Posts tagged ‘Megan McArdle’

March 20, 2015

The advantages of two-parent families are not obvious to everyone

by Grace

… universal preschool is not going to make up for an uninvolved parent …

Megan McArdle writes about the importance of the two-parent family, a social institution offering a type of support for children that government cannot seem to match.

Robert Putnam’s “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” has touched off a wave of print and digital commentary. The book chronicles a growing divide between the way affluent kids are raised, in two-parent homes whose parents invest heavily in educating their kids, and the very different, very unstable homes in which poorer kids generally grow up.

When the problems of single-parent families are debated, some will “argue that there are lots of good ways to raise kids outside the straitjacket of mid-century, middle-class mores”.

I have been trying to find a more delicate way to phrase this, but I can’t: This is nonsense. The advantages that two people raising their own biological or jointly adopted children have over “nontraditional” family arrangements are too obvious to need enumeration, but apparently mere obviousness is not enough to forestall contrary arguments, so let me enumerate them anyway.

Raising children the way an increasing percentages of Americans are — in loosely attached cohabitation arrangements that break up all too frequently, followed by the formation of new households with new children by different parents — is an enormous financial and emotional drain. Supporting two households rather than one is expensive, and it diverts money that could otherwise be invested in the kids. The parent in the home has no one to help shoulder the load of caring for kids, meaning less investment of time and more emotional strain on the custodial parent. Children will spend less time with their noncustodial parent, especially if that parent has other offspring. Add in conflict between the parents over money and time, and it can infect relationships with the children. As one researcher told me when I wrote an article on the state of modern marriage, you frequently see fathers investing time and money with the kids whose mother they get along with the best, while the other children struggle along on crumbs.

People often argue that extended families can substitute, but of course, two-parent families also have extended families — two of them — so single-parent families remain at a disadvantage, especially because other members of the extended family are often themselves struggling with the challenges of single parenthood. Extended families just can’t substitute for the benefits of a two-parent family. Government can’t, either; universal preschool is not going to make up for an uninvolved parent, or one stretched too thin to give their kids enough time. Government can sand the rough edges off the economic hardship, of course, but even in a social democratic paradise such as Sweden, kids raised in single-parent households do worse than kids raised with both their parents in the home.

The share of American children born to single mothers has grown seven-fold since 1960.

More than 40 percent of American children are now born to unmarried parents, down from just five percent in 1960, according to Pew Research Center. Fifty years ago, the vast majority of adults — 72 percent — were married. The same is true for only about half of adults today. The declines in marriage are especially pronounced in families with lower earnings. Tying the knot is increasingly a marker of class status in America.

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Megan McArdle, “How Hollywood Can Save Our Families”, Bloomberg, March 17, 2015.

Seth Freed Wessler, “What Happened to the Middle-Class American Family?”, CNBC, March 18, 2015.

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October 9, 2013

Second-tier status can mean second-tier salary for grad school

by Grace

The decision to go on to get a graduate degree should be made with specific career goals in mind.  Among other factors, a school’s reputation affects post-graduate job opportunities and salary.  From a MarketWatch story titled “10 things grad schools won’t tell you” comes this advice.

“Our second-tier status may hamper your career — and your pay.”

“The name of your school matters a lot,” says Katie Bardaro, lead economist for PayScale.com, a website that compiles compensation data. Indeed, salaries can be much higher for grads of top schools, especially for people getting M.B.A.S and law degrees, says Bardaro. Data from PayScale shows that the median pay for M.B.A. grads two years after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School is $125,000 a year, growing to $167,000 by the time they were 10 years out of school. M.B.A. grads from the less highly regarded University of Massachusetts Boston Campus earn a median $62,300 annually two years out of school, and that pay grows to $75,400 when they’re 10 years out. The University of Massachusetts didn’t respond to requests for comment.

People considering graduate school who don’t want to attend or can’t get into or afford a brand-name school should look for schools with notable alumni in their industry, says Bardaro. Such alumni might bring cachet to a school that isn’t necessarily Ivy League, says Bardaro. And if the program has a strong track record of placing people in a certain industry, that could also boost the student’s chances of finding a well-paying job, she says.

When my husband was deciding where to go for his MBA, one of the most important factors was a school’s reputation for helping its graduates find employment in specific sectors and locations.  Given the recent devaluation of an MBA, today it’s even more important to determine carefully the return on the time and money for a business school education.

Here is some advice from Megan McArdle.

… When young people ask me whether they should get an MBA, I give them the same advice that I got in the late 1990s: unless you can get into a top 10* (or have a very specific job that you know you can get by attending a regional program), then don’t. You’re too likely to end up with massive debt and no very good prospects for paying it.

Related:

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)

July 5, 2013

The struggling middle class – working hard or hardly working?

by Grace

It may seem simplistic, but perhaps an attitude adjustment would improve the outlook for our uncertain economic future.

Charles Blow wrote about the The Morose Middle Classciting several polls showing Americans are worried about a shrinking middle class.

According to the poll, Americans see a middle class with less opportunity to get ahead, less job security and less disposable income than the middle class of previous generations.

I have some recent posts on this theme of a hollowed out middle class, with Megan McArdle citing technology and trade as main culprits.  And although “education is not a solution by itself”, most of us still believe in its value for at least keeping us out of poverty.

Most of those polled believe that higher education is the key to staying in the middle class, but many worry about its prohibitive cost and inaccessibility.

What about a willingness to work hard?

There is no denying that soaring costs have created a formidable barrier to higher education.  But beyond soaring college costs, technology, and trade, it might be argued that weakened stamina for hard work is even more to blame for our economic woes.

The Atlantic gives us a story about John, a young man who feels like he’s “working really hard, but he’s not getting ahead”.

20130702.COCWorkingHard1

Is he working really hard?  The details of John’s story failed to convince me.

  • He was an unmotivated high school student, graduating with a C-average.
  • His parents encouraged him to attend college, and paid for it.
  • But he dropped out after two years, struggling with math and science.
  • He is now 29 years old, working as a preschool teacher making $11 an hour — about $23,000 a year.
  • He lives in a “cluttered” house, owned by his parents and rented to him at a discount.
  • He “wants’ to go back to school and “thinks” about getting a second job.
  • He sometimes gets angry, but also admits he “kind of” blames himself.

Various factors influence economic success.

“Economic mobility is not predetermined,” says Erin Currier, project manager of Pew’s Economic Mobility Project, “but our research has shown that a host of drivers and factors can influence a person’s chances of moving up or falling down.” These determinants fall into three categories: social capital (who you know and where you live); financial capital (your savings and access to credit); and human capital (your education).

John’s parents have tried to help him with social capital (John rebuffed his dad’s offers to help him find a job at the railroad) and financial capital (the house with discounted rent, although no help with tuition). What he needs is more human capital. For that, his parents can’t help much, except to offer encouragement. “He’s smart enough to go to college,” Greg says. Beth adds: “We still want better for him, we really do. But we don’t know what to do.”

From a comment to this story:

… I’ve never met a kid in college who actually “worked hard” (shown up every day, did the work, went to office hours, etc.) and still failed. I’ve met dozens of kids who did none of those things, but then complained when they failed the tests.

It appears John lacks more than “human capital”.  What about persistence and a willingness to work hard?

This is what working hard looks like:
The other day I met a young man at a car rental place.  He was quite engaging, and chatted about his work life.  Washing cars and shuttling customers at the rental company is his second job.  His main job is driving a UPS truck for 42 hours a week.  In total, he works about 70-80 hours a week.  He said he hardly had time to see his girlfriend, but she understood.  He was making good money.  I didn’t learn if he was planning to attend college, and I cannot predict how this young man will fare in the increasingly competitive workforce of the future.  But I am convinced he really is “working hard”, and that his chances of future success are higher than those of John, the college dropout profiled in The Atlantic.

April 11, 2013

How would you advise your daughter?

by Grace

Would you advise your daughter to look for a husband while she’s in college?

Susan Patton set off internet mania with her recent ‘letter to the Daily Princetonian newspaper advising the school’s female students: “You will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you. . . . Find a husband on campus before you graduate.”‘

Her advice proved wildly unpopular among a vocal segment of progressive thinkers.

Feminist attacks on Ms. Patton began immediately—the paper’s website was swamped with complaints, the Twitter crowd was livid, and writers lit into her at Slate, New York magazine and beyond.

Another mother gave the same advice.

Five years ago when she was a Dartmouth college junior, Emily Esfahani Smith was surprised when her mother gave her similar advice to start looking for a husband.  Why would “a strong, career-oriented feminist” start pressuring her daughter to get married?

..  She knew what few, if any, feminists would tell young women today: There is far more to happiness than career success.

It turns out academically gifted women value their careers less than similar men do.

Career success and relationships are both undoubtedly important to women’s happiness, but many young and ambitious women value their personal lives more than their career aspirations. And that feeling intensifies over time.

In a 2009 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, David Lubinski and his team at Vanderbilt found that in a sample of academically gifted young adults, women became less career-oriented than men over time. As they approached middle age, women also placed more value than men on spending time with family, community and friends. These differences became more pronounced with parenthood.

Some reasons to try for early marriage:

  1. There is a larger pool of eligible men for younger women, given the historical patterns of assortative mating and hypergamy.
  2. Finding the right husband is important whether a woman wants to prioritize career or family.
  3. A good marriage can be personally fulfilling.

Some reasons to wait:

  1. In some cases, early marriages are at greater risk of divorce.  (The more important factors correlating with higher divorce rates appear to be marriage at age 20 or younger and the lack of a college degree.)
  2. Marriage may limit a woman’s education and career choices.
  3. Some people need more time to develop and understand their values.

The middle ground:

… Don’t get married so young you don’t understand life, or too old that you can’t experience the joy of losing yourself in a loving spouse and family. I’d spend a couple years seeing the world after the Ivy League before making the leap.

Megan McArdle expounded on the topic, and made the point that the “age at which the right person comes along depends on luck, not some kind of calendar”.

In this annoying but slightly amusing video, Garfunkel and Oates sing about how things change for a woman between the ages of 29 and 31.


Related:

April 3, 2013

Quick Links – College recommended but not marriage; record student loan write-off; minimal sequester effects; plus more

by Grace

◊◊◊  Why Do Economists Urge College, But Not Marriage? (The Daily Beast)

Megan McArdle:

Both are good for you. Only one is viewed as a proper aim of society.

College improves your earning prospects.  So does marriage.  Education makes you more likely to live longer.  So does marriage.  Yet while many economist vocally support initiatives to move more people into college, very few of them vocally favor initiatives to get more people married.  Why is that, asks Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry? His answer:

Meanwhile, economists’ “cosmopolitan perspective” (as Cowen puts it) makes them not feel good at the idea of public policy that would interfere with personal choices (allowing for a second that getting married is a “personal choice” in a way that going to college isn’t). Most economists think that government should not interfere or have a stance one way or another with decisions that feel intimate to people. That is a complete value judgement. And it’s a completely defensible one.

But at the level of the economics profession, this leads to bias: much more ink is spilled on, and thought given to the college wage premium than the marriage wage premium. One is mostly praised and interpreted in a certain way, while the other is mostly ignored. And, of course, the thing that academic economics focuses on has an effect on elite debate and public policy, especially when the socially liberal, pro-higher ed biases of economists line up well with those of the rest of the elite.

Another reason suggested by McArdle is that economists have typically been very successful in college, but perhaps not so successful in marriage.

◊◊◊  Banks wrote off $3 billion of student loan debt in the first two months of 2013 (Chicago Tribune)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Banks wrote off $3 billion of student loan debt in the first two months of 2013, up more than 36 percent from the year-ago period, as many graduates remain jobless, underemployed or cash-strapped in a slow U.S. economic recovery, an Equifax study showed.

◊◊◊ The sequester happened and the sky didn’t fall.

Report: Most Colleges Not Hit Hard by Sequester

Most universities will face only minimal effects from the automatic budget cuts that went into effect at the beginning of the month, according to a report released Thursday by Moody’s Investors Service. The report looked at the projected financial effect of the 5 percent cuts to domestic discretionary spending, known as sequestration, and found that only 1 percent of colleges and not-for-profits stood to lose more than 3 percent of their annual revenue as the result of the cuts.

Research universities were most likely to be hit hard by the cuts because federal funding for scientific research is one of the areas affected. While some financial aid programs — particularly federal work-study and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant — will also be cut, the Pell Grant, bedrock of need-based financial aid programs, is safe for the 2013-14 academic year.

◊◊◊  1 in 5 high school-age boys are diagnosed with ADHD, double the rate for girls.

Fifteen percent of school-age boys have received an A.D.H.D. diagnosis, the data showed; the rate for girls was 7 percent. Diagnoses among those of high-school age — 14 to 17 — were particularly high, 10 percent for girls and 19 percent for boys. About one in 10 high-school boys currently takes A.D.H.D. medication, the data showed.

It makes me wonder if just “being a boy” is considered a disease.  Schools, pressure to succeed in academics  and the pharmaceutical industry are all getting blamed for what may be an over-diagnosis problem.

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