September 13, 2015
Hundreds Of Colleges Provide No Earnings Boost

Most graduates of hundreds of colleges are doing no better than high school grads 10 years after graduation.

Great that this has been quantified. Why? Two reasons you already know:

  • Smart people make more money because they can do more. College does not make you smarter. Colleges with lower standards offer a way to get a degree without being very bright.
  • Some colleges teach few useful skills. They lack accounting courses, let alone engineering or computer science. Even some schools have those courses recruit mostly students who aren't capable of passing them.

Even a substantial chunk of the earnings boost associated with elite college education is coming from the intelligence and drive of the people who manage to get accepted to these colleges. Unless IQ and drive are adjusted for attempts to measure the benefits of college will produce overestimates.

Of course the students who to go the low IQ colleges default at much higher rates.

Kids who aren't too bright are being economically harmed by delaying work to go to colleges where they won't learn anything useful. If only our society was more honest about intelligence differences we could have policies that helped the lower IQ folks learn skills they could master that would help them in the job market.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2015 September 13 09:20 PM 

Average Joe said at September 15, 2015 11:56 AM:

So, in a nutshell, the message here is that only smart people can make money… a bit too far right … At least Ayn Rand would have been proud.

So what's the follow-up? Reviving the IQ test craze of the past to separate people into castes? No college for Average Joes. Just herd all the not-so-bright kids to plumbing camps the day they turn 10 years old. Hopefully, 10 is a low enough number so nobody complains that they have been draining too much of society's resources.

Even without discussing the heavily biased nature of IQ tests, there are plenty of extremely bright people who haven't done much in life. Read about Christopher Langan – the smartest person in the world, who worked as a construction worker and bouncer. There's no Nobel Prize to his name and he certainly is not in the Forbes 500 list. So it seems that, while intelligence is one of the helpful attributes of financial success, it does not guarantee it.

Also, don't forget about all those extremely intelligent … serial killers. I guess that in their case IQ did not translate to “wealth”…

And then there is all the debate about intelligence being made, not born. Of course that rich people will have better IQ scores, as they had the privilege of an education which constantly exposed them to this kind of exercise.

What about creativity? I haven't seen any scientific papers by Steve Jobs and he still managed to build the most valuable company in the world.

The presumed universal link between IQ and intelligence does not hold in real life. Just look at the not-so-bright media stars that make an excellent living. (Can you keep up with the Kardashians, financially?). How about the keen intellect of Paris Hilton and of other heirs?

Vader said at September 15, 2015 2:32 PM:

What ... you think reality is optional, Joe?

Above Average Mike said at September 15, 2015 2:33 PM:

Average Joe, go take some courses in basic statistics. You need them. Badly.

Jimbino said at September 15, 2015 2:55 PM:

The question is, how much do Harvard and DeVry Tech add to a person's IQ or skills? The jury is still out. All we can say is that Harvard accepts the brightest and graduates the second brightest (the brightest, like Gates, Dell and Zuckerberg catch on early and drop out). DeVry accepts those less qualified and sometimes adds value at a relatively low cost. Which school is better?

BubbaB said at September 15, 2015 2:56 PM:

It always amuses me when the same people who advocate for the European model of higher ed (Free!) object to the sorting and rationing that goes with it. In Germany if you aren't selected for the university track at 14 you don't go to university, with few exceptions. In order to receive that "free" higher ed, you must prove you have what it takes.

Crank said at September 15, 2015 3:21 PM:

"So, in a nutshell, the message here is that only smart people can make money… a bit too far right "

No, only a low IQ person would take that as the message.

Phelps said at September 15, 2015 7:07 PM:

Joe doesn't believe in... math.

Average Joe said at September 16, 2015 3:05 AM:

This is not a debate about statistics, but about conservative politics.

I've always been fascinated by the ability of the plutocracy to get the struggling lower and middle classes to vote against their own interest. Real earnings have been flat for close to half a century and population occupation rates are steadily declining. The proportion of wealth going to the 1% is rapidly increasing. (Although this might be just a bad rumor spread by communists like Piketty. Luckily we have the good folks at Fox News to guide the ignorant flock towards enlightenment.) And while this happens, progressive taxation only appears in history textbooks and the public squabbles about policies for selecting the monkeys that get the measly peanuts. But the system works, because once in the club, there's great joy in seeing that others did not make the cut.

The funny thing about statistics is the cognitive biases that prevent ordinary people from understanding them. The superiority bias is so prevalent that the Above Average Mikes are just the oblivious victims of the Downing Effect. For a primer on interpreting statistics read Darrell Huff.

There's also an interesting study about the link between low IQ and conservative ideologies.

For info, this Average Joe is a Mensa member, who has the applied statistical knowledge, but lacks the superiority complex.

Randall Parker said at September 16, 2015 7:01 PM:

Average Joe,

You are the one who is getting all partisan and bent of out shape. But what I said is really true: very very very few people can beat the broad market indexes when choosing stocks. Most who manage to do it for a few years just got lucky. This is a heavily researched subject. People who try to beat the market would turn out far better if they just bought some index ETFs and held long term.

You say you are a Mensa member. You obviously think you are very smart. You may well be. But it remains the case that the vast majority can't beat the market.

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