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Old 10-16-2010, 10:25 PM   #61
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I don't think you can argue both science and engineering positions together. A pure science bachelor's degree may not have much financial incentive, but engineering bachelor's can start very well salary wise with much fewer years than doctor, lawyer, or MBA, yet the numbers of American students pursuing those careers are still not very high.
Yes, in retrospect I will agree. Engineering beats science.
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Old 10-17-2010, 12:27 AM   #62
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... but engineering bachelor's can start very well salary wise with much fewer years than doctor, lawyer, or MBA, yet the numbers of American students pursuing those careers are still not very high.
According to my first-semester-freshman civil engineer 101, a lot of those wannabe engineers get thoroughly discouraged by their (required) chemistry, physics, and math courses.

Her grades are solidly in the middle of the pack, but she's not discouraged by that. Not yet, anyway.

For many others, though, those pre-law and business classes are lookin' pretty spiffy...
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Old 10-17-2010, 04:29 AM   #63
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It's also a relatively complicated subject.

For example, I have yet to see a standardized definition of "middle class". I suspect that the definition of it has expanded over time. What gets lost in the sauce is that it's very different comparing different bases of a definition than a static definition. Both may have their place, but they are different issues.

For another, the culture has changed. An example of which is that with the advent of more women in the workplace, we also saw an increase in the age of first marriage. So just for discussion purposes, whereas before there may have been one household of two people living on $45k, there now may be two households each of which are living on $45k.

Also, one thing that such statistics generally fail to incorporate (and this goes so far as GDP) are "improvements" in quality of life. What % of households had washer/dryers/cable or sat TV/cell phones/etc. over time? How has the size of the average home changed over time? How has the quality/features of automobiles changed over time? And so on. (This is part of my point about an expanded definition of 'middle class'.)

And maybe it's just me, but I often interpret two separate questions being asked as one: there is the question of 'how is the middle class doing?' and the question of 'how much income inequality is there?".
All good points Nick.

I think poverty is typically measured as income < 60% of the median. The median hh income today is about $49K and has remained somewhat flat for the past thirty or forty years.

I agree cheap imports and automation have driven down the cost of consumer goods as they have driven down the number of manufacturing jobs in the US. The US ranked number one in industrial exports forty years ago and today we rank number three behind China and Germany. Over that period we've gone from first in the number of adults with college degrees to twelfth. And from what I gather, in general, job, health care and old age (pension) security was somewhat less worrisome years ago than it is today.

Growing up Mom always had a washer and dryer and today receiving OTA digital broadcasting costs about the same as analogue TV did back then . Dad always bought used cars and Mom didn't drive.

Our household makeup has changed over the years but the majority of households today have two incomes, whereas forty years ago there was more likely only one. And including Mom and Dad we were eight back then, not at all an unusual number.

Income inequality has increased significantly. Check the Gini index to compare the US with others.

These developments are largely due to politically driven tax and macroeconomic policies. These are choices we've made as a nation.
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Old 10-17-2010, 04:57 AM   #64
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Middle class will be redefined. Middle class implies a category that is too broad.

The other part that is misleading is basing this measure on income... instead of income plus assets amassed. Some people can control their taxable income.

American middle class - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Still there is an effort/reward factor in America. Most people who acquired success did it through effort.

The shrinking middle class is due to higher paying jobs shifting to lower wage countries.

Unlike the isolationist that think we should protect certain jobs... I believe in the theory of comparative advantage... assuming it is not gamed.

But, we should choose to retain certain activities for strategic purposes.

This theory is not perfect... but it makes sense. Again, as long as it is not gamed!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_advantage


IMO - if a basic widget can be created at a lower cost somewhere else, we all benefit.


However, it is painful when job restructuring occurs... especially if it happens to yours truly.
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Old 10-17-2010, 10:59 AM   #65
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Middle class will be redefined. Middle class implies a category that is too broad.

The other part that is misleading is basing this measure on income... instead of income plus assets amassed. Some people can control their taxable income.

American middle class - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Still there is an effort/reward factor in America. Most people who acquired success did it through effort.

The shrinking middle class is due to higher paying jobs shifting to lower wage countries.

Unlike the isolationist that think we should protect certain jobs... I believe in the theory of comparative advantage... assuming it is not gamed.

But, we should choose to retain certain activities for strategic purposes.

This theory is not perfect... but it makes sense. Again, as long as it is not gamed!

Comparative advantage - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


IMO - if a basic widget can be created at a lower cost somewhere else, we all benefit.


However, it is painful when job restructuring occurs... especially if it happens to yours truly.
We're certainly not going to be able to support our standard of living (the middle class) making tube socks and straw brooms but much like other countries (e.g. Germany), the US could develop an idustrial policy.
The absence of such a policy, that's to say handing our industrial base to our competitors, will continue to be a drag on the economy.

I'd add, the trade-off to more consumption (lots of cheap goods) is low savings.
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Old 10-17-2010, 12:37 PM   #66
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. . . but much like other countries (e.g. Germany), the US could develop an idustrial policy.
The absence of such a policy, that's to say handing our industrial base to our compeitors, will continue to be a drag on the economy.
If, as is usually the case, "industrial policy" is newspeak for "government picking winners and losers and involving itself more in private enterprise" then I don't think you'll find many supporters for that position. If we're using "industrial policy" to mean "changing our laws (including tax code) to remove disadvantages presently experienced by US businesses in world competition" then I think most folks would support it.
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Old 10-17-2010, 02:22 PM   #67
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According to my first-semester-freshman civil engineer 101, a lot of those wannabe engineers get thoroughly discouraged by their (required) chemistry, physics, and math courses.

Her grades are solidly in the middle of the pack, but she's not discouraged by that. Not yet, anyway.

For many others, though, those pre-law and business classes are lookin' pretty spiffy...
Yes - that's usually what causes engineering students to choose another path - the required math and hard science courses are pretty stringent, and they are required for good reason - you can't do engineering without that kind of background.

I wish there was a way to get American kids to like science and math, (I sure did), but for some reason it seems to be a bit of a national weakness. I guess the teachers can't teach it and the parents don't really care. Intellectual challenge just doesn't seem to be valued in this country, whereas athletic challenge is.

I have noted over my career, however, that the US still seems to be able to out-innovate most nations, in SPITE of such a severe lack of scientifically skilled students. So perhaps we just don't need that many scientifically skilled people per capita AND we are good at importing the skills we need and putting them to work in our innovative system. There are many, many areas in which the US still maintains the technology business lead. It takes way more than pure science and engineering know-how to turn ideas into a profitable business, and the US still seems to know well how to do the rest of it.

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Old 10-17-2010, 02:44 PM   #68
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I wish there was a way to get American kids to like science and math, (I sure did), but for some reason it seems to be a bit of a national weakness. I guess the teachers can't teach it and the parents don't really care. Intellectual challenge just doesn't seem to be valued in this country, whereas athletic challenge is.
Part of it is cultural, but part of it also is that teaching pays terribly for math and science graduates compared to private industry. Much of this is because public employment pay scales don't tend to "value" some degrees more than others to nearly the degree private industry does. As a result a social studies teacher (who might have few good paying opportunities outside of teaching) would get paid as much as a physics teacher for the same level of education and experience. That makes teaching a good deal relative to the private sector in the humanities and social sciences, but a terrible deal for math and science grads. So our ability to get the best folks teaching math and science is weakened.
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Old 10-17-2010, 03:05 PM   #69
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If, as is usually the case, "industrial policy" is newspeak for "government picking winners and losers and involving itself more in private enterprise" then I don't think you'll find many supporters for that position. If we're using "industrial policy" to mean "changing our laws (including tax code) to remove disadvantages presently experienced by US businesses in world competition" then I think most folks would support it.
Sam.

Are you suggesting that special interest entitiies within our economy don't exercise influence on economic policy? For example, do you believe the fact that we pay double what our industrial competitors pay on a per-capita basis for healthcare isn't the result of a particular industry or industries influence over another?

How many small businesses aren't started because of the cost of healthcare.

Leveling the cost of healthcare is an industrial policy Sam.
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Old 10-18-2010, 12:26 AM   #70
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I wish there was a way to get American kids to like science and math, (I sure did), but for some reason it seems to be a bit of a national weakness. I guess the teachers can't teach it and the parents don't really care. Intellectual challenge just doesn't seem to be valued in this country, whereas athletic challenge is.
Like it, hell, she worked her ass off at it.

She started Kumon at age 6 and managed to snorkel through the entire math curriculum (and most of the reading) before finishing her sophomore year. Kumon is a wonderful way to practice skills and to minimize test anxiety. We talked her into taking AP Probs & Stats in high school (sucker!) just to reduce the trauma she'll be experiencing when she runs across it again at college. High-school chemistry was a struggle but the teacher, a woman PhD, was inspirational. Our kid did OK at regular physics, went back for a helping of AP, got her doors blown off, got pissed off at the teacher's attitude toward her struggles, and managed to recover. Today that's all paying big dividends in the academic and morale departments-- she's been there before and she knows how to dig herself out.

We also spent a lot of time during those formative high-school years talking about what happens when the country's hottest smartest kids all live on the same floor of your college dorm. I added in many hilarious good-ol'-days stories from my college months spent on conduct academic probation. I'm sure she appreciates that now.

I think part of it is the kid's hard-wiring, and part of it is showing kids how to value an intellectual/athletic challenge. Double-Goal Coaching.

Perhaps it also helps if the parents have managed to take more college math courses than their kids, although we were pretty close to tapped out by the time she started doing differential equations. I'm glad she left when she did...
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Old 10-18-2010, 05:33 AM   #71
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Leveling the cost of healthcare is an industrial policy Sam.
I see you're a fan of a very "inclusive" definition of industrial policy. I'm not.

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How many small businesses aren't started because of the cost of healthcare.
Today no business (big or small) has any mandatory direct health care costs. None. That won't be the case soon. I guess this is an example of how government is going to "help".
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Old 10-18-2010, 06:16 AM   #72
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I had no idea until recently that the US High School graduation rate is around 70%.
My district has an 81% rate and I live in a pretty nice area. If you search around the web you realize the US is behind so many countries in high school graduation rate. How in the world can you expect to make a middle class wage without even a high school education? I am not saying everyone can be a rocket scientist or brain surgeon but a basic high school diploma?

I was blown away when I realized this fact- MIL mentioned her nearby city was trying to raise it's grad rate to 50% so I started looking it up. It is true that some people get GED, some enter the military or end up getting some type of training, but yikes.
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Old 10-18-2010, 06:31 AM   #73
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I see you're a fan of a very "inclusive" definition of industrial policy. I'm not.


Today no business (big or small) has any mandatory direct health care costs. None. That won't be the case soon. I guess this is an example of how government is going to "help".

So Somalia is your Shangri-La Sam?
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Old 10-18-2010, 09:33 AM   #74
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Like it, hell, she worked her ass off at it.

She started Kumon at age 6 and managed to snorkel through the entire math curriculum (and most of the reading) before finishing her sophomore year. Kumon is a wonderful way to practice skills and to minimize test anxiety. We talked her into taking AP Probs & Stats in high school (sucker!) just to reduce the trauma she'll be experiencing when she runs across it again at college. High-school chemistry was a struggle but the teacher, a woman PhD, was inspirational. Our kid did OK at regular physics, went back for a helping of AP, got her doors blown off, got pissed off at the teacher's attitude toward her struggles, and managed to recover. Today that's all paying big dividends in the academic and morale departments-- she's been there before and she knows how to dig herself out.

We also spent a lot of time during those formative high-school years talking about what happens when the country's hottest smartest kids all live on the same floor of your college dorm. I added in many hilarious good-ol'-days stories from my college months spent on conduct academic probation. I'm sure she appreciates that now.

I think part of it is the kid's hard-wiring, and part of it is showing kids how to value an intellectual/athletic challenge. Double-Goal Coaching.

Perhaps it also helps if the parents have managed to take more college math courses than their kids, although we were pretty close to tapped out by the time she started doing differential equations. I'm glad she left when she did...
Well your household is clearly one of the exceptions Nords! As was mine. The households motivated to achieve academic excellence for their kids in this country is much lower than most others in my experience growing up overseas.

Audrey
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Old 10-18-2010, 09:38 AM   #75
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The households motivated to achieve academic excellence for their kids in this country is much lower than most others in my experience growing up overseas.
Audrey
That is the key. Children learn by example. If they see their 'rents watching TV all the time that is what they will do and do it well because they want to be accepted and be like their 'rents. If their 'rents read and take an active part in their education that is what they will want to succeed in and do.
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Old 10-18-2010, 09:55 AM   #76
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Well your household is clearly one of the exceptions Nords! As was mine. The households motivated to achieve academic excellence for their kids in this country is much lower than most others in my experience growing up overseas.

Audrey
I think there are social and religious pressures against the study of science in the US. Science is sometimes seen as nerdy if not down right evil here. This POV is certainly not shared by the people of Europe, China or India where science is considered a prestigious field of study.

I often tell my wife that I may not have survived high school in the US. I would probably have been taunted as a "nerd", "geek" or other socially crippling term by some of the cooler cliques. In Europe, I never had to deal with that. "Smart kids" were envied, not bullied.
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Old 10-18-2010, 10:01 AM   #77
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That is the key. Children learn by example. If they see their 'rents watching TV all the time that is what they will do and do it well because they want to be accepted and be like their 'rents. If their 'rents read and take an active part in their education that is what they will want to succeed in and do.
This explains why my kids are always trying to log into ER.org to post pithy comments.
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Old 10-18-2010, 10:27 AM   #78
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I think there are social and religious pressures against the study of science in the US. Science is sometimes seen as nerdy if not down right evil here. This POV is certainly not shared by the people of Europe, China or India where science is considered a prestigious field of study.
You should probably cut back a bit on your MSNBC viewing.
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Old 10-18-2010, 10:33 AM   #79
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Too bad you guys didn't all have kids--think of the math geniuses we missed out on!

As a parent I must say my two kids both were math and science whizzes, although one did his best to hide his intelligence. Both went into business-oriented majors and jobs rather than pure math or science, or teaching. Neither DH nor my professions had anything to do with math or science, although we both were fairly strong at math, so the kids did not learn from our example/activities.
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Old 10-18-2010, 10:34 AM   #80
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This explains why my kids are always trying to log into ER.org to post pithy comments.
This does not explain, however, why my kid claims to not drink and to not listen to classic rock...
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