Category: Education

The benefits of educational migration

That is the topic of my Bloomberg column, and I offer up a very concrete proposal:

The educational migration idea also has potential for the U.S., though with additional hurdles. American universities typically offer some tuition aid to foreign students, but they could pledge to do more. Imagine if every school in America offered 10 additional zero-tuition slots a year to students from very poor countries. The strain on the facilities of most schools would be minimal, yet with about 5,000 institutions of higher education in America, that could amount to tens of thousands of new slots for educational migrants.

Given the great and justified interest in helping emigrants from Ukraine, the U.S. and other countries might also consider special programs for Ukrainian students. Millions are leaving Ukraine, and while the charitable response has been impressive, over the longer term these individuals will need to find good jobs. Education is one major step toward this end.

And some caveats:

It remains to be seen how readily educational migration can be scaled. Not all students from poor countries have the linguistic and cultural preparation to study in the West. They may require mentoring, and they may have difficulties navigating the university application process. Universities, and the charities working with them, may have to work harder to create admissions tests that are relevant, challenging and secure. Still, they may get better at those tasks the more they try to make educational migration work.

For the original pointer I thank Richard Nerland.

James Person’s Hawaii bleg

Could you please recommend or ask your readers’ recommendations for books about Hawaiian history and culture? I am visiting the state for the first time and like to approach my travels with a deeper understanding as you exemplify in your MR travel posts. Thank you for your time and help and especially for MR and Conversations!

Your assistance for James would be much appreciated!

The Ukrainian economist who is fighting the Russians with logistics

This Bloomberg piece by Scott Duke Kominers is an interview with the heroic Tymofiy Mylovanov.  He is an economist, also of the University of Pittsburgh, who is organizing many of the logistics in Ukraine and also running the Kyiv School of Economics.  I am honored to know Tymofiy, here is one bit of a much broader story:

Mylovanov: Within the first couple of days, you see how people respond differently. Some people get traumatized; some become dysfunctional; others become almost super-efficient, like me and my team. But you have to figure out how to function in war or you die. Your loved ones will die. And we had a plan — war-time protocols at the university. We even had a war committee, and everyone was responsible for specific tasks, and they have to start executing them. Otherwise we collapse.

If someone doesn’t show up to a meeting, that doesn’t matter. Decisions are made without them. No wavering, no trembling hand. You either do it or you don’t do it and you accept the consequences. So we managed to shut down our facilities and put security in our buildings and the people there had food and water, and they’ve been staying there for two weeks.

There is much more detail in the article, which is interesting throughout.  And:

Mylovanov: One specific thing: We need 307,000 medical kits. I have the specification. Let’s say Israel can only supply 30,000 and Canada probably can supply 20 or 30,000. But we have suppliers who can provide the medical kits. We give this specification to [Ukraine’s] Ministry of Health, and our charitable foundation will pay. So tag me or email me or ping me on Twitter — and then donate, please donate.

All the fundraising goes directly to logistics. I have a website at the university of the charitable foundation [Kyiv School of Economics Humanitarian Relief Fund], and there is a Twitter post at my account. If I get a hundred dollars on that charitable foundation, it goes towards medical kits and it’s likely going to save a life.

By the way, Tymofiy Mylovanov is widely published in economics journals, including Econometrica and JET.  Here is Tymofiy on Twitter.

I am still unsure how to title this post

Here is the punchline:

“The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA seeks applications for an Assistant Adjunct Professor on a without salary basis. Applicants must understand there will be no compensation for this position.”

At first I was pondering “These wages are not sticky downwards,” and then “These wages are sticky downwards.”  Or how about “Tax them anyway”?  “Solve for the ZMP equilibrium”?

One of the few jobs where your payments are inflation linked!“?

What else?  Here is the ad, here are some possible explanations, I am not sure if those make it better or worse.

I thank several loyal MR readers for the pointer.

Against credentialism

That is the theme of my latest Bloomberg column, induced by a timely tweet by Conor Sen.  It turns out the state of Maryland is abolishing the four-year college degree requirement for many state jobs.  In Missour, neither the governor nor the lieutenant governor have a four=year college degree, so perhaps they should follow suit?

From the column, here is one bit:

On average, more education probably does correlate with better job performance — but there are a lot of exceptions. If U.S. society wants to boost opportunity for everyone, it needs to work harder to spot those exceptions and act on that knowledge. In a world where so much information and so many diverse forms of certification are available, there are far better ways to assess a candidate than asking the binary question of whether they have a four-year degree.

This move against credentialism is all the more imperative due to the rise of technology. Many of the top names in tech or crypto are dropouts and do not have degrees. To be sure, those are not the kind of people the Maryland state government is likely to be recruiting. But there are numerous people in tech, lower on the salary scale, who have not invested much in formal credentials, in part because they failed to see their professional relevance. For many tech jobs, a personal GitHub page is far more important.

From these passages you also can see why the credentialism critique is slightly different from some of the more radical critiques of educational signaling.  In my view, education does causally improve performance on a lot of jobs, at least on average, through more or less the traditional channels.  Still, treatment effect variances can be high, and very often we can do better with more finely grained assessments of individual talent, rather than taking a four year degree to be a binary yes/no qualification.  In many cases, for instance, would you rather not hire some with a military background?  The bottom line is that you can achieve a superior allocation of talent, and cut back on signaling costs, even if you think signaling is a clearly present but not dominant force behind the demand for higher education.

Writing Matters

We estimate the causal effect of writing quality by comparing how experts judge the quality of 30 papers originally written by PhD students in economics. We had two versions of each paper: one original and one that had been languageedited. The language editing was done by two professional editors, who aimed to make the papers easier to read and understand. We then asked 18 writing experts and 30 economists to judge some of the original and edited papers. Each of these experts judged five papers in their original versions and five papers in their edited version, spending around 5 minutes per paper. None of the experts saw both versions of the same paper. None of the experts knew that some of the papers were edited. The writing experts judged the writing quality and the economists judged the academic quality of the papers. All economists in our sample have PhDs in economics and their academic positions range from postdoc to full professor; four of them are editors of academic journals; and all of them are regularly involved in judging the quality of academic papers as referees or members of conference committees. We estimate the effect of language editing on perceived writing quality and perceived academic paper quality by comparing the average judgement of original and edited papers.

Our results show that writing matters. Writing experts judged the edited papers as 0.6 standard deviations (SD) better written overall (1.22 points on an 11point scale). They further judged the languageedited papers as allowing the reader to find the key message more easily (0.58 SD), having fewer mistakes (0.67 SD), being easier to read (0.53 SD), and being more concise (0.50 SD). These large improvements in writing quality translated into still substantial effects on economists’ evaluations. Economists evaluated the edited versions as being 0.2 SD better overall (0.4 points on an 11point scale). They were also 8.4 percentage points more likely to accept the paper for a conference, and were 4.1 percentage points more likely to believe that the paper would get published in a good economics journal. Our heterogeneity
analysis shows that the effects of language editing on writing quality and perceived academic quality are particularly large if the original versions were poorly written.

From a very well written paper by Jan Feld, Corinna Lines and Libby Ross.

Emergent Ventures winners, eighteenth cohort

Zvi Mowshowitz, TheZvi, New York City, to develop his career as idea generator and public intellectual.

Nadia Eghbal, Miami, to study and write on philanthropy for tech and crypto wealth.

Henry Oliver, London, to write a book on talent and late bloomers.  Substack here.

Geffen Avrahan, Bay Area, founder at Skyline Celestial, an earlier winner, omitted from an early list by mistake, apologies Geffen!

Subaita Rahman of Scarborough, Ontario, to enable a one-year visiting student appointment at Church Labs at Harvard University.

Gareth Black, Dublin, to start YIMBY Dublin.

Pradyumna Shyama Prasad, blog and podcast, Singapore.  Here is his substack newsletter, here is his podcast about both economics and history.

Ulkar Aghayeva, New York City, Azerbaijani music and bioscience.

Steven Lu, Seattle, to create GenesisFund, a new project for nurturing talent, and general career development.

Ashley Lin, University of Pennsylvania gap year, Center for Effective Altruism, for general career development and to learn talent search in China, India, Russia.

James Lin, McMaster University gap year, from Toronto area, general career development and to support his interests in effective altruism and also biosecurity.

Santiago Tobar Potes, Oxford, from Colombia and DACA in the United States, general career development, interest in public service, law, and foreign policy.

Martin Borch Jensen of Longevity Impetus Grants (a kind of Fast Grants for longevity research), Bay Area and from Denmark, for a new project Talent Bridge, to help talented foreigners reach the US and contribute to longevity R&D.

Jessica Watson Miller, from Sydney now in the Bay Area, to start a non-profit to improve the treatment of mental illness.

Congratulations to you all!  We are honored to have you as Emergent Ventures winners.

My Conversation with the excellent Sam Bankman-Fried

Here is the audio, video, and transcript.  Here is part of the summary:

He joined Tyler to discuss the Sam Bankman-Fried production function, the secret to his trading success, how games like Magic: The Gathering have shaped his approach to business, why a legal mind is crucial when thinking about cryptocurrencies, the most important thing he’s learned about managing, what Bill Belichick can teach us about being a good leader, the real constraints in the effective altruism space, why he’s not very compelled by life extension research, challenges to his Benthamite utilitarianism, whether it’s possible to coherently regulate stablecoins, the implicit leverage in DeFi, Elon Musk’s greatest product, why he thinks Ethereum is overrated, where in the world has the best French fries, why he’s bullish on the Bahamas, and more.

And an excerpt:

COWEN: Now, for mathematical finance, as you know, we at least pretend we can rationally price equities and bonds. People started with CAPM. It’s much more complicated than that now. But based on similar kinds of ideas — ultimately arbitrage, right? — if you think of crypto assets, do we even have a pretense that we have a rational theory of how they’re priced?

BANKMAN-FRIED: With a few of them, not with most. In particular, let’s talk about Dogecoin for a second, which I think is the purest of a type of coin, of the meme coin. I think the whole thing with Dogecoin is that it does away with that pretense. There is no sense in which any reasonable person could look at Dogecoin and be like, “Yes, discounted cash flow.” I think that there’s something bizarre and wacky and dangerous, but also powerful about that, about getting rid of the pretense.

I think that’s one example of a place where there is no pretense anymore that there is any real sense of how do you price this thing other than supply and demand, like memes versus — I don’t know — anti-memes? I think that more generally, though, that’s happened to a lot of assets. It’s just less explicit in a lot of them.

What is Elon Musk’s greatest product ever, or what’s his most successful product ever? I don’t think it’s an electric car. I don’t think it’s a rocket ship. I think one product of his has outperformed all of his other products in demand, and that’s TSLA, the ticker. That is his masterpiece. How is that priced? I don’t know, it’s worth Tesla. It’s a product people want, Tesla stock.

COWEN: But the prevalence of memes, Dogecoin, your point about Musk — which I would all accept — does that then make you go back and revisit how everything else is priced? The stuff that was supposed to be more rational in the first place — is that actually now quite general, and you’ve seen it through crypto? Or not?

BANKMAN-FRIED: Absolutely. It absolutely forces you to go back and say, “Well, okay, that’s how cryptocurrencies are priced. Is it really just crypto that’s priced that way?” Or maybe, are there other asset classes that may claim to have some pricing, or purport to, or people may often assume it does, but which in practice is not exactly that? I think the answer to that is a pretty straightforward yes.

It’s a pretty straightforward answer that you look at Tesla, you look at a lot of stocks right now, you think about what determines their market cap — the discounted cash flow? Yeah, sort of, that plays a role in it. That’s 30 percent of the answer. It’s when we look at the meme stocks and the meme coins that we feel like we can see the answer for ourselves for the first time, but it was always there in the other stocks as well, and social media has been amplifying this all over the place.

COWEN: Is this a new account of how your background as a gamer with memes has made you the appropriate person for pricing and arbitrage in crypto?

BANKMAN-FRIED: Yeah, there’s probably some truth to that. [laughs]

Interesting throughout, and not just for crypto fans.

Jesse Michels interviews me at Hereticon

Jesse’s description was “Wide ranging discussion with the brilliant @tylercowen. Topics include: Satoshi’s identity, Straussian Jesus, the Beatles and UFOs. Taped in early January but he presciently expresses concerns around Russia/Ukraine”

Great fun was had by all, and they added in nice visuals.

Elite high school TJ will continue as it was

Fed. judge holds that Fairfax County, Virginia violated 14A by changing its high-ranked magnet school’s admission policies to decrease the proportion of Asian-American students. Strict scrutiny applies, and racial balancing is not a compelling interest.

The thread is of interest more generally, for instance “…the county officials here perceived that racial balancing was the goal because they got that cue from state-level Education officials on a DEI taskforce.”

I have been predicting privately for a while that TJ would be saved.  I’ll say it again: I think Wokeism has peaked, and the conflict in Ukraine will make it seem all the less relevant.

My Conversation with Chuck Klosterman

Excellent stuff, we had so much fun we kept on going for an extra half hour, as he decided to ask me a bunch of questions about economics and personal finance.  Here is the audio and transcript.  Here is the CWT summary:

Chuck joined Tyler to discuss the challenges of writing about recent history, the “slow cancellation of the future” that began in the aughts, how the internet widened cultural knowledge but removed its depth, why the context of Seinfeld was in some ways more important than its content, what Jurassic Park illustrates about public feelings around scientific progress in the ’90s, why the ’90s was the last era of physical mass subcultures, why it’s uncommon to be shocked by modern music, how his limited access to art when growing up made him a better critic, why Spin Magazine became irrelevant with the advent of online streaming, what made Grantland so special, what he learned from teaching in East Germany, the impact of politics on the legacies of Eric Clapton and Van Morrison, how sports often rewards obnoxious personalities, why Wilt Chamberlain is still underrated, how the self-awareness of the Portland Trail Blazers undermined them, how the design of the NFL makes sports rivalries nearly impossible, how pro-level compensation prevents sports gambling from corrupting players, why so many people are interested in e-sports, the unteachable element of writing, why he didn’t make a great editor on his school paper, what he’d say to a room filled with ex-lovers, the question he’d most like to ask his parents, his impressions of cryptocurrency, why he’s trying to focus on what he has in the current moment rather than think too much about future plans, the power of charisma, and more.

Whew!  Here is one excerpt:

COWEN: I see the world as follows. Every decade, to me, is super weird, but the 1980s and ’90s pretended they weren’t weird. The ’80s pretended to be good versus evil. The ’90s pretended that good won. But when crypto comes and persists, you have to drop all pretense that the age you’re living in isn’t totally weird.

You have internet crypto, and everyone admits, right now, everything’s weird. And that, to me, is the fundamental break with the 1990s because everyone pretended most things were normal and that Seinfeld was your dose of weird, right? Jason Alexander — that’s a very manageable weird.

KLOSTERMAN: Oh, absolutely.

COWEN: Some guy in an apartment in New York City cracking sarcastic jokes — like, whoop-de-do.

And:

KLOSTERMAN: …this guy, Mark Fisher, who’s dead now, had this idea about the slow cancellation of the future. I feel like that’s one of the most profound ideas that I’ve come across in the last 10 years of my life, and it seems so palpable that this is occurring.

An example I will often use is, if you take, say, 10 minutes from an obscure film in 1965 with no major actors, and then you take 10 minutes from an obscure film from 1980 where nobody became famous, and you show anyone these 10-minute clips, they will have no problem whatsoever figuring out which one came first. Even a little kid can look at a movie from 1965 and a movie from 1980 and instantly understand that one predates the other.

But if you do that with a film from 2005 and a film from 2020 — again, an obscure film where you don’t recognize the actors — you’re just looking at it aesthetically and trying to deduce which one came first and which one came second. It’s almost impossible.

This phenomenon just seems to almost be infiltrating every aspect of the culture…

And:

KLOSTERMAN: Before I did this podcast, I listened to your podcast with Žižek.

COWEN: Oh yeah, that was hilarious.

KLOSTERMAN: Are you friends with him? It sure seemed like it. And if you are, what is it like to be with him when he is not in a performative scenario?

Recommended.  And again, here is Chuck’s new book The Nineties.

What should I ask Daniel Gross?

I will be doing a Conversation with him, noting that he is my co-author on Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creators, and Winners Around the World.

Daniel is an entrepreneur and venture capitalist and here is his Wikipedia page.  Here is Daniel on Twitter.  Here is Daniel’s ideas page.  Here is Daniel on his work, including Pioneer.

Since we are co-authors, this won’t just be the standard interview format, how do you think we should do it?  And what should we ask each other?

Wokeism has peaked

Virginia has gone Republican (temporarily, because of school-related issues), San Francisco recalled its school board by a decisive margin, Joe Rogan wasn’t cancelled, and there may be a significant war in Ukraine.  That is the theme of my latest Bloomberg column.  Excerpt:

The turning point for the fortunes of the woke may be this week’s school board election in San Francisco, where three members were recalled by a margin of more than 70%. Voters were upset that the school board spent time trying to rename some schools in a more politically correct manner, rather than focusing on reopening all the schools. There was also considerable opposition to the board’s introduction of a lottery admissions system for a prestigious high school, in lieu of the previous use of grades and exam scores.

And:

Another trend is how relatively few immigrants are woke. Latinos in particular seem more open to the Republican Party, or at least don’t seem to have strong partisan attachments. More generally, immigrant political views are more diverse than many people think, even within the Democratic Party.

And:

Wokeism is likely to evolve into a subculture that is highly educated, highly White and fairly feminine. That is still a large mass of people, but not enough to run the country or all its major institutions. In the San Francisco school board recall, for instance, the role of Asian Americans was especially prominent.

In addition:

The woke also are likely to achieve an even greater hold over American universities. Due to the tenure system, personnel turnover is low, and currently newer and younger faculty are more left-wing than are older faculty, including in my field of economics. The simple march of retirements is going to make universities even more left-wing — and even more out of touch with mainstream America.

I hereby inscribe this prediction in The Book of Tetlock.