Monday, April 22, 2013

And this little elite stayed home....

I'm catching up on my reading after a week of under-connectivity, and I was interested to see this piece linked to from the AVI's site.  It's about a recently published paper comparing the rates of "opting out" of the workforce for mothers who graduated from elite vs non elite institutions.  Apparently the better the school you went to, the more likely you are to stay home with your kids.

I had a couple of things to point out about the original article about the paper, but first I'd like to point out something that reminds me why you always need to dive in to the original data tables (if provided).  

First, here's how the article from Charles Murray characterizes one of the papers stats:
But as soon as Hersh separates out women with children from those without, it becomes obvious that women from tier 1 schools are significantly more likely to be home with the kids than the others — 68% of mothers from the tier 1 schools were employed, compared to 76% of those from the other schools.
Sounds straightforward right?  8% more women from elite schools are home when their kids are young as opposed to everyone else.  Well, lets see what the actual paper said:
The employment rate for married mothers with children who are graduates of the most selective colleges is 68 percent, in contrast to an employment rate of 76 percent of those who are graduates of less selective colleges.
Pretty much the same thing right?  I mean, if you were to just read that second statement, you'd think the first one paraphrased it pretty well.  But when I looked at the data tables, that's not what it said.  The 68%-76% jump is not between elite schools and everyone else, but between elite schools and tier 4 schools.  Here are the numbers (page 50 of the pdf from the link above):

                        Tier 1            Tier 2            Tier 3               Tier 4
Children           67.7               71.9              71.6                 76.3
No Children     87.9               90.9              89.6                 89.8

I tried to parse through the methodology for assigning tiers, but honestly I got confused.  It seems to be a mash up between Carnegie ratings and Barron's.  In other words, the categories may not necessarily mean what you think they mean.  It seems private research I and II universities were considered tier 1, private liberal arts colleges are tier 2, public research universities are tier 3, and all others are tier 4.  This would put my alma mater as tier 1, and I would hardly consider it "elite".

Anyway, there's some good commentary going on about this article, but I thought the exact definitions being used were interesting.  I think it is interesting to see how people behave when they have money vs when they don't.  Also, I thought it was equally interesting that much of the difference came from women who had earned degrees in law or MBAs.  These women quite their jobs at much higher rates than those with MDs or teachers.  It struck me as interesting because people do not generally love business or law the way people love medicine or teaching.  It seems to me that this data suggests that when women have their druthers, they keep jobs they love, and ditch jobs that are more status driven.

Moral of the story: find a job you love, and always read the data tables.                            

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