Archive for December, 2013

December 31, 2013

Advances in holographic technology may mean less business travel

by Grace

Holographic telepresence technology may mean a cutback in business travel and easier telecommuting.

Remember when Princess Leia’s hologram delivered a message to General Kenobi?

The future is now.

Beam yourself across the world

The growth in video communication has been exponential. Skype now boasts 300 million users, and a 2012 Ipsos/Reuters poll revealed one in five people worldwide now frequently “telecommuted” to work. But Star Trek fans will be happy to hear that incoming technology will add a further dimension to international conference calls. Known as holographic telepresence, it involves transmitting a three-dimensional moving image of you at each destination – allowing you to converse as if you were in the room. One system from Musion, based in Britain, uses Pepper’s Ghost, an effect popular with illusionists, to beam moving images onto sloped glass. Musion has already digitally resurrected rapper Tupac Shakur at a music festival. But full 3D holographic communication is not far behind – in the shape of the Polish company Leia. Named after the Star Wars princess, its Leia Display XL uses laser projectors to beam images onto a cloud of water vapour. The result is a walk-in holographic room, in which 3D objects can be viewed and manipulated from every angle. An IBM survey of 3,000 researchers recently named holographic video calls as one technology they expected to see in place in the next year or so.

Easier telecommuting

It might also make telecommuting more attractive in some situations.  If this technology had been available years ago, I may have been able to continue telecommuting.  As it was, my boss at the time asked me to go back to showing up at the office five days a week after I had tried working partly from home for about a year.  Since it meant a three-hour daily commute while parenting young children, I resigned that job in favor of a better quality of life.  Future workers may have better choices.


December 30, 2013

Most college graduates are underemployed

by Grace

Most college graduates are underemployed, as shown by the chart on the left.  The chart on the right shows that the vast majority of college graduates are working in fields unrelated to their undergraduate major.


This comes from research produced by Jaison Abel and Richard Dietz of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

… We utilize newly available census data that identify both an individual’s level of education and, for college graduates, undergraduate college major. We construct two measures of what we call job matching for those with a bachelor’s degree. Our first measure, which we refer to as college degree matching, determines whether an undergraduate degree holder is working in an occupation that requires at least a bachelor’s degree. Our second measure, which we call college major matching, gauges the quality of a job match by identifying whether a person is working in a job that corresponds to that person’s undergraduate major. For example, consider a college graduate who majored in Communications. If this person worked as a public relations manager, an occupation that both requires a college degree and relates directly to a Communications major, we would classify this person as matching along both measures. By contrast, if this person worked as a retail salesperson, he or she would be classified as not matching along either measure.

Being overqualified is sometimes the only way to secure employment and pave the way for future career growth.

This data does not necessarily support the argument that a college degree is a waste of time and money for most.  In a perverse way, it actually supports the importance of going to college.  In this jobless economic recovery we have too many college graduates chasing too few college-level jobs, so employers can screen out job applicants who lack a college background.  Those retail salespeople, office receptionists, or any number of similar workers with college degrees were probably helped in gaining employment by the fact they had demonstrated the persistence and intelligence needed to complete four years of higher education.  It also helps their chances of future career and income growth.

A law school graduate blogging about “the loss of my last shred of dignity” while working at a store counter selling cologne is featured in a Business Insider story.

The blog’s anonymous author graduated from a law school that was in the top 50 ranked by U.S. News and World Report. He was on law review and even got a summer position at a firm after his second year. He didn’t get a job offer though.

December 28, 2013

ICYMI — Weekly roundup

by Grace



College graduates have fared the best during the jobless recovery

Which college majors have gained or lost popularity over the last half century?

Most economists “said it’s absurd to give cash to loved ones for the holidays”. 

K-12 public schools have struggled with decreased state funding over the last six years.

Investment bankers will be allowed to take a weekend off once a month.

December 27, 2013

Investment bankers will be allowed to take it easy one weekend every month

by Grace

Investment bankers will be getting more time off, according to an email newsletter from eFinancialCareers.

Jeff Urwin, global head of investment banking at J.P. Morgan, has confirmed reports that the bank will indeed introduce “protected weekends,” where analysts and associates are barred from even entering the office during one weekend every month.

Wow, one whole weekend free from work.  How rare is that for anyone nowadays?  But wait, you don’t need to be in the office to work.  You can sneak in a little deal-making by working remotely.  I’m sure some of the more competitive bankers will continue to be productive every weekend even if they’re banned from the office.


More hiring will be needed.

But that’s not all. Urwin also reportedly told employees that J.P. Morgan will hire roughly 10% more junior investment bankers in 2014, likely due, at least in part, to the need to fill in the gaps created by the protected weekends. No matter what the cause, J.P. will extend more employment offers in the coming year.

A good sign for job growth?

Both of JPM’s moves fall in line with those made by Goldman Sachs, which also announced it would be dialing back the workload thrust upon its junior workers and will hire more in 2014.

Whether they want to or not, other banks will surely need to follow suit. Goldman and J.P. Morgan didn’t make these decisions out of the kindness of their heart. They did it because the pay at the junior level isn’t what it used to be and talented people are getting burned out and leaving the profession early. Or worse, they are heading to Silicon Valley before ever step foot in the building.


December 26, 2013

The decline in state funding for public schools

by Grace

20131217.COCStateSchoolSpending1Most K-12 public schools have had to deal with decreased state funding over the last six years.

States’ new budgets are providing less per-pupil funding for kindergarten through 12th grade than they did six years ago — often far less.  The reduced levels reflect not only the lingering effects of the 2007-09 recession but also continued austerity in many states; indeed, despite some improvements in overall state revenues, schools in around a third of states are entering the new school year with less state funding than they had last year.  At a time when states and the nation are trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, this decline in state educational investment is cause for concern.

Many schools are struggling with the costs of implementing Common Core Standards.  Some federal funding has been provided, but not always enough to offset the costs.

Local School Districts Hard Pressed to Make Up for Lost State Funding

The precipitous decline in property values since the start of the recession, coupled with the political or legal difficulties in many localities of raising property taxes, make raising significant additional revenue through the property tax very difficult for school districts.  Indeed, property tax collections were 2.1 percent lower in the 12-month period ending in March 2013 than in the previous 12 months, after adjusting for inflation.

Beyond increasing local revenues, school districts’ options for preserving investments in education services are very limited.  Some localities could divert funds from other local services to shore up school district budgets, but this would sustain education spending at the expense of other critical services like police and fire protection

Some schools are doing more with less.

Some schools have used decreased funding to institute creative ways to save money while improving learning.  After losing a literacy teacher due to budget cuts, one New York school tried separating students into instructional groups based on their proficiency levels“.  As it turns out, research supports the academic benefits of proficiency grouping.

Related:  Proficiency grouping makes more sense than differentiated instruction (Cost of College)

December 25, 2013

Economists don’t think money is the best holiday gift

by Grace

Most economists in the University of Chicago’s IGM poll said it’s absurd to give cash to loved ones for the holidays”.  Here is how David Autor of MIT put it.

Presents serve multiple interpersonal purposes. Revealed preference indicates that income transfer is not the primary one.

Lovely thought.  And here’s a Christmas card with the University of Chicago’s Steven Kaplan’s views on the matter.


All comments can be viewed at the IGM website.  Even with economists, it’s not all about the money.

Have a merry Christmas!

December 24, 2013

Trends in the popularity of college majors

by Grace

Which college majors have gained in popularity over the last half century?

Ben Schmidt at Northeastern University has just created a data chart that shows how the popularity of college majors since the mid-1960s have changed. …

The charts are interactive, allowing the user to select options that show specific majors and schools, as well as gender differences.  I hate to admit how much time I wasted spent playing with studying the graphs.

Here’s one chart showing a few majors I selected for display.
It shows the decline of interest in English and literature, the rise of computer science as a discipline, and how the growth of business majors has mainly been fueled by the increasing numbers of women.



This chart is from New York University.
It shows the shrinking popularity of English and literature alongside the growing popularity of art and architecture.  This confirms my suspicion about the growing numbers of students who prefer cinema and music over the written word as a means of expression.


Two more charts I produced, one from the University of Texas at Austin:


And another from the University of California at Irvine:



December 23, 2013

The jobs gap between college and high school graduates continues to grow

by Grace

College graduates continue to fare the best in this feeble economic recovery.

College graduates claimed the bulk of last month’s job gains, while high-school grads with no college lost jobs, highlighting a persistent divide in the recovery.

While both groups have seen improvements in unemployment rates, 3.4% for college grads and 7.3% for high school grads with no college, there is general agreement that progress has been slow.

Underemployment is a problem.

… Of course, though college grads are getting the lion’s share of the jobs, it doesn’t mean those are good jobs. Overall employment gains have come from lower wage jobs, with many graduates underemployed.

The divergence in jobs growth is clear.


Among all segments of workers sorted by educational attainment, college graduates are the only group that has more people employed today than when the recession started.

The number of college-educated workers with jobs has risen by 9.1 percent since the beginning of the recession. Those with a high school diploma and no further education are practically a mirror image, with employment down 9 percent on net. For workers without even a high school diploma, employment levels have fallen 14.1 percent.


December 21, 2013

ICYMI — Weekly roundup

by Grace



Most parents push their kids to attend college, and for good reason.

Spending other people’s money drives up prices

Cash is king for holiday gifts

It’s not surprising that higher cell phone use was found to be linked to lower grades among college students.

Reaction to the Obamacare Pajama Boy

December 20, 2013

Is the Pajama Boy message directed to moms?

by Grace

The Obamacare Pajama Boy has been getting a lot of ribbing this week.  Most people seemed to agree it was not the best image to use for the purpose of encouraging young people to buy health insurance.


Surprisingly, pajama onesies in adult sizes are available for purchase, just in case anyone would like to recreate that look.

It’s true that many young people could use some advice on appropriate job interview attire, but I hope Pajama Boy at least knows that red plaid does not convey a sense of professionalism.


Ann Althouse suggests the Pajama Boy message is directed not to young people, but to their parents.

What is the message in the original Pajama Boy tweet? Pajama Boy is home for the holidays, reintegrated into his parents’ concept of him, as if he is still a little boy. He accepts that — the chocolate and the Christmas/holiday pajamas — because he loves his parents and he wants a good visit. But the subject of health insurance can be talked about in that milieu. For some reason, it won’t be inappropriate, won’t spoil the home-for-the-holidays spirit, it can fit. Pajama Boy is not a “douchebag.” He’s an average young guy, trying to do what’s right, including visiting his parents and living up to their expectation,s and he needs a little prodding to talk about getting insurance, which is part of what a good little boy should do.

But maybe the message is not so much for the boy but for the parents. The parents may think that when their little guy comes home for the holidays, they just want to baby him. But they really should also make sure he’s got his insurance. Don’t completely pretend he’s still a child. He’s your kid and you need to make sure he’s safe and sound. Jammies and warm milk are comforting, but he needs more protection than that. Do what you can to protect your little sweetheart now, before he once again leaves the bosom of the family and exposes himself to the danger of the world beyond the home. He may not quite yet realize what the risks and helping the “young invincibles” get insured is a parental responsibility just like the clothing and feeding you did when he was young. He doesn’t really need those jimjams and cocoa. He needs insurance. Help this dear boy one last time, Mama.

Appealing to helicopter moms, perhaps?

Related:  Can young college graduates burdened by student loans be convinced to buy health insurance? (Cost of College)

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