Bryan Caplan of George Mason University and the author of The Case Against Education talks about the book with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Caplan argues that very little learning takes place in formal education and that very little of the return to college comes from skills or knowledge that is acquired in the classroom. Schooling, he concludes, as it is currently conducted is mostly a waste of time and money. Caplan bring a great deal of evidence to support his dramatic claim and much of the conversation focuses on the challenge of measuring and observing what students actually learn.
United States


00:00:01welcome to EconTalk part of the library of economics in Liberty I'm your host Russ Roberts of Stanford University's Hoover institution our website is EconTalk. Org or you can subscribe comment on this podcast and find links and other information related to today's conversation will also find her archives where you can listen to every episode we've ever done going back to 2006 are email addresses mail at EconTalk. Org would love to hear from you
00:00:33today is January 18th 2018 and my guess is Economist and author Brian Kaplan of George Mason University he blogs at econlog which like EconTalk is part of econ why but. Org the library of Economics of Liberty is latest book is the case against education why the education system is a waste of time and money which is the subject of today's conversation this is Brian's Brian's 7th appearance on EconTalk is most recent was in April 2014 almost 4 years ago and we talked about many of the topics to write his book I'm hoping to take a new approach to the topic a song to work Brian's son in the meanwhile and bring up some other stuff along the way as well brand welcome back to EconTalk always let her go to wait so long I couldn't agree more I guess I could but anyway I want to start with the empirical finding that is at the heart of of your book which is
00:01:30that schooling pays any particular for individual a college graduating from college
00:01:40create a large premium it's I said that incorrectly college graduates are in a lot more than high school graduates of the book I think it's 73%. I want to start by pointing out that some mean and average not a median do we have receipt in number which is weird because of course the the mean has the people from the far right-hand tale of which they are somewhat numerous from for college grads is somewhat much less numerous for high school grads right now you give as everyone does you lay out 3 Series in the book for why college graduates might earn more than high school graduates of course you're also skeptical of K through 12 education get to that along the way but I want to start by focusing on the premium determined by college grads what are the three main theories for why college graduates might earn more than
00:02:40people who only graduate from high school right so the first story is called human capital it just says that people are more people who are stationed or more money because they have been trained effectively for jobs are going to do so school you go to school and get you more skills you make me a nice simple story in the book is called signaling says that yes it's going to school. Cause your earnings to go up but reason isn't so much that you are learning useful skills is that you're getting certified you're going to a stamp on your forehead saying grade a premium worker hire this person and then last night he is so I called ability bias this one just says that it's just coincidental that people more education make more money and rather was going on is this the kind of thing that wealthy people to people are going to be wealthy rather do just like people who going skiing
00:03:40and there's a great place to go to get rich as a place that you go to spend the money that you have so that's what people were going to be so I just want to reframe that last one just a bit because you've added something there than this usually added which is the reverse causation that rich people like to spend money on the application requirements in this case I want to stick with the simpler idea simply that the people who go to college rather than to stick with just High School have more ability and tyranny Jeff like that so there's more money anyway even if they had it on the score of that experiment so misled by the premium outlet I'm going to challenge Brian here because Brian to say I think a very honest person in the IRS I think you are I think you are it's a rare tree
00:04:40and in our field and it's a little bit weird because this book is is not a dishonest but could it does have an agenda it if I had such as you said you focus on making the case for signal but I think you're capable of passing the Turing test and making the ideological turning the methodological Turing test here I'm going to challenge you to take each of the three cases you've just given us and make the best empirical case for each one and let's leave signaling for last cuz that's your your your offspring that you care the most about so I want you to First make the the case for the human capital argument than the ability argument and then I'm going to let you close with the signaling in this is Prelude this I'd like this to take maybe I don't know 10 10 minutes or so to get a started maybe 15 and I may interrupt your story but
00:05:34fish empirical evidence for all of these and of course they all as you can see two player all the snot like a hundred percent wanted to answer but you find your reading of the literature that is overwhelmingly signaling the number I think you assigned as 80% is your approximate waiting 80% signaling 20% for those are the factors really after we subtract it out the ability my ass I do have a big supper section of the apparent effect and then and then they remain and then we'll then we have to divide a 55% between 20% human Capital One 80% say going but so perhaps we don't disagree as much as you might think
00:06:34good point but right now to start with I want you to put on your human capital hat you're in labor Economist who thinks that this signaling is overrated what's the best evidence we have that Schumann Capital that is knowledge skills abilities that ability but I don't know if it's the right word
00:07:00skill is acquired in in in college give me the best empirical evidence for that climb Usher so I would just start off with a basic academic skills Reading Writing and math are useful in a very wide range of jobs and there's a lot of evidence to go into school races the scales so that would be where I would but it would be Jen and then probably the other thing that I would focus on is there is a whole literature psychology on the effect of education on IQ and the literature review that I've been that I built on the book says whatever your vacation races Raichu by between 1 and 3 points there's a new Med analysis out there that says one to Five Points which is a little bit higher obviously than what I was saying. First of all like the actual teaching the basic skills so Reading Writing a mass and batch you're definitely getting a school to some degree and then there's this perhaps unexpected additional benefit of school
00:08:00oh that's giving us another channel for Education actually be improving people's ability to their jobs in their school literature on IQ is probably the single best retro job performance available so I'd say that's probably the single best case for human capital
00:08:22I challenge that it a different way than you were going to challenge it was signaling which is the following you pay you another compliment you're right you're one of the highest IQ people I hang around with in any cash what way we don't job I'm scared to go that rest a great deal of time on my own IQ I'll just suggested it's above average
00:08:51put out that saw hope I'll leave it at that you and I are definitely above average for an IQ would you agree with that so
00:09:00but I'd also suggest is that you and I are remarkably unfit for most employment outside academic life and so what I want you to ponder is your focus in the book on IQ Andrew intelligence as correlated with job performance of fully thin Isaac's to meet at Ikea was it would be only a small part of job performance in many many many opportunities communication skills empathy liability Integrity timeliness I just have so many other factors that I think I was important in real job supposed to drop you and I have that I wasn't even like I did a lot of reading and Industrial psychology and it ain't like the other standards you they're coming out of a lot of empirical work is that the most the single the single most important
00:10:00and while you and I might not be qualified for one of their jobs because we have some other other weird facts about us but in general it's very hard to find vertex a better job performance but if you email so it might be I never last that also say the second best performance is it in the book I do talk about those things as well the reason why I spend more time talking about IQ than conscientiousness in the book is just because there's so much more measurement about you and Shelly spend much more research in the conscientiousness stuff is just less than unfortunately but I will say you're very much what you're saying and I do try to really really relate relay the message which is shorter Selena like IQ is by far the only picture of job performance
00:11:00exit that says more about industrial psychology and does about how the market works these guys are really empirical they actually know what that's for sure coming stuck with this really incredibly precise three digit number into thinking that they have something got a job performance the ones we can actually measure that number with us for our they do that they do employer ratings drop performance the other any other there they're really know they are looking at it from every angle it's the kind of thing where they were Pharmacy Ben Sawyer track lighting at of a psychologist replication problems lately we are picking the worst staff and work when you go in and what they're doing well I suggest if you talk to
00:11:54employer and ask them what's the what are the most important factors in Chopper pharmacy and how would they wait them not sure I don't think they pick I could dominate everything else I'm just thinking about so many people
00:12:09do I met outside of academic life who I suspect I have a higher IQ than they do and they're so many times more effective and skilled at what they do because they specialize in it, partly because I'm just not good at those things so I just want to mention that I think it's actually I think it's quite important issue actually decision what we can measure we can't measure will come back but perhaps we talk about some of the other right aspects of schooling but that's going out to the ability argument I'm an ability guy I think this human capital argument in this ignoring me it's nonsense all the return to education is it's just the fact that the more skilled people that the ones who go to college and prepare for this is a key point and they're worth you encourage more people to go to college they won't get particularly hiring come because they're not like the people who choose to go now and then LG here would be which I use all the time on the program is since basketball professional basketball place pays more than being an economist I should just I mean
00:13:09because you were professional basketball player time to see that's not going to work out I'm missing something important there at 5 foot 6 so basketball players practice basketball all the time if you to practice basketball as much as they do you would be as successful as they are so what's the case to make the case for the ability argument
00:13:33ideas for this just says that the people that graduate from college were more talented all long and if they had just decided to go and Skip College they could have gone straight into labor force and done a lot better and again I say that fax you the best case for this is when we actually don't get measures of ability and then try to eat and then use them as control variables for I control variables in the kinds of statistical directions to the nearest turns out that when we don't control fees measures of ability that a lot of what appears to be paying for education really is paying for ability and then any use for this by saying that's just what we can measure and then it's probably also a bunch of pain measured abilities and if we could get if we could get measures about those and put those in then maybe the payoff education would be miniscule
00:14:22and that's very disheartening of course it's someone unlikely and that people do go to college You could argue they go for consumption reasons right here cuz they're confused are there they misled been brainwashed by your parents and teachers at college so but there was not a random draw from each of each pool what's left for signaling to explain why is signaling why are you persuaded by the argument behind signaling right so you'll Step One is me I can stay awake of the way that I do the book and I think the way that makes the most sense in terms of comprehension is just to start with a bility by us to see how much of the apparent effect of education on for success is genuine
00:15:10I know this is where Economist have these dinner Things release all right you don't think of Shane you and why not tell me why not aren't you think the people that go to college while we're smarter to begin with and that smarts matter in the labor market or maybe you think they're hard working at work at it matters I'll just go and get measures of these things then take them to that matter with an intuitive could put them into our potential equation and then redo the equation and see whether education stale is as lucrative as a first appears right so that ass so get like one review all of the research on that and so like the main one that really works really well again is IQ so if you got one quick IQ in as a control variable then you'll generally see the payoff for Education will shrink buy some Leo because I have some time spent last so the other times little bit more about your roughly by 30% and then there's other things that people put in an order to go there to go and capture the forecast
00:16:10those kinds of things gases that adds on another 15% so I in the book I mostly work with this 45% ability bias estimate so really what I do is I just look at the raw of the difference between people who have 45% of that and then that leaves us with something that's really her that that's they would have ran over his rights to this is the part that's cause all this is if you go to college say this will impact cause you to get more money but then ask a question about why I said why why I said what and why and he said that's where human capital and signaling disagree so human capital says that the wise because you receive training and useful job skills are one another and signaling status is because you got this big step on the forehead saying a grade A or grade a quality work now why do I have so much more weight on the second story of the sea
00:17:10Jordan human capital story I'm going to see how it relevant to the modern labor market so much the curriculum is
00:17:21so if you just let you just go down and look at you like what is the answer to what what is the way to high school students spend their time is stocking hat with a smart way oh what a small sure it is actually spent on Reading Writing and at 730% for most students so what's going on with the other stuff is tough being like New Jersey you really going to use your knowledge of history or it like in the eye is a non-native speaker Spanish gets 3 years High School Spanish really going to get a job as a translate any job that requires an owl to Spanish seems pretty hard to believe so there's that do the same thing we can take a look at college majors you see that while there are some college majors that seem okay tional that's not a small minority of them should electrical engineering seems pretty vocational bikes Communications is much bigger major league history of History
00:18:21are we still see the people in these Majors that make less money than the engineers they still make a lot more money than high school graduates all your people who only graduated from high school so in this is true even after going and making all the adjustments that people have made in the research for out here. It's just looking at what is the students are studying I just seem so irrelevant whether you're ever likely to do in the future so that was pretty hard to believe that I go over your bunch of the counter story so in like one of those popular ones is that will sure you're not going to lose you either use your knowledge of history on the job but you're taught you how to think you've learned how to learn and that's when I go insurance right rotational psychology and say hey these guys been studying this learning how to earn money how to think idea for Century where they conclude and they conclude is there is very little to it it's mostly the emotional thinking
00:19:21Battlefield there's also some other ways of doing it to where it is see that people are really bad at taking something to do and then transferring over to a different area people really bad at taking swing on in the classroom and put in transferring it to a practical to ask someone at the factory in theorem but it doesn't mean that when they're building a birdhouse that they will you actually use the Pythagorean theorem your people really are we are really bad at that been on this site just like you point that I mentioned of Education raising IQ so we can while they're all the main thing though is that the games look very Hollow which means it looks mostly like this is teaching to the test if you give someone tests and everything seems like a lot of what school does your functions like IQ test prep but it got to the idea that genuinely making them smarter and some practical way is the only like me
00:20:21a lot of the game that was talking about like that one a lot of that is probably just follow as a really neat doesn't really mean anything is in Practical matters it's very powerful witches to sheepskin a fact we talked about that last time we talked you were going to come back to it we're going to come back to but I want I want to talk about this issue is to learning how to learn which I think is
00:20:47is really interesting and really important in and really hard to match her so some of the kind of evidence that you use in the in the in your Buchheit I'm totally on persuasive so I'm going to mention that is and then you can send it if you want if you give a number examples where people take exams after
00:21:06as a good as adults I don't remember anything from their history class
00:21:17I think let me see it I just extremely difficult to Tasker measure the impact of of case or 12 or college major on one's neural networks secure your brain Pathways in in the future and one reason I say that is that I think it's probably mention this before on the program but I think it's remarkable how little we remember anything that we did in case you're 12 yeah if you said remember try to conjure up everything you learned I'll bring up for 5 memory said have that's about it I might have can I one teacher I mentioned before on here Miss Kitty and I have I have more of her than anyone else I have more of a mistress mice at my place we were restaurant College I have a few for me can I mix but it it's a shocking how many hours you spend in those classrooms now though you remember and I would say that's the same of EconTalk I know there's
00:22:17number of listeners here listen for over 600 hours and God bless all of you as well as those listing for the first time but I doubt those people that Lesson 16 hours could tell me a lot of things about what they remember they can say a few things they say cuz I remember that time you got into the fight with someone so they might say you know Brian cappels fantastic guess you should have them on more often but if I said I've had bright on 6 times before this work in your member number one story or one inside of the might remember you're in favor of immigration and yet does that relate to those memories really capture what is happened to those 600 hours for the simile large of hours you spend case you're 12 in college I said the answers now there's all kinds of subtle things going on there that we certainly can't remember you couldn't tease out of me if you tried but to suggest that nothing's happened because I can't remember it or can't be revealed on a test seems to be a very poor Masher
00:23:14I am going to disagree with you on that Ross so I would say if there's no designable test that can show the people wearing something then they haven't learned it right now media might say the chest is bad which case I find decided better test and then show it to me but if you want to say that people been transformed but it's a way that no one can actually show no matter how hard they try then I'm going to say now that just sounds like wishful thinking a box by the other there's a big difference in being able to have a specific memories of someone teach you how to teach you how to read say and whether or not you're great that's true maybe you could read it going to happen by the school so what I do in the book actually yesterday I got Katrina's guess I can be but I went to school but that does not mean nothing out of the book is I tried actually bend over backwards and to be fair and education I say this let's just see if it looks like just give education credit 400% of all people now
00:24:13all right now that's an understatement of course they can't like me over there people in other ways by so let's just give it a law that you have to take some credit for everything people now and then see how much they now so that's why I think those tests of people's historical knowledge are directly on point these are very basic questions about how many senators in each state has and 1/2 Americans can't do that I would say they don't know it in any sense and all the efforts to teach them about the number of senators per state I don't just screw that last point I don't think we're good teaching people how many senators are just doesn't matter much most people don't care so that's not that's not so surprising to me but here's the thing I would give us an example I have thought I've been reviewed Nassim taleb a number of times on this program in the course of doing that I've read his books and I
00:25:13the number of people related to the issues that the came up in those conversations Philip tetlock on forecasting right now but a number of other people have to spend an hour with me and I've spent more than that with their books are there articles of the rest days trying to figure out and understand Randomness and uncertainty in probability and like you I took econometrics Inn in graduate school I was formally trained in that to the extent that I was that I took some out a lot of time on it I certainly I took statistics is an undergraduate and I've learned to time from those conversations and that reading after graduate school and I think you'd be very and I look much different maybe I'm fooling myself but have a much different and subtle or appreciation for Randomness for the nature of uncertainty for decision making under uncertainty
00:26:11and I don't think you could touch that I don't think you could design a test that would that would pull that out of me in fact if we go back to the first person to the show me the show you caught yourself and you talked about how we see that education causes a 73% rise in earnings and then you sell correct address that is your knowledge of correlation versus causation which you spontaneously used by and I and I could give you a test and you would get a new would blow it away if I gave bunch of questions like that you would give great answers on these things and getting most of her students would not right and they're in there was experimental work on that cellular study where they asked your Advanced science students in college about the effect of sleep on on student performance and then like garbage like that even though they've had
00:27:11when you get them outside of these acts up in their study and just give them a chance and opportunity to apply their knowledge station to graduate you completely blew it because they have they unlike you have not internalize the stuff and probably never will
00:27:33I different perspective I'll just push back one more time and then you can respond if you want and then we'll bring me a plate of US thinks we need to talk about but my thought would be the following which is it decisions are really hard a lot of them history the subtlety of History which I happen to enjoy I think the biggest impact of studying English is not had a quote read better just thought I'd analyzing out all that's occasionally what's time it is how to think about human beings and I think that's what we get out of learning reading fiction and I think that's a non-trivial and I think it be extremely difficult to tease that out and I'll just make sure the do you really think that I found
00:28:33short lately that people who get into it could be that's cuz that's a very low bar the famous Monty Hall problem the three-door problem for the link up to that I suggested for pastors messed it up and messed it up had trouble with it doesn't mean they don't know any statistics they haven't learned anything sometimes a quirky problem will come up even a regular problem out of your experience will be challenging but you will eventually it's not easy in that case for people that you could have been chilly actually learn how to think about it and I think the other aspect of that I just want to defend is that on the job a lot of what we know on learn on the job we did not want to school absolutely is an enormous amount of job specific human capital that we have to learn
00:29:33Angel choir that I think may be able to learn is really good is really important and people have been able to show they can learn and pass exams or maybe are better at it and are signaling of course I don't like you like you would like you would point out but I did think you can get better at that and I think that's part of what school does
00:29:52most money let me know this way so I mean it's one thing if there's an academic field where they find exactly what they wanted to fight and then you can say I don't believe those guys of course that's what they found she is the people I go into it or I should say she like Heelys they love education they want to find out an education as wonderful and yet you're going to read the educational psychology and then I'm searching for these effects of transfer wearing a hundred years I thought I could change things around but I've been in for 30 years now I can't find anything either. They're buying something very unwelcome to them and they twist and turn it every way they can if they still getting the wrong answer and then they just say okay I guess that's the answer that's the kind of research that I really trashed and that's what it's like
00:30:41Oyster Point that's an excellent point and again it could be that just like their they struggle to deal with some of these measurement issues that I think her non-trivial are there actually not trivial but I'm twisted and turned it every way like how can we measure in all these different ways we do it differently if there's a whole bunch of educational psychologist by coming up with the way of showing what everyone else thinks is wrong what happened to go with it just inherently ineffable on testicle call Dale. Of course you can ever show his Wrong by thinking that just seems crazy to me to say that you can have a grade scale that can never be demonstrated on a test no matter how hard you try to design the test to pick it up I even sent more strong that it said life's nothing like a test and of course that's the irony it's an ironic comment right because obviously it's a strange way that we that we produce the signal this credential
00:31:41I having people sit down and take to this thing that they're never really going to do ever again right there is some work under a deadline in the real world but most of the work in the real world is nothing like sitting at a desk with a piece of paper and a clock ticking so I will concede that but I also will concede also would claim that at the age of 63 I want to think about the things that I understand and learn and how many of the things I've learned outside school for sure but I think school help me learn them for starters that's my first argument of my second are going to be at the things that I have learned and I by the way I think the thing I want the most rum for sure is EconTalk I think she'd be able to talk with with smart people's been incredibly useful to me and kept me a little extra leak sure he hasn't had and thoughtful I hope but I think it be really hard to show that an exam I really do and I and I and I struggle
00:32:41job the other by doing EconTalk I really I really do I think you'd show that I've learned about the existence of some things so let me try to levels here when I would call cocktail party so I can talk with strangers I like to think very good at cocktail parties because when someone says good, and I think I learned about that years ago someone mentions some other thing that's going on I try to have a diverse program and I think people are just hope there's a cocktail party return from listening to a contract but that's all I was disappointed I think it is for me actually think I've gotten smarter I don't know if I think would be very hard to show that cocktail party part you could you can say Bitcoin is ABC multiple choice I think about some of the more the stranger episode so we've done about things that turned out to persuade them dropped off the radar put some of them did arise and become popular and talk
00:33:41find people to email to Edward about this years ago thanks that's lovely that's great for an exam if they apply for an exam but that's not the main return
00:33:51radio show me just some just to mention someone that you mentioned earlier felt at like I'm huge fan of him now he I will say I actually genuinely has test improve my thinking but I don't think the most people read his books have had their taking a cruise right and again I say that you they were there actually are testing me to really all the time. Does he tries to come up with Castaways the distinguishing good and bad good and bad connection go to buy a bed in sight and I will say for meeting him I've actually improved but that's because I deeply internalize this so you ain't like I'm sure can I buy puritanical right I think about it all the time when I showed her what she be fully we need to be frowning disapproval that's why we're shopping when I read something it seems true to me like I just said I can't keep living the way I used to live anymore I've got to go in
00:34:51and if I don't put me in that is such a weird response. Yeah right and then they go back and live it with their normal lives really hard learning knowledge wisdom it's easy to learn how many senators are I think I could with if I told you that I pay you in 5 years a million dollars to tell me how many senators are I think you keep track of it I told you in a million years 5 years you need to explain to me the central limit theorem I think you'd struggle a lot of people will you wouldn't but a lot of people to struggle I think we could get up to 10% of the population but still required is not straightforward and I often use the at the metaphor of drops on a rock that for something to finally go in and to be accepted into be really in your bones you have to hear it at
00:35:51different ways law different times some people like you your unusual can see how you can say to your individual you're getting crap crap crap on with it and and struggle is it to master it and it's going to bug you until you don't say you do but what shape are like that you're right they don't really learn it well I don't think it went right away I think they learned it over time I think they learn it through the accumulation of of those lessons those observations I think that's the way I N true stories and narrative said grab her attention otherwise and we just didn't know it literally didn't even notice something that we've actually seen you know 5 or 6 times but finally the six times something Clicks in in something into something gets embedded in our understanding something deep not a fact text Richie back sorry that's not the goal of Education never never should have been and late unless there now with with the internet and and Google is silly to memorize
00:36:51shake that they're running some people things that are there never tested on and don't have to do and don't rush it we should teach the faxing you and I don't I've been in your class I don't think you've been in mind but I couldn't get out much class doesn't give a multiple choice test that says the the ratio of the price is equal to a the ratio of the margarine substitution be the slope of the production possibility Frontiers see the bishop that's a bad class you don't teach that right
00:37:35but I think there's plenty of problems with our case for 12in her college education system I like your point what you made before that people cheer when their class is cancelled which is somewhat unintuitive for the human capital story I thought about that since I was with that made me think a lot as if she was going to pack will get to that dance but that I would ask you to think about it and
00:38:00and I sharing when the class is cancelled it's hard it's kind of like you're on the way to work your the way to the gym and you get there and it's been it's temporary closed there was a pipe broke and there's a water leak and she can't I hear your work on and Friday just goes I'm going to have to do that again after awhile it becomes easier going to pleasure but and that's true for Education number for lockpicks just hard and it is not fun and I think one of the great illusions that you don't poke fun at if I can find it a lot of them in and very well in the book but what are the relationship on Van Nuys city cheats on well it should be fine when you can make it fun but what time is not fun it's hard work it's just log and you're right most people struggle sister to finish the slide was he pull struggle to get through this lock but I don't think she ever pretended straightforward
00:38:5022 facts it's not right ratio of the class cancellation point I do consider your story but there's a problem with it rest which is the least in college students don't have to come to class and as we know they offered don't but you can always not come to class anytime you want but students like is when the whole class is cancelled so no one has to go and then said the key difference between it's not like going to the gym it's it it's more like it though if the whole gym is closed and then you don't have any that would be weird right like where was Jefferson Bank but for school matters because you say more now than ever now and my fellow classmates are going to get ahead of you and I, are you there all course the laziness is a big factor too which is why so many people don't finish college even though it's really not that hard if you just put in the work I'm just going to make an observation which is not necessarily to decide
00:39:50actually now which is it's a very strange thing the way we grade which is said too short of a grading on a curve and they're short of an absolute standard but it's never really articulated and everybody does their own thing and it's College in high schools there could be an oversight for somebody says don't do this don't do that eyes but with a lot of freedom in this University professors two grades way we want and we are artist Rush you to do it is if it isn't that the professor who has standards so-called sander it's a dozen grade on a curve could eventually find no students attending your class as well as having the other and having really wonderful person I questions cuz everybody gets today and yet there's no really Global oversight of that the that and of course who sings grade inflation to be a surprise we haven't seen it just go to a 400 all R Us hours
00:40:50professors are lazy they are or whatever like the main thing is we'll think about what a normal person would do and I'll give it giving these incentives were doing virtually nothing but they wouldn't publish anything and I probably would go to class cuz they feel embarrassed to be up but then once they were in there I think they would just give it away give it back to everybody raise it was going to give it does speak something to the character of professors that are conscious won't allow us to be as lazy as we could be
00:41:21well that's that's kind of ability issue again you know that people who like fat people how many professors didn't seem to other subject anymore but still awake for the morning in history it's great before I do that I have to get in a comment that I was having dinner last night with my son and I mention to him I was doing EconTalk
00:42:01text day with stop with Brian Kaplan about education
00:42:05and I bet I laid out to chase away. The different arguments again and catch some of his reaction and and I want him to understand those issues I thought it was really interesting and I and I do and he said why he must racing about you Brian he said it must be awfully depressed doing something and day out that has no value having people wasting years of their life sitting in a classroom so I just wanted to pass that on and I have to say about it by the way he didn't realize it first you or Professor so his first thought was you were just having to argue that people wasting their lives when I told him that you were actually had a hand in it he was he was even more worried about you so I thought I'd like to get your reaction to that
00:42:52I sure so you don't have to say is that I get meaning from doing high quality work that I think is intrinsically good and I be upset again like the research that I do and I have some hope that it works or it's so small influence on public policy but not in no way to miss the meeting out of just writing writing books that I think is excellent and did a great job and that a small number of people who appreciate that kind of thing and fax me justifies minor justifies my existence I feel like what I'm doing is worthwhile course it doesn't hurt that that you better than that, I also get I also get paid I also get Bailey have a night of a nice upper-middle-class or higher lifestyle for doing all the stuff I enjoy it a lot so
00:43:52we talked about the students to Hertfordshire when class is cancelled now you're on your way to class dude Sapp here I am teaching another hour of meaningless nonsense ever was or what I'm thinking about is there's your two or three students in the class so I can and that's good enough and I'm happy to talk to the end I end of those students giving meeting if they were all just didn't like going to space then and then I would bother me but I mean honestly I just enjoy talking about it so much and as long as you as long as this long as there's a one person in the room who seems to be not looking in my direction I think I can actually I can actually have fun doing the performance just like an actor microphone Shakespeare to my house and get something out of it is the small minority students to me like you do genuinely enjoy it that's why I actually two days ago I went back to my high school and talk to the rec Onyx last
00:44:44and most of the students they were typical high school students that this is required class they have to be there I'm surprisingly no matter how hard I try they're not very interested wanted to say but afterwards one student came up and said wow that was fast where can I learn more and Dave gave me and I'm not giving him a ride or anything and like like some 8 maybe that ride my bike you got somebody out of it so I am a big fan of the Greek recipe for happiness is set your expectations super well and I and I tried to do that and it works really well when I'm happy with what I got that off on this program his Masterpiece in my view underappreciated is the twelve chairs and the theme but just now moving her laugh that's out that's encouraging laughter
00:45:44skeptical after I've been in that movie the same song is hope for the best expect the worst which is consistent with your with your your mom out of there. Like like really why am I not surprised let's see because I got I get paid a couple in time to do whatever at whatever fascinates me so I can like why would you say that this job is so good for the professors that if you would explode told me what my life is going to be like rice while I just would have said no I was just no way that you could there could be a paid job this good right and people take my book seriously it will be terrible for me because I absolutely love this job is fantastic for me I do at least feel like I need to be a whistleblower and let taxpayers now they're getting ripped off with you but that's okay I love going to class when I was in the classroom and I think
00:46:38more than three people were paying attention and I think there were three people paid attention when you when you speak and I think what they learn actually what does a 10% now I can do better than 10% I think you can too but the point is that I think even the 90 that weren't riveted to my every word like they are to yours that 90% I think got something out of the class and I even think you could help them in life and perhaps it even in the job market which is always interesting but that's good I could have but I think I like what fraction of your students walk out to movies after you talk about opportunity cost for what's the change
00:47:19opportunity cost in the universe and it doesn't happen in the middle of the movie the best legal actually like the only basic opportunity cost and yet how many or how many students were persuaded to do that cuz I took an economics class to crash for a minute sorry I think that's a total misunderstanding of the opportunity cost because it is sorry talk people that opportunity cost but I think the I think if we stop doing the things we don't enjoy
00:48:02we would lead a very bad life because I think there are many things in life that we don't try to turn out to be worth it and I think that's the ironic cuz that's what I've been suggesting is true about education but I want to move on move on to the sheepskin a fact that I've been introduced with a quote from your book which is a great quote it says imagine the Stark dilemma you can have either a Princeton education without a diploma or Princeton to Princeton diploma without an education which get you further on the job market for human capital purest the answer's obvious or years of training are vastly preferable to peso to a page of paper with a straight face sensible versions of the Sig model don't apply the diploma is clearly preferable after all Prince and teachers some useful skills but you need to explain why choosing between an education diploma is a head-scratcher rather than a no-brainer and I think it's a fantastic example of course you to think about it think about it you of course have a Princeton diploma PhD for Princeton economics
00:49:02make that case try that out a little bit more clearly than I just rather quickly what's the issue that why is it a head-scratcher rather than a no-brainer because when you post I just had to go people at least think about it the same or more which one would be better and say well on the one hand I could have that purse education but that people would know that I had it and how would I get people to actually give me a chance or opportunity station on that site on the other hand if I had that Princeton diploma that I would open doors but maybe they would find it which is better which is better so that's the same sandwich as head scratcher just that you do have to think about it and there's arguments on both sides and it's confusing which is the Internet it's interesting this confusing it's interesting that it's not I will ask him if you want a desert island you say would be better to have a plumber in survival studies right now that the survival skills
00:50:02what about food but in society it is a difficult question to education is not it is so much about convincing other people that you are worthy of opportunity commission committee were worthy of receiving training and the actual job when she wants is another person because of Allen can look up to you because you got the to create an acid totally forgot that it's better to be procedures this order to actually be this I mean really like to be better to be perceived as healthy or actually to be healthy and you again like they say about probably actually healthy but I like what if people think that you have the plague and you don't like then like no one talks to you and everyone stays away from you and no one wants to hire you may be better to have it at least two more minor sickness what should be mistakenly thought to be fine and then bother people treat you nicely and run your life is right guy more of ability and and human capital guy
00:51:02I concede I think immediately that oh yeah there is a six string of fact of that credential the credential is certainly a way that people in a world of imperfect information and asymmetric information economize on that problem fix that problem by by using this piece of paper the certificate is credential it does raise the puzzle on again I promise really good shape scan which is harder situation for for purest explain on human capital grounds but it does raise a question which is I can understand that can help me get in the door of the Princeton piece of paper but is your point out if I don't have the skills
00:51:44I'm going to make a struggle unless I got native ability to hide that effective over time when people get more information about me
00:51:56alright so there is so little bit of your glad it's saying that's actually true and that the signal affect us 2 minutes overtime I would say that the oven is a bunch of reasons why you should think they went right why you shouldn't be so so convinced it what did they do to finish quickly against one of them is just that was actually a lot of resistance to Byron people in the gun in Modern economy some of that is legal your back any sooner but a lot of it is just basic human apathywear once you name the puppy when she gets another human being you don't want to go and hide I don't want to go on fire yeah, sorry we were talking about this but I found is a whole nother term sociology on how firing actually happens and you can also just go and ask a room full of anyone and said they might ask my students and it doesn't go by the way I'm more than one of those the other job and they have a job
00:52:56find a job at least one work with everybody knows his incompetence and almost all the hats that everybody knows why is this person been fired yet and wake me up once you realize that your country to say Gary Becker least we can be back or suggested that people who are not well expectation don't immediately get fired then there's also the fact that is that it's very common when you search for other job that you were that your employer doesn't like you helps you bye-bye bye-bye bye-bye bye-bye bye-bye hiding the truth is actually a whole especially if you try to help employers with termination and they have a special word for this that I usually don't fire workers D hire them problem and then
00:53:56what time do that employer realizes that they hired and Company worker they once again in the poppy and they're sort of in the same situation you were so it means that it's actually quite reasonable to think that once you got the right when you went once you get your foot in the door and as long as your personality does not make people hate you that you really can be the best worker but still actually I think I could keep helping you for a very long time although you're probably does Tiffany I like it becomes a bit much overtime right as Union like not getting promotions that you normally Spectra for sale Princeton graduate but still I think it makes perfect sense that actually this is suppose that your only at the 40th percentile of what the employer expected you to be when they hired you they probably won't fire you because that the cost of replacing you was high enough but it's easier to just settle for model disappointment
00:54:56can't but you don't have the same as you say don't say much are braces think I would show up in in the daytime or at least yours is pretty thin there is one paper on the sheepskin affect overtime that finds the over the course of a few decades and it goes away return but a little bit I'm passing ships going to pack this idea that the sheepskin is the is the
00:55:27your diploma that's just a fantasy old-fashioned name because as we learned in the last episode used to be written on sheepskin which is really cool. That's the one of the least important cocktail party things I've learned to Brian one of the more important cocktail party things and I'm going to now make your case for you is that I was surprised to learn and I think it's actually true that people who have some college even some recently large amount of college like 3 years don't do that much better than people who didn't go at all suggesting that the credentials South the finishing itself rather than knowledge requires what's reward in the labor market Sunrise that literature and and makes the case for signaling there sure so I can use when signaling first came along there was an immediate debate about if it's true then we'd expect a lot of the payoff for Education would come from finishing and then when it is a dangerous initially try me that they got there
00:56:27car for about 15 years then finally though there are some papers based upon a very good data that very strongly confirmed that she can affect was for namely that most of the payoff for Education comes from crossing the Finish Lines from the ears especially for good for college then they're like the fact is enormous high school it's still still when you're not as big but still very large want to do this is bizarre because it's like well why would the last year pay so much more than the earlier years is it because we save all the useful job skills for senior year and then we will teach them that looks like the last all the calories are in the last round pill that says that's pretty weird as to why that would be now any of this so that they're there are some Economist what's the date it became totally clear then there without
00:57:27other than her being a massive surrender to the signaling model there were new models came along as well you can totally get that in regular model all the graduates just had some pretty existing Master advantages over the non-graduates of course that if you randomly Force someone to not take their final exams in the last year senior year they were still do just as well as someone did to those exams actually thoroughly just Brew it although you seem to change the ratio of the payoff for graduation to a regular year at all so all you can really say is that there's an enormous effect
00:58:27I don't believe it none of none of none of my actual concrete efforts to the bank at work but one day is going to get the Box on how I mean there's nothing like that but I would just say this is kind of thing where if you can find Common Sense common sense that every parent every change for everyone is everybody's dissertation like doesn't matter if I actually finished yes it matters the world will not forgive you if you don't finish you better finish Jodi Lee on your your kid says I just had to drop out one semester or graduation don't you dare you finish that degree I don't care how you do it you better finish it I just call you oh so given that we got common sense I'm almost everybody who doesn't have some dogmatic reason to disbelieve it combined with all the evidence says it's real and none of the debugging efforts were you see is what you got there it's huge and everything question what does the Stanley model necessarily imply it and it said no because you think I could just say every year that
00:59:26this is where it's really important to think about what exactly does education signal when I say the fact is a clue that one of the main things that signals is Conformity to social expectations being hard-working people is best workers responsible for The Misfortune of their of the revenue from the company worth the people that HR always tried to keep them hate keeping from hiring because they had he said
01:00:16but I'd stay had to hard edges the HR people liked it where was even kind of smooth over and work on her cause any trouble in that defiant thing and the contrarian outside the box thing because I got to have some of those people because they generate the ideas to make the business successful where's the person who puts the job first two but it was nice and those kinds of people can be great workers and there's a kind of person who the boss says we really can do this and they say screw you I don't want to do that
01:00:53and that kind of person I don't think anybody wants to hire those people
01:01:06so I'm I can say that that's all this were talking about it's very I think is evidence for the shape scanner for the signaling model and I think there is definitely some measure of Conformity that is being signaled it is a value to to employers and I curse people to go back to listen to the
01:01:23episode of EconTalk we did with Taliban skin in the game the first one we did where he talks about bitter between important a contractor and he suggested up or is it more like a slave and you much rather have a docile slave than a tendon on. So one so I just before we finish I want you to defend child labor which you don't book published University press you make the case for child labor I want to hear it again and let the audience or so of course you in the 19th century kids had a lot of jobs that would seem terrible to us and it's her what countries that you know that remains true although it's over stated as to how bad your children or child labor in the third row is a botched there's an idea that at all
01:02:23musical scales for making money why are why is that so bad it's one thing to say that you don't want them working job for the good over we're going to lose fingers but why not ever work in I don't know what yet I work at really just said work a few hours a week in a job that is that is that they don't mind very much and they're terrible because it's distracting them from their school and I say well but she or maybe they're actually during summer school sale maybe be better if they weren't they just moved from their time over to working from school and then there's an idea of well but it's just a shame that a child doesn't get to enjoy childhood that they are there I got an assembly line doing something boring and like like all of these complaints apply to school too so like why is it okay for a kid to suffer and be bored in school and I can find and not to be free act like a kid but they can't do it for money
01:03:16I am being that to me makes really no sense at all I just have no idea where people are coming from I'll get in there just seems like there's a fair but he say it was able to be having someone in person experience when they're actually getting job experience that something terrible when it's a sick Society something like that thanks kids you're my eyes mention the boxer that my mom went to a Catholic School two nuns did hit children with sticks on their hands like so they are just say what time the kids getting black line from spinning chimney so I can kind of it for kids so is that it is much better for people actually get back to work experience even if the effective range of work in schools that work experiences for the same silver myself or one of you is better than going to work experience cuz that and that is primarily actually Byron Steele
01:04:16rather than just showing off their we agree on this Brian we agree on a lot here on this part actually I'd like to see kids
01:04:25at least teenagers working more and I like the idea that I just think they're opportunity cost is is small not not as small as you think it is but I think it's small leche I do think we should make school more interesting my wife's a man teacher her kids actually say I love calculus so more than two or three of them so I just think it can be done I think we have a lousy education system we agree on that and do some very sweet things to say about separation of school and state that we would rest on this program before and I hope you dressed in the future episode just about into that I want to close with the following night I'm surprised because this is not my field anymore I actually was a labor Economist in graduate school the meaning I took field in it and I knew about signaling I went to Chicago in a pecker where the heck man where my professors are not big supporters there big human capital
01:05:25over the years I've become more sympathetic to the signaling idea partly through your work I'd say mostly so your work so I salute you for that thank you but I was just in your classroom but I was surprised at least in her book you portray mainstream labor Economist is being so much more skeptical of signaling as they were in the early days so I was talking about sociology that Promenade Circle part of it obviously they think they have evidence for the review and you suggested evidence is not as as convincing as it should is it might be why do you think more people haven't come over to this Viewpoint and why are you you pay a picture in the book I don't think it's just marketing I think it's true of being intellectually lonely I think around a bit of an outpost here
01:06:25why do you think that's true right right so just a little bit I don't know the signaling was at her apartment so I can just between the high status of the theorist like Michael Spence English for doing cycling models and they got Nobel prizes of course of course there's not signaling think we might have to deal with now why is it that opinion isn't changed as the evidence is mounted so there's a few things going on what is that a lot of the best evidence comes around side of economics and economy is like almost everybody else had a bad day not in bed syndrome where they don't actually care to return to study educational psychology they don't they don't worry about what goes on inside the Black Box medication they don't mean sociology so it's just is discipline my disciplinary Browns not their area and they just ignore it and then just I'm just sending me this message about it or not
01:07:24I'll show them. That's one big part of the problem another another thing is going on I think is that your signaling it is harder that means that you can't just go and do a regression of income education and say aha you're like we're getting caught running out of this requires additional work at again at least for Economist eventually become a social point of view so I have gotten this with your right how come every country does it this way right and you're absolutely right it's for anything like saying all this torture
01:08:24he's more to blame for this than almost anyone 5 latest is functionalism of just rationalizing whatever exists as it is really being good idea and I think that yeah that I think that I think that you'll magic nation of education and and and there's there's not much they can actually call this in the book cuz the gross people out but everything you studied the illusion that would that sweatin what does useful because you use it but that doesn't mean that mother that what about the students that don't think I know that I think on top of everything else think there is there is a bit of left-wing bias I guess we have we love him and we love the idea of government going and been supporting this thing although it's interesting is this is one word
01:09:24bipartisan because Democrats the Democratic and work to get the value of the education so they're sort of a puritanical aspect of it and at least it seems more like is focused on increasing size the Pyro Eeveelutions so it peels for that reason also factors are work I mean of course I think they would say that it's just the strength of the evidence that I would just say that they have the wrong I just say that they don't need but I think they mean and of course in economics. It's a lot easier to advance by going and solidly proving a fact then by conventionally are conventionally hard
01:10:24fact memes on borders that I can I think I think that's what's going on saying that that their work is wrong I'm just saying that they are ignoring other work that's also good that said that's that when you snap it all together so provides a totally different story what's going on that story is very very important Brian thanks for being part of EconTalk July to be here rest area
01:10:59this is EconTalk part of the library of economics in Liberty former EconTalk so they can talk. Org or you can also comment on today's podcast and fine links and ratings related to today's conversation the sound engineer for EconTalk is reached yet I'm your host Russ Roberts thanks for listening talk to you on Monday

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