Thursday, March 28, 2013

Conservatives and Race Surveys: Wording Matters

How you phrase survey questions and how you report the resulting data matters a great deal within public debates. Consider the following example from a recent article.
The numbers prove it: The GOP is estranged from America
By Andrew Kohut, Published: March 22

Andrew Kohut is the founding director and former president of the Pew Research Center. He served as president of the Gallup Organization from 1979 to 1989.

Conservative Republicans are more likely (33 percent) than the public at large (22 percent) to see the growing number of Latinos in America as a change for the worse. Similarly, 46 percent of conservatives see increasing rates of interracial marriage as a positive development, compared with 66 percent of the public overall.
Let us study both points separately. First, I'll examine the perceptions of the increase in Latinos and then the issue of interracial marriage.

The wording of the first point is problematic in several ways. First, here is a rewording of the sentence in a more positive light:
A majority of Conservative Republicans (67 percent) see the growing number of Latinos in America as either neutral or a change for the better, compared to 78 percent of the public at large.
Notice that this is a mere ten percent difference. Also, the data don't examine why 22 or 33 percent of any respondents might be concerned about the rising number of Latinos. What if these people are more concerned with border security? These individuals might read questions about Latinos as proxy questions on issues of general immigration and security. It could be that conservatives are more insistent on closing borders, not that they oppose a particular minority group. Of course, the negative view is also possible — but the data are not sufficient to reach a conclusion.

That most self-identified conservatives don't have a negative view of Latino population growth seems a more important indicator of the direction of most Americans.

Then we have the second issue, that of interracial marriage. This survey question is more problematic. But, again, let us first recast the results — this time in a more negative cast:
More than a third of the public at large (34 percent) have a neutral or negative view of interracial marriage, while more than half (54 percent) of conservatives have a neutral or negative view.
The above seems horrific, but what if the meaning is being misinterpreted by pollsters and reporters?

I do not view increasing rates of interracial marriage as good, bad, or neutral. Most "conservatives" I know don't give the matter much thought, either. Among my friends, about equal numbers of "left" and "right" couples are "mixed" ethnically (a silly notion, in my view). Oddly, my gay and lesbian friends have homogenous relationships: couples share not only ethnic, but also socioeconomic backgrounds. I wonder why that is? And should it even matter? Of course we tend to meet people like ourselves.

If I don't view interracial marriage as a "positive" does that mean anything at all?

I cannot speak for Conservative Republicans, as I am not a social conservative and have little respect for the Republican Party. Most of my conservative friends care most about the freedom to marry — granted, most still limit this to heterosexual couples, though.

The social conservatives are why I reject the GOP, but we should be careful when trying to understand survey data that is incomplete and potentially biased against conservatives.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Gender and Pay Inequality: Apples and Oranges Rule the Debate

As people debate into Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, the topic of pay inequality often arises. President Obama has also made the issue of "fair" compensation a political issue. But, is there really a problem with inequality within the same job, or is there something else at work?

Based on research, it seems that if you want to study comparisons of apples to oranges, examine the "income inequality" debate. The differences in pay are more the result of career choices than differences within identical job positions.
Why Women Earn Less
According to a new report (PDF) by the American Association of University Women, the man would be earning a salary of $51,300. The woman's pay would be $39,600—about 77 percent of what her male counterpart earns.

The AAUW report compared the earnings of men and women just one year out of college across various sectors of the economy. The report controlled for different factors that tend to impact pay, including hours, job type, employment sector, and college major. The report—which uses the class of 2009 as its sample cohort—found that on average, women working full time earned 82 percent of what their male peers earned. The average for all women, at all experience levels, is 77 percent, a number that has barely budged in a decade.
At first glance, the preceding statistics imply women earn significantly less than men for equivalent work. In fact, the phrase "The report controlled for different factors…" implies researchers compared equals. But that is not the case, as the next paragraph reveals.
A good portion of the pay differential one year out of school can be explained by choice of major. Eighty-one percent of education majors are female, as are 88 percent of health-care majors. In computer science, information technology, and engineering, more than 80 percent of majors are male. Teachers and physical therapists, on average, tend to earn less than engineers. Women also choose to work in sectors of the economy where there are fewer opportunities to advance into higher-paying jobs. (A teacher might get tenure or become a school principal after working for 20 years. An engineer will move up the pay scale more quickly, and the raises will be bigger over time.)
The above reveals that though the "educational attainment" was equalized, the actual career paths were not. You cannot, and should not, compare degrees earned in different disciplines. Degrees are not equal even if they have similar designations. A bachelor of arts in liberal studies, a common education degree, is nowhere near as demanding as a bachelor of science in software engineering. Sorry, but all degrees are not equally demanding — or we'd see far more engineering graduates, since the fields do pay more than disciplines. Half of second year engineering students do not complete engineering degrees. Math and science seem to be more challenging content than most students are prepared to tackle.

The article from Businessweek, drawing on the AAUW report, makes another attempt to suggest equals are being compared, but again I will demonstrate it is a misleading comparison.
But as the scenario above shows, even when women and men are in practically identical situations, their earnings start to diverge just one year out of school. That's true across most sectors of the economy. One year out of college, female teachers earn 89 percent of what male teachers earn. In sales jobs, women earn 77 percent of what male peers earn. Women who major in business earn, on average, just over $38,000 the first year after graduation, while men earn just over $45,000.
Yes, female teachers earn, on average, less than male teachers. There are differences within teaching, however, and these are revealing. More male teachers teach middle school and high school. More male teachers are also employed in math, science, and technical fields. More women teach elementary school and within the humanities at higher grades. We pay high school science teachers more than first grade teachers. Hence, the male teachers earn, on average, more than female teachers.

The only true apple-to-apples comparison would be to compare two high school math teacher or two second grade teachers. Because most school districts are unionized with step-and-ladder promotion models, there can be only minimal differences between teachers with the same educational attainment, years of experience, and equivalent appointments. That is, in fact, one of the arguments for unionization within teaching: it prevents biased-driven pay differentials.

Covering the same AAUW report, CNN states:
Men, Women and the Pay Gap
Men typically choose majors that result in more lucrative careers post-graduation, like engineering. Even if men and women major in the same subject, men tend to end up in higher-paying jobs. **Men also work more hours, according to AAUW.**

But even when controlling for these factors — by looking at men and women with the same majors, jobs and hours — women were still paid 7% less than men.
Read the preceding a few times. Men work more hours. Over years within a career, the hours equalize some research has suggested, but if you spend more hours working earlier in your career, you do develop more skills. The early investment in a career compounds over time. This is a logical outcome. If I have two programmers, one working 60 hours and one working 45, the 60-hour coder is likely to master the platform, as well as the development process. The 45-hour coder? He or she falls behind. One is promoted and the other is not. Over time, the pay differential resulting from this early effort increases.

Why are people stunned that more effort results in more opportunity?

Reading the AAUW report directly, instead of secondhand reports on its content, it is clear how choices made during undergraduate studies affect future earnings. The AAUW report states:
Among 2007–08 college graduates, young men and women typically chose different college majors. Women made up the large majority of graduates in health care fields (88 percent) and education (81 percent). At the same time, women were a distinct minority in engineering and engineering technology (18 percent) and computer and information sciences (19 percent). Other majors, like business, are more gender balanced, but most major categories tilt either male or female. Looked at another way, about 11 percent of women majored in education compared with only 4 percent of men. Women were also more likely than men to major in the social sciences and health care fields.
— Graduating to a Pay Gap; p. 12
The STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields pay better. Period. Women, for a variety of reasons, seem to choose other fields. Some people will argue the value of fields is more equal, but when pressed most of us do value some people more than others. Not every job we value highly requires a college degree, either. I value my mechanic, my electrician, and other trades highly. When your car is dead, you value the skilled technician. Women also lack representation in these trades, so college is not the only reason women trail men in overall earnings.

Female-dominated fields pay less, but it requires ignoring a great deal to argue these differences reflect gender bias alone. Fields that are higher risk, from higher physical risk to higher liability risk, pay more. Working in a mine? High physical risk. Surgeon? High legal risk. There is a risk-reward balance that goes well beyond gender, even within broad fields, as I will illustrate later.

Women in the high-paying fields do much better than women in the lower-paying fields. Of course, the AAUW and other media insist on describing these as "female-dominated" or "male-dominated" careers, instead of describing the fields based on skills required or risk-reward models. Still, at least the AAUW reports that women choosing technical career paths do earn more.
Graduates who earned degrees in female-dominated majors tend to get jobs that pay less than the jobs held by graduates who earned degrees in male-dominated majors. For example, one year after graduation, the average full-time-employed female social science major earned just 66 percent of what the average full-time-employed female engineering or engineering technology major earned ($31,924 compared with $48,493).
— Graduating to a Pay Gap; p. 13
As I stated above, even within larger disciplines, such as law, medicine, or engineering, the specialties of men and women differ significantly and this does affect earnings. These differences can be explained by the skills required and the risk-reward ratios of various careers. The path you choose within a field matters, not merely the larger field.
Among social science graduates, for example, men were more likely to work in business or management occupations (26 percent of men compared with 11 percent of women), while women were more likely to work as social services professionals (16 percent of women but only 6 percent of men), in health care occupations (7 percent of women compared with 1 percent of men), and as PK–12 educators (7 percent of women compared with 2 percent of men). Among engineering and engineering technology majors, 57 percent of men were working as engineers compared with 39 percent of women.
If within technology majors we have a 57 percent to 39 percent balance of working engineers, that reflects choices made — choices we should study, certainly. Still, we should compare working engineers to working engineers, not tech grads to tech grads. What you do after graduating with a technical degree matters. Clearly, the women are not choosing to be engineers.

Within science and business graduates, the career paths also diverge among women and men, something reflected by the salaries earned.
Other research has found that female science and business majors are twice as likely as their male counterparts to enter clerical work. Men in these majors are more likely to go into management jobs (Joy, 2000, 2006).
— Graduating to a Pay Gap; p. 16
Managers are better paid than others. The question, again, is why women do not enter management. Beyond that, we should only compare managers to managers and lab techs to lab techs, regardless of educational attainment.

Within medicine, researchers have found the same issues I discussed earlier: hours worked and specialities chosen diverge along gender lines. Men work more hours and choose "riskier" specialties (with more legal liability, according to research data).
Many women physicians are more likely to work fewer hours than their male counterparts, choosing part-time schedules to balance work and family/lifestyle needs, says Singleton. Also, there are fewer women in some of the higher-paying specialties.
—, 2011 Compensation Study
The higher-paying medical specialities spend the most time with patients, which seems logical.
Anesthesiologists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, surgeons, and urologists spend an average of 46-50 hours per week seeing patients. By contrast, primary care physicians spend a median of 30-40 hours per week in direct patient care, owing to intense paperwork and administrative demands.
—, 2011 Compensation Study
I can imagine only one career path in which equal ranks are truly equal: the military. If you are lieutenant, that's all that matters. The military has long been a great equalizer across race, religion, and now gender. Sure enough, the AAUW found that the military is the most egalitarian of employers.
Earnings were highest for women in the military, where only 1 percent of women worked. Men's earnings were high in the military as well. As a result, there was no pay gap in the military (average earnings were $44,325).
— Graduating to a Pay Gap; p. 16
Again, women do not enter military careers. But, if they did, the military is quite egalitarian. Again, women and men make different career choices. That is the larger "cause" of pay differences. Why these choices are made, and what if anything should be done about these choices, is something that should be studied separately.

What happens when you do compare like-to-like? The closest data we have, which is still imprecise for reasons mentioned earlier, indicates women earn between 93 and 97 percent of what men earn in equal positions, of equal title, with equal educational attainment. There are, however, differences in the hours worked, that seem to persist.
[For] most careers the company studied, PayScale found that the pay gap is largely the result of outside factors. Within a specific job, before controlling for outside factors the typical female worker earns pay that is only 90 percent of the typical male worker’s pay; after controlling for these variables, she earns 94 percent of the typical male worker’s pay. For jobs paying below $100,000, the gap narrows further.
—, from Gender Pay Gap Persists 
The next time someone cites data that women earn 77 cents for each dollar earned by a man, remember the data are comparing apples-to-oranges.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Libertarian = Racist… and Other Nonsense

Watching a clip of Chris Matthews and two guests lump the Tea Party, CPAC, and libertarians together was enough to make my skin crawl — and not as a great thrill up my leg, to paraphrase Matthews. No, it is utter disgust and contempt I feel for Matthews and company, people who see what they want to see.

The core of classical liberalism, libertarianism with the small "L" independent of party nonsense, is that the ultimate "property right" is that of yourself over your mind and body. To quote John Stuart Mill, "The individual is sovereign." That is, in essence, classical liberalism.

It is an ideal of negative rights, a terminology I have repeatedly criticized as unfortunate. It is the right to be protected against government abuses.

When Matthews and company suggest states rights, a common "conservative" mantra, is in any way associated with libertarianism, they are mistake. The smaller state or county has no more right to my being than does the federal government. Freedom comes first, second, and third.

Whether you are black, green, blue, brown, orange, or teal; gay, straight, transgender, or bisexual; left, right, center, or something else… we should always error on the side of your freedoms over whatever "society" might judge as "best" for the community. The left and right have different ideas of what is best, but they both want to control individuals. Libertarianism, real classical liberalism, opposes these attempts to crush individual freedoms in the name of community.

Why are there black conservatives and libertarians? Because some recognize that while the federal government often has to defend the rights of minorities of all manner, the federal power can also be easily abused against unpopular groups. We have plenty of historical evidence of such abuses, something every progressive should readily admit.

Why we should trust government escapes me. The idealists say that government protects people. Just because government has done so occasionally (and not for that many years, historically), I don't trust it to be so well-behaved indefinitely. Someday, the people in power will abuse that power.

Faith in government assumes that a group of people are wiser than individuals. How often is that the case? Mobs don't tend to be wise. We already know research shows brainstorming merely feels good, but doesn't produce better results. We don't trust other large organizations, yet we trust government?

Do we need governments? Certainly. Should we restrict their power? Most definitely.

Governments at all levels, the masses, have no business telling you who you can love, what you can eat, or what you can believe. Governments should do the least amount possible — mainly to protect my rights from you and your rights from me. Local should do more than state and state should do more than federal, but each should be restrained.

When Matthews and his stream of politically correct guests, often "scholars" with obvious biases, claim that everyone opposed to a strong federal government are racists, homophobic, xenophobes, they damage their own argument. The name calling does not persuade those of us with socially "liberal" beliefs to embrace the progressive agenda — it repels us.

MSNBC should be ashamed of Matthews and most of its talking heads. Of course, Fox and MSNBC don't really care about having real dialogues about the limitations of government. They are simply selling two different versions of big government, each by calling the other names.

Too bad Matthews doesn't want to educate his viewers; he merely seeks to reinforce their biases.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sam’s Smear - National Review Online

I don't consider myself a defender of the "conservative" movement, and certainly not of the GOP with its recent variations on large, intrusive government. Still, many of the slanders against the Republicans are also leveled against libertarians.

A portion of a response to a recent New Republic cover essay makes a fairly good argument about how the left consistently portrays its opponents as nothing more than racist, sexist, religious zealots. Of course, many of us self-described libertarians are not religious social conservatives. The claims of racism and a lack of empathy get old.
Sam’s Smear - National Review Online
March 12, 2013 5:00 A.M.

Thus many liberals seem to have convinced themselves that we resist Obama’s agenda because he is black. It is a theory that does not depend on evidence. Liberals read elaborations of the theory not to understand the world around them but to feel the warm glow of moral superiority.

It is a glow that suffuses the long cover story Sam Tanenhaus, the editor of the New York Times Book Review, recently wrote for The New Republic. Titled “Original Sin: Why the GOP Is and Will Continue to Be the Party of White People,” Tanenhaus’s essay purports to show that Republicans’ crippling weakness among non-whites ultimately has its roots in the infatuation of conservative intellectuals with — John C. Calhoun. Yes, the antebellum politician best known for his defense of slavery as a “positive good” is, on Tanenhaus’s telling, the real founder of the conservative movement: “When the intellectual authors of the modern right created its doctrines in the 1950s, they drew on nineteenth-century political thought, borrowing explicitly from the great apologists for slavery, above all, the intellectually fierce South Carolinian John C. Calhoun.”

Now Tanenhaus doesn’t want you to think he is saying that today’s conservatives are just a bunch of racists. Certainly not. He is up to something much more subtle than that. “This is not to say conservatives today share Calhoun’s ideas about race. It is to say instead that the Calhoun revival, based on his complex theories of constitutional democracy, became the justification for conservative politicians to resist, ignore, or even overturn the will of the electoral majority.” With that to-be-sure throat-clearing out of the way, Tanenhaus continues with an essay that makes sense only as an attempt to identify racism as the core of conservatism.

Rarely has slander been so tedious.

That slander does not consist of reminding us that many conservatives, including William F. Buckley Jr. and National Review, were grievously wrong about the civil-rights movement. That fact is something all conservatives should ponder. Nor does it consist of suggesting, correctly, that certain conservative principles — federalism, traditionalism, economic freedom, judicial restraint — contributed to this moral error (just as certain liberal tendencies led The New Republic and the New York Times to make their apologias for Mussolini, Castro, and Stalin). Instead, Tanenhaus seeks to make, without defending, the dubious claim that any invocation of these principles is necessarily an implicit or explicit appeal to Calhoun’s worldview.
I'll admit it — I don't know much about Calhoun and don't imagine I ever will know as much as Tanenhaus seems to know. I am an economic and political libertarian, with my views shaped by a variety of scholars.

No, I don't agree with President Obama on much of anything. But, I also disagree with Thomas Sowell on some economic points and dislike the ideas of "conservatives" like Alan Keyes as much as I do most progressives.

Sometimes, you simply don't agree with someone.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Krugman's Double Standard

Last week when Paul Krugman debated Joe Scarborough, the economist accused Scarborough of "ad hominem" attacks when confronted with his own past statements. What bothers me most about Krugman's charge is that he is often guilty of name-calling and hyperbole. Krugman's disdain for his opponents is cheered by like-minded progressives, but isn't this no better than the name calling on talk radio or on the Web?

The most cited line from Krugman about Ryan is actually borrowed:
As usual, Ryan makes me think of Ezra Klein's old line about Dick Armey: he's a stupid person's idea of what a smart person sounds like.
I wish we could acknowledge that our "opponents" in politics, economics, philosophy, or any other discipline are not evil. We disagree, but that doesn't make someone stupid or willfully ignorant.

Whenever someone quotes "Nobel Prize-winning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman" I am compelled to mention that a long list of other Nobel winners exist. Some of them have been fantastic failures in actual business, as the tale of Long Term Capital Management illustrates [link]. Others are noted members of the Austrian or Chicago Schools of Economics — opposed to Krugman's neo-Keynesian theories. In other words, even the Nobel committee in economics doesn't believe one set of economic theories is right and all others wrong.

But, to read Krugman, you would think all other views are stupid or evil — not merely wrong.

How can that approach be anything but antagonistic? It is not persuasive. If anything, it alienates opposing points of view, making genuine dialogue more difficult.

Paul Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from Miami University of Ohio. Is the Princeton economist with the bachelor's degree from Yale and the doctorate from M.I.T. playing the role of elitist? (Of course, as I have written elsewhere — where you go to school does matter to people.)

Calling people dumb or stupid, any group, is not a valid argument.

I do not deny that some groups are less informed than others on some issues. And sometimes, how you decide "ignorance" is itself reflective of biases and assumptions. While self-identified Republicans are less likely to believe in "human-caused global warming," self-identified Democrats are more likely to believe in "ghosts and spirits" — choose which you believe is ignorant.

The field of economics is not climate science or parapsychology. It is admittedly an art, with statistic models that are imprecise at best. There are no perfect answers, only some better than others.

Paul Samuelson, one of Krugman's mentors, suggested that the U.S. would fall into long, lasting recession after World War II and the reduction in federal spending. That did not happen. Such failures of premonition are not evidence of stupidity, ignorance, or anything else. They are simply proof of the limits of economics.

When Krugman criticizes Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, or other politicians, he raises the specter of Ayn Rand. That's a simplistic argument, because it is easy to dislike Ayn Rand. I certainly dislike her personal history and only like one of her books (The Fountainhead). Sorry, but using Rand as shorthand for greed is itself a shallow argument that misses the nuance of Rand.

Admittedly, I have stated that Krugman omits information, changes positions, and argues more from political bias than economic models. Still, I don't believe he is "evil" — but I do believe he is convinced of his cause, no matter what.

Maybe if we could at least admit we're all biased that would start a dialogue. Nah, that is not going to happen. Silly me.