Archive for September, 2013

September 30, 2013

Higher divorce risk among marriages where wives earn more than husbands, but why?

by Grace

Despite a worldwide increase in marriages where wives are more educated than their husbands, “there are so very few marriages where women earn more than their husbands”.  And these marriages are more likely to lead to divorce.

… Evidence suggests that couples are less likely to get married if the woman’s income exceeds her partner’s. Once married, a wife earning more than her husband is more likely to be unhappy in the marriage, more likely to feel pressured to take fewer hours, and more likely to get divorced.

In what Derek Thompson of the Atlantic describes as a “cool” research paper by Marianne Bertrand, Jessica Pan, and Emir Kamenica, an “intuitive” theory for these unhappy marriages is proposed.  It’s the husband’s fault.

… What if there’s a deficit of marriages where the wife is the top earner because — to put things bluntly — husbands hate being out-earned by their wives, and wives hate living with husbands who resent them?

If this were true, we would expect to see at least three four other things to be true. First, we’d expect marriages with female breadwinners to be surprisingly rare. Second, we’d expect them to produce unhappier marriages. Third, we might expect these women to cut back on hours, do more household, or make other gestures to make their husbands feel better. Fourth, we’d expect these marriages to end more in divorce. Lo and behold (as you no doubt guessed), the economists found all of those assumptions borne out by the evidence.

Wait a minute.  Commenters to this story argue that this is just as likely to be the wife’s fault. 

What is the basis for laying this issue squarely at the feet of men?

What if there’s a deficit of marriages where the wife is the top earner because — to put things bluntly — wives hate settling for men who earn less than them and many women’s hypergamy lead them to resenting husbands whom they out-earn.

If you’re going to resort to random speculation, why not speculate equitably.

This story follows what I’ve seen described as common rule of gender issue reporting; blame it on men.

It’s a fundamental law of gender-issue reporting. Should any inequity be discovered between men and women, it must always be framed as either advantageous towards women, or, if obviously disadvantageous towards women, be framed as somehow men’s fault.

More men graduating – this is obviously a product of a sexist society and we must spend resources and restructure society to rectify this travesty.

More women graduating – the is a natural consequence of earlier female maturity and better communication skills for an information-based economy.

Men make more money – Evil, sexist. We must ban pink princess toys and create a national daycare system.

Women make more money – Hail our new feminist overlords – it’s the End of Men and “Get over it, guys. It’s a woman’s world, now.”

What if “the wives resent their husbands as losers and parasites who are not as good as other men they know”?  Especially since “84% of working women want to stay home with kids”.

Related:  Trouble for some marriages where wives earn more than husbands (Cost of College)

September 27, 2013

‘A parenting style that abjures risk at all costs’ may be bad for the economy

by Grace

A parenting style that abjures risk at all costs may be at least partially responsible for the country’s economic doldrums.

Mollie Hemingway makes that bold statement in a blog post describing tricycle helmets for preschoolers and parents’ fears about letting youngsters mow the lawn.  The tendency to protect children from all risk is not healthy.

So to sum up, letting your child take risks allows them to conquer fear and develop “a sense of mastery.” Irrationally shielding them from risk creates phobias and psychopaths.

Excessive risk avoidance may even affect economic growth.

… a parenting style that abjures risk at all costs may be at least partially responsible for the country’s economic doldrums. In June, the Wall Street Journal pointed out four trends, observable since the 1980s, that showed a marked declined in risk-taking psychology. “Risk Averse Culture Infects U.S. Workers, Entrepreneurs” notes that ongoing job creation and destruction has slowed, that investors are less willing to back startups, that startups in general are down and that the workforce itself is resistant to migration and job change.

So maybe it was a mistake to hire a lawn service instead of making my kids mow our lawn?

.. If we’re ever going to fix America, we have to understand that freedom’s just another word for letting the neighborhood kids mow your lawn.

A bit dramatic, but I see the point.


September 26, 2013

Parental involvement in college has increased

by Grace

More evidence that parental engagement in their children’s college has increased over last few years.

Colleges and universities have noted parents’ seemingly boundless concern for their children’s well-being and have shifted strategies in response. They have boosted parental involvement, or engagement, as it is known in the fund-raising industry. Schools have doubled the number of on-campus parent associations in roughly 10 years, according to the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and parents, in turn, have given generously, even as college costs have hit new highs. Parent donations to higher education, from 2001 to 2010, increased by nearly 50 percent, according to a study published by the Council for Aid to Education.

College parent orientations used to be rare until recently.

According to the National Survey of College and University Parent Programs, in 1999, some 35 percent of institutions offered parent orientations. In 2007, over 95 percent conducted them.

Is this good or bad?  Probably both, depending on the type of parental involvement.  One thing to consider is that skyrocketing college costs may have caused parents to become more careful about making sure their money is being spent wisely.  Hence, the increased oversight of how their children’s college is adding value.

September 25, 2013

Is your college ‘likely to be around for many years to come’?

by Grace

Besides sentimental reasons for wanting your alma mater to “be around for many years to come”, there are practical reasons for hoping your college is able to withstand the intense financial pressures bearing down on higher education today.

Do not ignore financial fitness when making a list of potential colleges to attend.

Lucie Lapovsky, former V.P. of finance at Baltimore’s Goucher College, a higher-ed financial consultant and a FORBES contributor, cautions against ignoring the financial health of the colleges you choose: “Visible signs of financial stress can include fewer classes offered less frequently, more classes taught by adjunct professors, less money for clubs and cutbacks in the upkeep of campus facilities.”

Financial woes are also the leading cause of accreditation suspensions. Indeed, more than a dozen schools among our C- and D-rated colleges are already facing some kind of accreditation inquiry. The last thing you want is for Junior’s college to lose its accreditation. When that happens the feds pull financial aid, enrollment plummets and the lights get turned out.

To help determine the financial health of a college on your list, you can use the FORBES College Financial Grades.  Over 900 private colleges are graded based on several components:

Balance Sheet Health (40%)
Operational Soundness (35%)
Admissions Yield (10%)
Freshmen Receiving Institutional Grants (7.5%)
Instructional Expenses per Full-Time Student (7.5%)

Higher education is facing a tough situation.

The prognosis is ominous in part because institutions of higher education operate in an extremely difficult business environment today. Imagine, if you will, running a company that sells a commodity product, where pricing is opaque and you have hundreds of competitors all clamoring after the same shrinking customer base–which, by the way, happens itself to be in financial distress.

Then consider that one of your other chief revenue drivers, subsidies and grants from federal and state governments, has either been cut back or eliminated. Add to this an evaporating competitive moat being stormed by newly minted for-profit businesses and cheap online alternatives.

Management may be the biggest problem.

… By far the biggest problem at most colleges is that they are governed in a way that flies in the face of sound business practices. The vast majority of colleges in the U.S. are bloated with personnel and programs that make little economic sense.

It’s no surprise that the highest scoring schools on the Forbes list include the Ivy League and other elite institutions.  I was a little surprised to see two local schools, Pace University and Concordia College, at the bottom of the list with D grades.  This financial information would certainly be a factor if I were considering these schools for my child.

September 24, 2013

Tips for jobless grads, with advice to see the upside of surviving the lean years

by Grace

20130919.COCLivingAtHome1Megan McArdle, who moved back in with her parents when she was 29, gives “13 Tips for Jobless Grads on Surviving the Basement Years”.

I like all her tips, which include some practical suggestions as well as some ideas to help lift a disconsolate spirit.

Even if they can’t find a job in their field, dejected college graduates should get a job and start supporting themselves.

Don’t say you can’t work a lesser job because you won’t be able to focus on your job search. After the first few weeks, your job search is not taking you 60 hours a week….

Don’t forget relationships, especially family ties.

Enjoy your time back with your parents. …

A potential upside to surviving the basement years

McArdle compares this crop of recent college graduates to the Great Depression kids.

12. That afraid feeling you have is never really going away. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but folks who were raised in the Great Depression were kind of neurotic penny-pinchers who fretted about financial security far more than the prosperous generations before and after. (Ask your parents about the older relatives who collected tin foil and rubber bands in big balls so that you could reuse them. I kid you not. That was a Thing Grandparents Did when I was growing up.) The bad news is that I, too, am also an obsessive penny pincher — after two years of massive job uncertainty, followed by more years of earning much less money than my student loans would suggest. The good news is that your fear will end up having surprising upsides: there’s a reason that the U.S. household savings rate peaked right along with the earnings of the Great Depression kids. When they retired, savings went off a cliff. So instead of letting your fear ride you, use it constructively, to make you thriftier and more careful.

Since I sometimes consider myself a “neurotic penny-pincher”, I can attest to the upside of surviving massive job uncertainty.  In my case, after a few golden years of a booming career in the oil business, the bottom dropped out and layoffs decimated the ranks of geologists working in that field.  Subsequent years of a dramatically downsized lifestyle taught me valuable lessons in thriftiness and the importance of saving.  If the same effect applies to today’s struggling generation, then a few years of basement living will not have been such a bad thing.

And let’s not forget that frugal people are more attractive.

Related:  No shame in living at home after college (usually) (Cost of College)

September 23, 2013

Two maps showing jobs and population trends

by Grace

Two maps showing trends that should be of interest to recent college graduates

Where Job Growth Will Come Over This Decade


With unemployment at historically high levels, it’s critical to know which industries and occupations will be in demand in the future….

Some fields of projected strong job growth are health care, medium-skill jobs (not requiring a college degree), leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, technology and information services, and business and financial operations.

Map Showing Fastest Growing Cities in 2012


Of the ten largest metropolitan areas, the three with the fastest real GDP growth in 2012 were San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA (7.4 percent), Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX (5.3 percent), and Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX (4.3 percent).3 The ten largest metropolitan areas, accounting for 34 percent of national GDP, averaged 3.1 percent growth in 2012 after growing 1.9 percent in 2011.

Texas is thriving.

The resurgent oil and gas industry helped two Texas areas — Midland and Odessa — rank No. 1 and No. 2 in economic growth for U.S. metro areas in 2012 …

Most Texas metro areas ranked in the top tier of growth: between 3.3 percent and 14.4 percent. In addition to Midland and Odessa, other Texas metro areas, such as Corpus Christi, Laredo, Longview and San Angelo saw significant growth from the oil and gas industry.

Boom and bust
The boom and bust nature of the oil business should be a cautionary tale for anyone who expects these high growth rates to persist.  Earlier this year the announcement of a new 53-floor building planned for Midland was greeted with some cynicism, and reminders that the Petroleum Building in downtown sat empty for many years during 1930s.  The rumor I always heard when I lived there was that this building was used to store hay during those lean years.  Optimists say this time will be different “because of technological advancements, particularly for unconventional oil and gas”.  It’s hard to know, but I wouldn’t count on it.


September 20, 2013

A quick way to find if a college has many out-of-state students

by Grace

A handy tool from the Chronicle of Higher Education allows you to access out-of-state (OOS) freshman student data for nearly 1,600 universities and colleges.  It offers a quick way to compare several schools at once, as well as to see data compiled for entire states.


Some ways you can use this information:

  • You can quickly compare the percentage of OOS students for schools in which you are interested.  You can also check the states these students come from.
  • You can see trends.  The information goes back to 1994, so you can see how a school’s OOS population has changed over time.
  • You can get a sense how attractive you might be to a school.  A school with a low OOS percentage may be seeking to increase geographic diversity by reaching out to students outside their state.

Some quick observations about OOS freshman at selected locations:

  • Binghamton University’s OOS students have increased from 6% to 15% over ten years.
  • Colleges in the states with the least amounts of OOS students, including Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wyoming, may be particularly interested in applications from OOS students.
  • Rice Universtiy is more geographically diverse than many people might expect, with 52% of its students coming from other states.
  • UNC Chapel Hill has consistently maintained its OOS student population at close to 18%, the upper limit as mandated by state regulation.  Florida and New York lead the way in being the source of their OOS students.
  • University of Alabama has bumped its percentage of OOS students from 24% to 43% over ten years, no doubt at least partly due to their generous merit scholarship programs that catch the attention of high-achieving students across the country.

The latest year available is 2010, so the most recent trends are not captured.  International students are not included, skewing the profiles of some schools more than others.


September 19, 2013

Colleges are promoting the liberal arts as a path to a good career

by Grace

Some colleges are focusing more on helping liberal arts majors “translate their studies into the work world”.  This move is spurred by concerned parents and is seen as a way to save the liberal arts.

For years, most liberal-arts schools seemed to put career-services offices “somewhere just below parking” as a matter of administrative priority, in the words of Wake Forest’s president, Nathan Hatch. But increasingly, even elite, decidedly non-career-oriented schools are starting to promote their career services during the freshman year, in response to fears about the economy, an ongoing discussion about college accountability and, in no small part, the concerns of parents, many of whom want to ensure a return on their exorbitant investment.

Parents’ expectations are a driving force in getting schools to pay attention to jobs after graduation.

… “I think families at these, dare I say, fantasy schools — they’re used to kids getting what they want, and they expect that to happen at graduation.”…

Boosting career services can help preserve the liberal arts says Andy Chan, “Wake Forest’s career-development guru”.

… If universities want to preserve the liberal arts, they have a responsibility to help those humanities majors know how to translate their studies into the work world.

What are schools doing?

Working more closely with parents to get feedback, internships, job connections, and donations.  Parents with business experience are considered a valuable resource for both their expertise and money.

Transforming some traditional humanities courses into a sort of corporate training platform, with more emphasis on training in career “core competencies” like communication and collaboration.  A history class, for example, moved to a teamwork approach as a way to highlight the development of career skills.  This approach stirred some criticism with complaints ‘about the explicit career education. “I felt like I signed up to take a history course, and sessions on professional skills were not what I was looking for,”’

Improving the message to employers.  The study of liberal arts studies can develop qualities desired by job recruiters :  “fearlessness, communication, analytic skills and teamwork”.

Are these added expenditures adding value?  Whether these efforts actually make a difference is unclear, but they are certainly an example of the boost in administrative expenditures that are a significant factor in driving up college costs.

The problem with a liberal arts degree is that ‘rigor has weakened‘.  Notwithstanding the current spin on this topic, traditional liberal-arts studies are designed to instill the skills that employers seek  — critical thinking, logical reasoning, clear writing.  But there is a problem with today’s college curriculum.

… Many liberal-arts graduates, even from the best schools, aren’t getting jobs in large part because they didn’t learn much in school. They can’t write or speak well or intelligently analyze what they read.

Related:  Liberal arts skills are profitable for college graduates (Cost of College)

September 18, 2013

Going to all-digital textbooks saves money for private high school students

by Grace

A move to replace paper textbooks with digital versions will save some New York private high school students hundreds of dollars each year.

Stepinac has become one of the first high schools in the country to drop all textbooks like dead weight and replace them with a “digital library.” When students started classes Monday, they were zipping to an app or website on their tablet or laptop and had instant access to all 40 texts in the Stepinac curriculum, not to mention all sorts of note-taking, highlighting and interactive features….

In the past, students’ families had to spend up to $700 a year on textbooks. This year — after the one-time purchase of a tablet or laptop — families have to pay $150 for access to the digital library.

The high school worked out a unique deal with Pearson.

Stepinac officials worked for a year with Pearson, the giant education company that has long dominated the textbook world, to design and create a unique digital library that is bound to be studied by other private and public schools.

The transition will inevitably come with some problems.

The first few weeks may bring some challenges.

Stepinac officials expect to encounter some parental discomfort over dropping books with spines. They recognize there may be technical glitches at first. And they will have to encourage students to leave space-eating photos and music off their tablets — and to keep their devices charged.

I wonder if many students will miss the illustrations and images from their old math and history books.  Even if they do, I suspect it won’t take too long to get used to the new digital format.

Although this exact model wouldn’t work for most colleges, I foresee a similar transition for higher education.

Related:  Save money on college textbooks by using Kindle (Cost of College)

September 17, 2013

These colleges want you!

by Grace


As high school seniors are considering where to apply for college, here are some good reasons to look at a list of top schools published by Forbes.

  1. They are on the Princeton Reviews list of “Best Colleges”
  2. They offer tuition discounts to qualifying applicants.
  3. They had trouble attracting enough freshmen during the last application season.

Forbes calls them 50 Great Colleges Desperately Seeking Students.

With the “free-market pricing” integral to the college admissions process, even higher-income families may find significant tuition discounting at these colleges.

Talk to college admissions officers at these “space available” schools and you begin to get a glimpse of free-market pricing that goes on behind the scenes at private and public colleges.  The fact is, regardless of a family’s income or asset level, many colleges make deals with families, offering significant rebates to their advertised prices.

Take for example, private liberal arts-oriented Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.  The school is located in a leafy rural hamlet two hours east of Pittsburgh and has an undergraduate enrollment of around 1,500.  It’s listed in Princeton Review’s 377 Best Colleges  2013 Edition as being known for its pre-med offerings and small classes and a great theatre program.  The cost to attend Juniata per year is estimated at nearly $48,000.

However 99% of incoming undergraduates receive tuition rebates or grants from the college. If your teen has SAT scores for math and critical reading that add up to at least 1200 and has a decent GPA, you should expect out of pocket costs of no more than half the advertised amount per year, even if your annual household income is more than $200,000.

Here are some of the schools on the list:

  • New College Of Florida – Sarasota, FL
  • St. Johns College — Annapolis, MD
  • Missouri University Of Science & Technology — Rolla, MO
  • St. Johns College —Santa Fe, N
  • University of Maryland — College Park, MD
  • Lewis & Clark College — Portland, OR
  • Knox College — Galesburg, IL
  • Illinois Institute Of Technology – Chicago, IL
  • Marlboro College — Marlboro, VT
  • Beloit College — Beloit, WI

The complete detailed list has information about costs and grant aid, as well as 75th percentile SAT scores that can give an indication about the stats needed to qualify for tuition discounts.

Related:  Tuition discounting grows to all-time high at private colleges (Cost of College)

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