having already proven (for example, at Annapolis), that they could handle the math - particularly in the sense of being able to handle the math without making errors. That was the point about real world results.

Which leads to this point - `There are plenty of people doing engineering jobs who don’t have a degree, but learned through on the job experience only.` In the examples above, I`m fairly confident that the people doing the work designing a system designed to merge a stream of bullets with a missile moving at supersonic speeds actually needed to learn more than a fair bit of math before they were allowed on the job. Of course, once one reaches a certain level (a family friend used to be charge of SBS`s satellite launches), it is unlikely that one is using what learned in college regularly. On the other hand, I`m fairly confident that they did not pick their engineers by overlooking the relevant math skills and expressing confidence in their ability to gain experience through doing.

We may be at different levels here - not only in my American examples, but also in comparing the U.S. and Germany. I could use other examples (engineering exchange students in their 2nd or 3rd year of engineering from the Univ. of Kentucky who did not really know calculus, something expected of a German engineering student before they graduate from high school), but sure, once you have learned the math - which is so easy that really, signalling is the only point - your job may look quite different from your studies. Except at least the engineers I know here still consider math to be fairly important to their job. But then, what would German engineers know about building quality machinery?

"engineering exchange students in their 2nd or 3rd year of engineering from the Univ. of Kentucky who did not really know calculus"

Yeah I kind of doubt 3rd year Engineering students haven't taken calculus yet - maybe they didn't really learn it and got to third year any way which would be, again, an indictment of how crappy universities are at actually educating people - especially in technical fields. I'm not really certain what your obsession is with "learning the math", hardly any engineers use calculus on the job, sure there are exceptions but then you're talking about 5% of the profession. As for German engineers, well I have a lot of experience in Germany actually and they tend to be over-educated and still manage to earn salaries that would make a typical US engineering grad scoff.

dan1111 is an engineer who said, " In my experience, it is true that, typically, most of what you do is learned on the job, and the percentage of what you learned in college that you put to use is fairly small."

If you are talking about lawyers and substitute "law school" for college, the statement would be largely true.

clinical medicine is learned by doing, somewhat in the clinical years (M3-M4) of american medical schools, but primarily in residency.

the only way for institutions to reliably discover qualified candidates for such expensive training is successful admission to med school and passing M1-M2 and boards.

Even if engineers did use what they learned in school, most of it is so easy they could learn it on the job. The hard part of engineering school is solving differential equations, thermo, transport, etc, which are not anything 99% of engineers are ever expected to do.

Engineering degrees are valuable because they brand you as a "technical person". The specific engineering sub-disciplines are a way to signal your industry loyalties, career goals, and personality type. Petroleum engineers aren't payed more because Darcy's Law is super hard to understand.

I have the MD and most of my non-clinical training was just BS signalling.

For instance, my medical school required absolutely no pre-med requirements (no biology, no orgo, no calc or stats). We had two people in our class who literally discovered biochem during the first week of classes. They showed that it was completely possible to skip undergrad science (and there were plenty of ex-programmers who showed you could survive medical school light on humanities). We consistently the vast majority of students into the top quartile of residency applicants. Clearly we are doing something right without requiring any specific knowledge base from undergrad.

Yet the med school continues to refuse to take anyone who lacks an undergrad degree. I could have far more efficiently skipped all of college, taken MCAT prep, and then started at the same point as the English major. A number of medical schools have noted this too and you can skip two years of signalling as long as you commit to one particular med school early in the process for a combined BA/MD. Graduates of such programs are statistically no different than traditional applicants to those schools.

As far as med school itself. Well well over a quarter of my med school time was rotating through specialties that the average physician does not need to know. Again, the variety of med schools is instructive a number of medical schools allow med students to graduate with just three years (NYU for instance). Again, the doctors on the other side are not statistically distinguishable from their peers who spend more time before getting the MD.

But what about the rest of medical school? Well, I hit the citric acid cycle, proper names of bone insertions and origins, and obscure pathologies for a huge remainder of the rest. Why did I bother to learn about those? Because the USMLE step I cares about them and how I scored on that test was the single largest determinant of where I could study medicine during residency. The entire structure of "the match" is raw, rank signalling. The test is not a better predictor of success in residency or practice than the MCAT which is not a particularly better predictor than the SAT. Yet it is utterly routine for professors in medical school to have whole lectures teaching to the test and acknowledge them to be such.

So where do you actually learn to practice medicine? When you actually start doing patient care. Unfortunately this is the minority of med school and again a huge amount of it is utterly irrelevant to your eventual practice. You can completely fail some rotations, make them up to barely passing, forget everything the next summer, and still come to my ED and be a decent resident. On the other hand, if you do poorly at memorizing random zebras (e.g. what is a pheochromocytoma?) you get docked on the USMLE which is your biggest signal used to determine which specialty you can match with and ultimately how much money you can earn as a doc.

Med school is majority signalling. If it were not they would let you sit the USMLE cold and take only the courses your residency director deemed necessary for your specialty of choice. Instead, you have PhD immunologists going back to get their MD sitting in the same basic medical immunology course as English majors. Doctors routinely mock the BS we sat through to get here because far too much of it was just raw signalling.

"I absolutely think engineering degrees are mostly signalling. Not 100% but certainly at least 70%. The amount of material from an engineering degree curriculum the typical graduate actually ever uses on the job is small. I don’t have a medical degree but I have a feeling its similar."

I tend to need to flip a coin to decide if I'm on the signaling side versus the other side of the fence. That said, while I agree that in most degree programs, hard (e.g., engineering) or soft (e.g, LIb Arts, Phil.) it's likely the case that the graduate goes to work in a place needing only a subset of the knowledge taught. The problem is that neither the student or the school knows where the job is going to be ahead of time so the shotgun approach (teach widely but not necessarily deeply) might be the best approach to preparing the student.

As another noted, there's a lot of on the job learning, especially in fields like engineering/manufacturing/fabrication/construction that takes the form of "laser" (to contrast with shotgun) learning where the larger context is not presented (and something never actually learned by the person -- the smart one's do put the bigger picture together). For those in this path transition will be more of a challenge because the knowledge very well may be highly specialized to the current employer. It might be worth calling the broad learning the college student gets signaling the ability to transition to other setting or that might be something they can do because they did have a much wider learning experience and will have something to draw on in a new setting.

Not entirely sure how to separate it all out between skills and signaling here but I'm pretty sure just noting that what the person does in their job only requires a small subset of the information provided in the college education doesn't seem to be a very good blade for cutting the knot here.

Oh, and about the "rare, exotic" things doctors do to save lives? It basically doesn't happen anymore.

First, it was never big to start with. Does the patient have Muckle-Wells syndrome or NOMAD? How the heck do you tell those apart during an acute event? Who cares? The treatment for both is to give them steroids in an acute setting. A lot of life or death medicine is: this looks vaguely autoimmune/infectious/hypoglycemic so let's give the patient steroids/antibiotics/sugar. That sort of medicine is easily sufficient to get patients stabilized enough to call in a specialist in rheumatology/ID/endocrine who actually knows the difference between obscure diseases and actually diagnose the disease. Keeping people alive is basically keeping air, blood, and sugar going in the acute setting. The number of patients I have treated without knowing the etiology of their symptoms is pretty impressive. I have yet to lose a patient because I do not know some horridly uncommon disease which is pretty impressive because I see a lot of patients who have them AND are not breathing and/or are profusely bleeding.

Secondly, this is not the dark ages. We have this thing called UpToDate or even just Google. I can, as I prove every few years on the boards, rummage through my memory to come up with obscure diseases and conditions and how to treat them as required to maintain my certification. However, it is exceedingly faster in the real world to have someone punch in the weird symptoms, have them read off the two lines of text and then work from there. Typing is cheap, I can literally have an orderly do it while I devote the vast majority of my attention to something like intubating the patient. What is not cheap is having patients wait while the physicians and nurses are busy. Waiting is by far the single most lethal thing to my patients. Of course nobody thinks that patients waiting might be a direct correlation of making the path to an RN or MD unduly long with a bunch of signalling so that the highest tier residencies admit the "right" people. By far, medicine is too studious and slow. We desperately need to take an ax to the medical curricula and push a lot of these obscure diseases and conditions into the residency years so we can have more boots on the ground.

Many years ago I completed a Computer Science Degree and joined the Civil Service, to find that most of its computer staff were very bright people who did NOT have a computer science degree, but were usually very numerate and had been sent on several weeks of assorted courses.

In many cases I was very impressed with the work I could see had been done. In some cases I was bemused to see a workable but completely non-standard approach in use. In a small number of cases, however, it appeared that the Civil Service had essentially paid with a great deal of money and effort to learn about a lesson which a computer science graduate who had studied the appropriate specialisation would have known.

The famous quote "Those who do not understand Unix are condemned to reinvent it, poorly." is not from this environment, but appears to date from just after this time - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Spencer#cite_note-3

surely there is a self-training, self-improvement effect associated with PUSHING oneself, as a marginal candidate, to get through college -- ESPECIALLY with the temptations of quick rewards in organized crime being waved in a young man's face.

in this model college is no longer just a signal or correlated with preexisting IQ, but a transformative experience, akin to the stated purpose of the US Marines.

Please implement "likes" or "upvotes" for comments on MR, please.

Smarter criminals are more successful than dumber ones? You know cause and effect may be hard to determine here.

I'm an engineer, and I used about 80-90 % of the science and engineering material I learned in school. A lot of it was the basis for further training I received over the next 20-30 years. Eventually I had to supervise large engineering teams, which included many different types, as well as scientists. I think my ability to review their work and talk shop with different team leaders and operations personnel was very helpful. It also helped me earn a pretty decent amount of money. So I guess you could say it all depends on what you do with what you learn, if you try to use it, and if you work hard to keep learning.

In my first few jobs, I used a great deal of the fluid mechanics and thermodynamics I learned as an undergraduate. It certainly would have taken me a year or two to learn what I needed for work. And that's a year or two of essentially doing no work. Plus, I would have needed someone to help me out learning. I don't think I could have learned by myself.

It was a family-run business and he was the heir. The big question is if college honed his enterprising skills and if the society got back what it invested in his human capital.

Actually, Sonny was the heir. But Sonny didn't go to college, and learn how to avoid getting stuck at toll booths.

Signalling doesn't really work IMO. Who is he signalling too? Other criminals? Customers? Why do they care? It seems if this is what it is the economy is deeply inefficient. 40% of the population needs 4 years of college to 'signal'? So if there was some way to pick up this signal without college huge profits would await.

I suspect there's two aspects that make college valuable:

1. Narrative creation - humans work by creating and sharing fictional narratives. College is a lot of practice at that which is a skill that carries over into business of many types.

2. Burns off immaturity. I suspect a big portion of the benefit of schooling is babysitting. It keeps kids out of the way of adults (which our economy couldn't function otherwise...imagine if *every* day was take your kid to work day). By keeping immaturity somewhat walled off until kids grow out of it, schools prevent them from damaging their lives.

2.1 This may be somewhat related but workplaces are very, very stable. If you are changing tires at 18 there's enough tires in the world that you can still be doing it at 59. Perhaps by starting work at a younger age, it is a bit too easy to fall into stability. School forces you to someday break things up. No matter how good you are at school you're going to have to leave that stability upon graduation which will land you somewhere else which you'll have to figure out. That flexibility may be more valuable than premature stability.

I think the largest reason for measured benefit from college is selection bias--capable people with access to resources are the ones who tend to go, and these are the people who are likely to be successful in life anyway.

But how is this sensible for a 'successful orientated' person? If a person has a natural talent for business, wouldn't it make more sense for him to get to it at 18 rather than spending 4 years and $100K+ before he starts?

In many cases, yes. But society tells them that they will be losers if they don't go to college, so most do.

I don't disagree with your number 1 as a benefit to the individual. But since you started out talking about benefits to the economy, I'd say number 1 hugely contributes to an inefficient economy. We'd be vastly better if people didn't learn or see narrative creations as a net positive, and instead made decisions based on actual facts.

Pulling from the work of Yuval Noah Harari here. We are unique among social animals in that we function by creating shared fictional narratives. For example, the idea of a corporation is a type of fiction but unlike a purely made up fiction it's one shared by millions of people. So we act as if Yahoo Inc. is a real thing even though because everyone else acts as if it is a real thing. To a cat there's no such thing. There's some buildings where people go, there's lights on computer screens but they cannot pretend that those things are tied together by the fictional narrative called the Yahoo corporation.

It isn't about whether we like narratives or not. We need them to function on a higher social level. College happens to be great for both reading and creating these types of narratives.

This also nicely explains why you often see people who have degrees in things that don't seem to lead directly to highly marketable skills (philosophy, literature, history etc) nonetheless making good $$$$ after college.

I think it's largely signaling, but it's about signaling compliance with social norms more than signaling intelligence. If Hitler won the war, we'd be arguing about the employment benefit of joining the Hitler youth.

In the underworld context, it would be a signal of capability to deal with the regular world.

+1 for dealing with the regular world. much of the endgame for organized crime is legitimizing their ill-gotten gains.

Not clear to me why that would particularly require a college degree. Esp. since he would need the help of other degreed people to deal with the complicated enterprises he was managing (i.e. lawyers, accountants etc.)

If it's about signaling then why doesn't at least a few people ignore the college degree and hire non-college grads of equal or greater skill for less money thereby achieving superior profits? It only takes a tiny portion to be able to see and take advantage of such an opening in our bias to initially achieve economic rents and very soon convert over the entire economy.

Learn what a signal is, and this question answers itself.

Michael Corleone attended Furman University, a liberal arts (and Baptist affiliated) college in Greenville, SC. I have several connections to the school, one going back to the 1930s and 1940s when Michael would have attended (he is fictional). But my comment is about today's Furman and is based on what parents of recent students at Furman have shared with me. Furman does not tolerate alcohol or drugs on campus, and violators are summarily dismissed from school. Of course, college kids are going to do what college kids do, which means they leave campus to do it, and by leaving campus, they face risks they otherwise would not face. There's another liberal arts college in the south with an excellent academic reputation. That college takes the opposite approach: knowing that college kids are going to do what college kids do, on weekends security creates a barrier around the campus to keep the students in, looking the other way at what's happening on campus but with the comfort that the students don't face the risks they would if they left campus. Michael Corleone was intolerant, severely punishing those who betrayed him, including his own brother. In that respect, Michael adopted the Furman approach to betrayal. On the other hand, Michael kept both his friends and enemies close, better to observe their betrayal. Michael surely benefited from his college experience.

"Michael Corleone attended Furman University, a liberal arts (and Baptist affiliated) college in Greenville, SC. I have several connections to the school, one going back to the 1930s and 1940s when Michael would have attended (he is fictional)."
How can he be fictional (maybe you mean dead by now)? I read two books about him and watch two books about his life and times. Was I lied to?

And with this post, you pushed your character too far. Time to retire Thiago and come up with another persona. Maybe do a South African this time? Or a Thai?

I am not a character, I am a human being, a Brazilian, a reader and used to be a movigoer.

Am, too

I am.

I thought Michael Corleone attended Fordham University, which is in the Bronx. Fordham is a Jesuit school and also has a liberal arts focus, so adjust your theory if needed.

Yeah he attended Fordham, rayward is blowing hot air. Why would they send the kid all the way down to some random liberal arts college in SC anyway - and why would a Catholic Italian family send the kid to a Baptist college at that!?

As my fatherinlaw points out, if you can't get a catholic education, at least get a jesuit one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=435mkg6_eGQ&t=0m41s It's the last scene in part 2, in which Tom Hagen discourages Michael from dropping out and tells him: "Pop had to pull a lot of strings to get you into Furman". It sounds like Furman to me. But some hear Fordham.

What?!! He says "Pop had to pull a lot of strings to GET YOUR A DEFERMENT"

LOL. He totally says "a deferment." Michael Corleone went to Dartmouth; it's mentioned explicitly in the book and implicitly in the movie with the mention of his nice "Ivy League suit."

I think he says, "does someone understand what Brando says?"

Why would a war hero need a deferment?

Wikipedia says Michael dropped out of Dartmouth to join the Marines. If Wikipedia says it, then it must be true. Since the first student deferment wasn't adopted until the Korean War, it must have been some other kind of deferment that Tom Hagen is referring to. Maybe it was the Mafia Deferment.

The point is that Vito obtained a deferment for Michael but Michael declined it and joined the Marines, thereby becoming a war hero.

Autocorrect keeps doing something embarrassing with "Mastrubuoni."

I haven't listened to the podcast yet, but as far as "The Godfather" goes, I would argue it was the attributes that allowed Michael to finish college rather than the attendance that made him successful. Sonny lacked the patience (he'd never pass the marshmallow test, instead slapping around the tester until he received the second marshmallow) and Fredo lacked the intelligence (he was dumb like everybody says). Vito had all the same attributes as Michael, but without the degree.

Sorry for the double comment, but it just occurred to me that maybe it wasn't his college education that gave Michael an advantage. To succeed as Godfather, he needed discipline, the ability to lead men and strategic vision, skills he was more likely to have honed during his service as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. than at a liberal arts college.

Actually according to Wikipedia

"When the United States enters World War II in 1941, Michael drops out of Dartmouth College and enlists in the Marine Corps."

In a certin sense, it is a symbol of Trump's America.

Nope, not even a little bit.

Yes, it is. In the book at least, some of Colerleone soldiers volunteer because they feel America was good for them (Vito bitterly says HE was food to them, not America, but does nothing against them because Michael also volunteered, even if his father could get him an exemption). I can not imagine the immigrants America has turned against recently being able to feel about America what the book Mafia guys felt. It is sad.

If you really want to have some fun with your next character, try pretending to be a woman.

I am satisfied with being a man.

Did Vladimir Putin go to college?

Did it help him to decide this was the right day to invade Ukraine?

From Wikipedia: Putin studied law at the Leningrad State University in 1970 and graduated in 1975. His thesis was on "The Most Favored Nation Trading Principle in International Law".

Oh noes, that borders on economics!

Full text here: http://www.theatlantic.com/daily-dish/archive/2008/08/putins-thesis-raw-text/212739/

Putin even had a Ph.D. dissertation written for him. Trump never managed that...

Engineering is the most practical degree in college, but even it is mostly signaling.

In the 1950’s, something like half the engineers at Boeing did not have engineering degrees, and a smaller but reasonably large percentage had never been to a college or university: they had come to work as draftsmen and learned engineering on the job, eventually becoming certified. Boeing gave money to the University of Washington, and increasing numbers of engineers came out of engineering school; it was clear that the then-current generation of non-degree engineers would likely be the last; but that was the engineering establishment that built the Flying Fortress and then the SuperFortress, the Strato-Fortress (better known as the BUFF or B-52), and Boeing’s civilian aircraft including the 707, the first commercial jet. By then most engineering candidates took some math from the local community colleges, but there were still non-degree engineers, some high schools still being able to teach sufficient math through calculus.

All the other degrees are basically just book clubs whose entire curricula could be condensed to a handful of books that can be read in a week. But they're not even meaningful book clubs, since nobody does the reading in time for the meetings and the students are half-asleep or hungover. And even if they were, it wouldn't justify the immense waste and cost for a glorified book club.

Michael Corleone went to DARTMOUTH. Read the book The Godfather and you'll see this. It's not mentioned explicitly in the movie, but there's a reference when Sonny teases Michael about getting blood all over his "Ivy League suit."

The people who hear Tom say "a deferment" and think he says "into Furman" (or Fordham) are HILARIOUS.

In the human capital vs signalling debate, I think the signalling side has the more sensible arguments. But both assume it's rational, and why do we need to assume it's rational? Are we libertardians? No, the real reason for degree premiums is simply employers' irrationality and herd-mentality. Some actually believe that college makes you smarter(despite their own college experience, Orwell wasn't just talking about the Soviet Union when he described doublethink) the majority simply give preference to college graduates because everyone else does it and they never think about WHY they do it.

Organized crime actually sounds like a field where a little education would go a long way:

1) The lowest paying jobs are extremely menial and hazardous.
2) There are disproportionate benefits from moving even slightly up the hierarchy.
3) The biggest rewards of all are for organizing manufacturing or distribution and dealing with the legal side of things.
4) Money has to be extensively laundered before it can be used for non criminal purposes.

I'm actually thinking it's a little different -- college grads have more non-crime options, so if they're not confident that they'll be good at it and that crime will pay, they don't bother with it. Higher opportunity costs, so it needs something heavier to offset. Even if they're bad at crime, and get into it anyway, not knowing that they'd suck at making a living from it, they could more easily bail and get a legitimate job than others could.

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