29 September 2022

It Is Very Bad To Be A High School Dropout In The U.S.

Middle-age mortality increases among non-Hispanic Whites from 1992 to 2018 are driven almost entirely by the bottom 10 percent of the education distribution.
From a newly published paper, by Paul Novosad, Charlie Rafkin and Sam Asher (AEA gate). Open access link to PNAS paper from November 2, 2015 is here.

The significance and abstract portions state:
Midlife increases in suicides and drug poisonings have been previously noted. However, that these upward trends were persistent and large enough to drive up all-cause midlife mortality has, to our knowledge, been overlooked. If the white mortality rate for ages 45−54 had held at their 1998 value, 96,000 deaths would have been avoided from 1999–2013, 7,000 in 2013 alone. If it had continued to decline at its previous (1979‒1998) rate, half a million deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999‒2013, comparable to lives lost in the US AIDS epidemic through mid-2015. Concurrent declines in self-reported health, mental health, and ability to work, increased reports of pain, and deteriorating measures of liver function all point to increasing midlife distress. 
This paper documents a marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013. This change reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround. The midlife mortality reversal was confined to white non-Hispanics; black non-Hispanics and Hispanics at midlife, and those aged 65 and above in every racial and ethnic group, continued to see mortality rates fall. This increase for whites was largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis. Although all education groups saw increases in mortality from suicide and poisonings, and an overall increase in external cause mortality, those with less education saw the most marked increases. Rising midlife mortality rates of white non-Hispanics were paralleled by increases in midlife morbidity. Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress in this population. We comment on potential economic causes and consequences of this deterioration.

It reminds me of deaths in Russia following the Soviet Union's collapse during the harsh economic stumble it took at that time. 

Quote Of The Day

According to H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr, Western marriage is a love-initiated, partially economic symbiotic arrangement for bicareer cohabitation. Atomized Western man is dislocated historically: once he goes off to college declaring an independent life, he is a nuclear man without family.
Sok K Lee, "East Asian Attitudes toward Death— A Search for the Ways to Help East Asian Elderly Dying in Contemporary America" 13(3) The Permanente Journal 55-60 (Summer 2009) citing Engelhardt HT., Jr . "The family intransition and in authority." in: Lee SC, editor, The family, medical decision-making, and biotechnology 27-45 (2007).

The concept of a "nuclear man", in the sense of a man without close family ties, is one I've only seen expressed with that wording from the context of East Asian cultures. So, I wonder if it is a translation of a concept that is a more central one, even if defined largely in opposition to Confucian ideals of manhood, in that context than it is in the West. It could also be a physics and chemistry metaphor kindred to the concept of individuals being "atomized" in society.

28 September 2022

The Genetics Of Autism and ADHD

A new study compared the genetic profiles of people diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and people diagnosed with both disorders. Both conditions are highly heritable. 

The study used large data set with 23,583 subjects (with ADHD and/or one of four subtypes of autism spectrum disorder) and 42,201 controls, apparently mostly from the national health records of Denmark and possibly also from 23andMe data. The study excluded individuals with a moderate to severe mental retardation from both its subjects and its controls.

The study finds seven genes that are associated with both disorders, and five genes that distinguish between the disorders which are also associated with educational attainment, neuroticism and regional brain volume. 

The Paper And Its Abstract
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are highly heritable neurodevelopmental conditions, with considerable overlap in their genetic etiology. We dissected their shared and distinct genetic etiology by cross-disorder analyses of large datasets. 
We identified seven loci shared by the disorders and five loci differentiating them. All five differentiating loci showed opposite allelic directions in the two disorders and significant associations with other traits, including educational attainment, neuroticism and regional brain volume. 
Integration with brain transcriptome data enabled us to identify and prioritize several significantly associated genes. The shared genomic fraction contributing to both disorders was strongly correlated with other psychiatric phenotypes, whereas the differentiating portion was correlated most strongly with cognitive traits. Additional analyses revealed that individuals diagnosed with both ASD and ADHD were double-loaded with genetic predispositions for both disorders and showed distinctive patterns of genetic association with other traits compared with the ASD-only and ADHD-only subgroups. 
These results provide insights into the biological foundation of the development of one or both conditions and of the factors driving psychopathology discriminatively toward either ADHD or ASD.
Manuel Mattheisen, et al., "Identification of shared and differentiating genetic architecture for autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and case subgroups" Nat Genet (September 26, 2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41588-022-01171-3 (closed access).

The Data Set

The data set was apparently a national health care record system for Denmark in which there were 2,304 cases with both ADHD ad an autism spectrum disorder, 11,964 ADHD cases without an autism spectrum disorder, and 9,315 cases with an autism spectrum disorder without ADHD, although some of the data may also have been from the 23andme consumer genetic profiling company (a data set that would include me, my family, and a number of my extended family members). Also:
Controls were randomly selected from the full control cohort to roughly match a 1:4 ratio in cases and controls. . . . we excluded individuals with a moderate to severe mental retardation (ICD10: F71-F79) from both the case and control cohort.

Autism spectrum disorder cases were further categoried into four subtypes: childhood autism (cha, ICD10 F84.0); atypical autism (ata, ICD10 F84.1); Asperger’s syndrome (asp, ICD10 F84.5); and pervasive disorders, unspecified and others (pdm, ICD10 F84.8+9). 

It appears that ADHD cases were not subtyped, which is something of a shame. There is good reasons to think that the genetic basis of ADHD predominantly inattentive type (i.e. without hyperactivity), has a different genetic basis than ADHD combined type (and ADHD predominately hyperactive which probably overlaps heavily with the combined type). This level of information ought to have been available although empirically efforts to further subtype ADHD probably wouldn't have been available in the data. See, e.g, prior posts at this blog from September 8, 2012, April 3, 2012, and October 18, 2017 (Genetics of ADHD hyperactivity/impulsivity and inattention dimensions are quite different),

A Key Figure From The Paper

A figure from the closed access paper:

Fig. 2: Comparison of PRS profiles across ADHD and ASD subtypes for 15 traits and/or phenotypes that have shown significant genetic correlations with ADHD and ASD in the past.

Peer Review

The relatively new practice of disclosing comments from the peer review of the paper, provides some interesting insights although it is rather technical and difficult to evaluate without an open access manuscript to reference it to for the most part. Some notable comment state:
A serious limitation of this study is that the design relies on the common psychiatric nosology that in particular for ASD and ADHD has been problematic, surely in the past when only one of both diagnosis was allowed. Given the high comorbidity between ADHD and ASD, and among other psychiatric disorders in general, plus the fact that recent research shows that ‘genes do not respect diagnostic classifications’ (see CDG publications) I would rather see a focus on the shared genetic findings for ADHD and ASD, in aiming to find general genetic/biological vulnerabilities for trans diagnostic neurodevelopmental problems, instead of relying on a classification system that has surely proven its value in clinical practice but does not seem to guide biological underpinnings of those disorders.


Concerning the used sample, I would appreciate getting some more details on the assessment of comorbid ASD and ADHD in the respective cohort. While some of the individuals might have been diagnosed under DSM-IV, which did not allow a comorbid diagnosis of ADHD, I wonder if and how this was accounted for in the datasets. In light of the cited Meta-study 25-32% of ASD individuals do fulfill the criteria for ADHD. In this study, the comorbid cohort accounts for 10% of the sample (assuming they were from both the ASD and the ADHD cohorts).

The responses gave rise to a table regarding the shared risk genes:

27 September 2022

Longer Term Good Ideas To Prepare Our Society For Infectious Disease Risks

Constructive ideas to prevent horrible things from happening with technology are always welcome.
What we ought to be doing is setting more communities up with routine wastewater monitoring and building systems that don’t just check for a particular virus but all unusual DNA. That way you could find a virus you’re not already looking for.

We should be investing in ventilation (which everyone says) but also basic testing of commercially available air purifiers. You should be able to find out easily which one is really the best at clearing out viruses, and that should become a basis for commercial competition.

Recent research indicates that far-ultraviolet light can kill viruses and make indoor space as safe as outdoor space. I’d want to run three or four more rigorous studies on that before I put far-UVC lights everywhere, but we should do that research and, if it pans out, put the lights everywhere. . . .

[W]e should be paying people lots of money to design new kinds of masks that are as effective as KN95s but more comfortable, or equally comfortable but more effective, or ideally both. There ought to be huge prizes for inventing masks like that and advanced purchase commitments to get them from manufacturers.

We also ought to have spacesuit-type supersuits lying around so that we can keep basic social infrastructure up and running in the event of a huge catastrophe.

And finally, we need to put the pedal to the metal on the universal coronavirus vaccine project and then work with equal alacrity on universal vaccines for the other families. Part of the power of the family-wide vaccine concept is it will offer protection against pathogens that don’t yet exist, which is far and away the best hope for getting ahead of engineered pathogens.

The Decline Of Humanities Majors In Four Easy Charts

A story at the Atlantic magazine explains the decline in students choosing to major in the humanities at U.S. colleges and universities. Mostly, however, the raw data in the four charts below, tells the story.

Of course, some of the humanities, especially "Classics" (i.e. the study of ancient Latin, ancient Greek, and the related history and culture and literature of those eras) had declined to almost nothing much, much earlier, despite being the dominant academic discipline in the early 18th century colleges and universities in the United States.

Legacy Admissions and Race/Ethnicity Based Affirmative Action Is Unpopular


Most people oppose preferences in college admission for first generation college students, including most whites and most Republican leaners, but most non-whites and most Democratic leaners support consideration of this as at least a minor factor.

Large majorities across the board are opposed to legacy admissions to college and universities.

Majorities across the board are also opposed to the consideration of race and ethnicity in college and university admissions. Less than 15% of black survey respondents think race and ethnicity should be a major factor in admissions, and support for race and ethnicity as a major factor in admissions is weaker in all other demographics.

26 September 2022

Maternal Mortality Rates In History

Modern maternal mortality in England is now about 98% lower than it was prior to 1935. 

In the pre-industrial era, maternal mortality in child birth was about 0.4%-0.5% per pregnancy, with a lifetime risk of dying in childbirth on the order of 4% (given eight births per lifetime in the early pre-modern era, implying about twelve pregnancies given a typical rate of miscarriages). 

Maternal mortality actually rose in the 1800s and early 1900s during to medical assistance that did more harm than good. It only significantly improved after 1935.
The history of maternal deaths in England from the earliest records in the 1700s to 1935, concentrating on the influence of medical practice, is recounted. The rate lay between 4 and 5 per 1000 until 1935, with the advent of sulfa antibiotics to prevent puerperal infections. 
The practice of midwifery by men began in the early 17th century in Britain, but attendance at normal labors by medical practitioners, that is, surgeon-apothecaries, did not become common, and then only in urban areas, until 1730. The use of forceps became widely known about that time, and lying-in hospitals were begun. Obstetrics was held in contempt by professionally educated and registered physicians and apothecaries, however, because of the immodesty and messiness of the work and the long hours involved. Estimates of maternal mortality, from the 1st recorded unselected series, in the late 18th century range from 5-29/1000. Some of the high figures are from specialists in obstetrics, who treated complicated cases. From these data the maternal death rate was estimated at about 25/1000 among unassisted women. Some institutions achieved results better than the national average in the 1920s, suggesting that by the end of the 18th century, a fairly good understanding of childbirth had been reached. At that time the overall forceps rate was conservative, less than 1% compared to 15% now. Use of the perforator, hook and crochet, and manual dilatation of the cervix had been abandoned. 
In the 19th century, lying-in hospitals became more common and their death rates were higher, probably due to less conservative methods, up to as high as 85/1000, until the advent of antisepsis in 1880. Nevertheless, hospital births were the minority, amounting to 15% in 1927, 54% in 1946, 87% in 1970, 98.8% in 1980. Sepsis, due to casual use of sterile technique, remained the cause of half the total deaths until 1937. 
It is difficult to assess the contribution of toxemia or obstructed labor in maternal deaths. Rickets was a common cause of obstructed labor, and there are recorded epidemics of both. Similarly, abortion-related deaths are even more difficult to estimate, because of poor reporting. In evaluating the undiminished maternal death rate before 1935, the author believes that maternal survival is remarkably resistant to the ill effects of socioeconomic deprivation, but is very sensitive to the good and bad effects of medical intervention. Hence, there is evidence that the rural and poor in some cases had better results that those given the best medical assistance, especially with regard to puerperal sepsis. The midwifery laws of 1902 provided for training of midwives, and slowly corrected quality of care, as well as hostility between midwives and physicians. The current maternal death rate is about 0.1/1000.
I Loudon, "Deaths in childbed from the eighteenth century to 1935" 30(1) Med Hist 1-41 (January 1986) doi: 10.1017/s0025727300045014.

Vaccination Could Prevent Most COVID U.S. Deaths And Hospitalizations

COVID is still out there and still very deadly. "During August 2022 alone, we lost 15,284 Americans to COVID-19." (This quote and all quotes below and all other images, are from the link to the second to last image below.) President Biden's statement that the pandemic was over was irresponsible and inaccurate.

The monthly death rate from COVID in the U.S. is comparable to a typical annual death rate from the flu in the U.S.

Vaccination remains a powerful way to prevent COVID deaths. "It’s abundantly clear the majority of deaths continue to be among the unvaccinated (20% of Americans are still without even one dose)."

And, vaccination status, and as a result, deaths and hospitalizations, are strongly correlated with political identity:
The Washington Post posted an article a few days ago highlighting this continued trend. While there is no difference with cases per capita, deaths per capita strikingly separate along partisan lines.

Being boosted matters too: 

In addition, there is a clear dose response with vaccines: the more vaccine doses one has, the more that person is protected from death. According to the CDC, vaccinated people with one booster had 3 times the risk of dying compared to people vaccinated with two boosters. Unvaccinated people had 14 times the risk of dying compared to those with two boosters. Interestingly, the under- or un-vaccinated are more and more likely to have been infected. So, models are no longer comparing vaccinated people to immune naïve; rather, they are comparing vaccinated (or hybrid immunity) to those with more and more infection-induced immunity.

Canadian data spell out the risk in detail by age and the number of vaccine doses received:

COVID is not extremely deadly for people under age 50 who aren't extremely vulnerable to disease due to immune system deficiencies or multiple serious pre-existing conditions known to increase vulnerability.

The risk of death is concentrated heavily in those 50 and over. The risk of death for people aged 65-79 is about seven times as great as for those age 50-64. The risk of death for people aged 80+ is roughly twice as great as the risk for those aged 65-79, and roughly fourteen times as great as the risk for those aged 50-65.

Full COVID vaccination reduces the risk of death from COVID by roughly a factor of ten compared to being unvaccinated.

Even a vaccinated person who is 80+ is more likely to die of COVID than an unvaccinated person age 50-64. But death rates for vaccinated people under age 80, and unvaccinated people under age 50 are very low.

As a fully vaccinated person in my 50s, my risk of death from COVID is lower than that of an unvaccinated person aged 12-17, the age of my nieces and nephew.

This doesn't mean that vaccination is irrelevant for people under fifty. Younger people do die of COVID, even though it is much less common, and vaccination reduces the risk of death for them tenfold as well.

Vaccination prevents hospitalization and long COVID as well, it makes even the less severe versions of the disease more mild, and it reduces the spread of COVID to others who are more vulnerable.
Among patients in the ICU and/or ventilators for COVID-19, about half are immunocompromised, have a significant underlying lung disease, or are over the age of 65 years. Also, 5 out of 6 people in the ICU are under- or un-vaccinated. This highlights that it’s essential to stay up to date on vaccines. 
One of six patients in the ICU is up-to-date on vaccines. This highlights that vaccines are not perfect; therefore, it is still important to try and reduce community transmission so vulnerable populations don’t get swept up in waves. 
Notably, seven out of eight fully vaccinated hospitalized patients at the University of Michigan's hospitals, including the only fully vaccinated ICU patient, were immunocompromised, had a significant underlying lung disease, or were over the age of 65 years.

25 September 2022

Quote Of The Day

The children are the ones who guide us to a world that we don't know about. We shouldn't get in the way of their choices.

- Lycoris Recoil (Episode 13). 

24 September 2022

Military Transport Submarines Make Sense

Unlike Ukraine—with porous borders ripe for foreign weapons shipments and aid—Taiwan will be “very hard to arm” during a conflict, says Blake Herzinger, a Pacific security expert. The island sits about 100 miles east of China and is within range of its missiles—along with U.S. forces that would presumably respond from Japan and elsewhere in Asia.

From the Ruck

One solution to this problem could be a military transport submarine.

Submarines aren't immune to anti-submarine warfare tactics, but it is much, much harder to sink a submarine than it is to sink a lightly armed military transport ship and is only marginally slower. The fastest submarine ever built, the Soviet K-222 had a top speed of 51 miles per hour. A speed of 23 miles per hour traveling nearly silently, or 40 miles per hour at the expense of stealth, would be more common.

A submarine can be built to be 10,000 to 20,000 tons (only a portion of which can carry cargo, of course), which while smaller than a commercial freighter, can carry vastly more cargo than a C-130 (about 20 tons), or a C-17 (about 80 tons with a much longer range). I've previously considered the idea here. Historically, capacities of 95-800 tons have been used in practice, although cargo in the tens of thousands of tons are well within the reach of current level technology. Colombian drug cartel submarines can carry about 200 tons. Well developed designs for cargo submarines carrying 6,000 to 11,000 tons of cargo have been serious considered in the past.

The idea isn't entirely conceptual either. The Russian merchant marine has built some nuclear powered transport submarines to deliver freight under the ice pack on the Arctic Ocean.

The basic concept is that the military frequently would like to have the capacity to supply substantial amounts of supplies and equipment by surprise or in blockaded coastal areas.

This could be smuggling supplies to a friendly nation, like Taiwan. This could be delivering supplies in support of a hostile D-day style invasion force. This could also create a capacity to evacuate civilians, injured soldiers, or soldiers who need to be rotated out of a combat zone, away from an interdicted area.

It wouldn't be cheap, but if one used an air independent propulsion diesel-electric power supply, designed it to withstand depths more shallow that nuclear attack submarines and ballistic missile submarines, and the cargo submarine was only minimally armed, it would also probably be cheaper than a nuclear attack submarine.

Another Bat Virus Coming Soon

A COVID-like bat virus could be ready to emerge from Russia.
An ACE2-dependent Sarbecovirus in Russian bats is resistant to SARS-CoV-2 vaccines

Spillover of sarbecoviruses from animals to humans has resulted in outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome SARS-CoVs and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Efforts to identify the origins of SARS-CoV-1 and -2 has resulted in the discovery of numerous animal sarbecoviruses–the majority of which are only distantly related to known human pathogens and do not infect human cells. The receptor binding domain (RBD) on sarbecoviruses engages receptor molecules on the host cell and mediates cell invasion. 
Here, we tested the receptor tropism and serological cross reactivity for RBDs from two sarbecoviruses found in Russian horseshoe bats. While these two viruses are in a viral lineage distinct from SARS-CoV-1 and -2, the RBD from one virus, Khosta 2, was capable of using human ACE2 to facilitate cell entry. Viral pseudotypes with a recombinant, SARS-CoV-2 spike encoding for the Khosta 2 RBD were resistant to both SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies and serum from individuals vaccinated for SARS-CoV-2. Our findings further demonstrate that sarbecoviruses circulating in wildlife outside of Asia also pose a threat to global health and ongoing vaccine campaigns against SARS-CoV-2

From Euronews: "Khosta-2: Scientists warn Russian bat virus could infect humans and resist COVID vaccines." It cites to PLOS Pathogens

Meme Of The Day

23 September 2022

The Economic Implications Of Gender Divisions In South Korea

Few places in the world are experiencing a more intense political division between men and women, especially among young adults, than South Korea, which has perhaps the most potent political movement of angry "incel" (involuntarily celibate) men.

This fairly new and visible political development is buried in a context of deep gender divisions in a society that has rushed towards the future and redefined roles for men and women (and dramatically reduced numbers of children per woman per lifetime to the lowest number in the world) in basically a single generation.

Korea has among the highest rates of women entering colleges and universities in the world, despite the fact that in Korea, unlike Europe, higher education isn't free or even heavily subsidized. As Tyler Cowen explains at Marginal Revolution:
One reason why the Seoul dining scene still has so many nooks and crannies

There are so many places with dishes you’ve never tried before. And they are deep into alleyways, or on the second or third floors of retail establishments. In these places I never see people take out their cameras and photograph the food. The establishments are not “very on-line,” as they say.

More likely than not, a large troupe(s) of middle-aged and older men suddenly come out of nowhere, and descend upon these eateries for dining and intense bouts of conversation. The men don’t seem to want too many other people to know about their special hangouts. English-language menus are hard to come by. . . .

Korea is an especially sexually segregated society, all the more relative to its high per capita income. And so these restaurants are boys’ clubs of a sort, as much private as public. Might that be one reason why the small restaurant food scene here has stayed so undercover?
As is often the case, Japanese and Korean cultural trends don't repeat each other but they rhyme.

Both societies have seen dramatic declines to global lows in the number of children born per woman per lifetime (which is called somewhat confusingly the "Total Fertility Rate" or TFR).

In both societies, only a very small proportion of children are born to unmarried mothers (low single digit percentages).

In both societies, unmarried, childless women can have a near parity in economic prospects in the paid work force with men of similar age, education and abilities, but workplaces are far less friendly to married women with children, upon whom a heavy childcare and eldercare burden rests. Also, in both societies, full time permanent jobs carry a significant expectation that you will spend a lot of time on non-work activities like after work drinking, with co-workers.

Both societies, despite surging rates of college attendance, attach significantly less stigma to pursuing a life path that doesn't involve a college education than the U.S. does.

Both societies have seen dramatic improvements in nutrition and health over the last generation resulting in each new cohort of young adults growing taller than the one that came before them, and with significant shares of these younger cohorts of adults, for whom a well defined path of societal expectations proves hard to live up to also experiencing significant alienation from the "good, respectable" path in life, in which the "Turn on, tune in, drop out" counterculture-era phrase popularized by Timothy Leary in the U.S. in 1966 still resonates notwithstanding the fact that overall these societies are extraordinarily well behaved and conformist by international standards.

Both societies are busy rewriting the scripts of daily life, for example, in marriage rituals. 

In Japan, young people try to balance traditional Japanese customs, Western traditions (which are Christian influenced in a society where only a small minority of people identify exclusively as Christian), and innovations that their own generation and the previous one have designed on their own. 

In Korea, the most Christian country in Asia, some of the new scripts involve figuring out how to integrate Christianity into a traditionally Confucian society in which Christians are a large and growing, but still not a dominant subculture within the society.

In both societies, the proportion of people who are foreign born is small, it is not considered offensive to officially emphasize the nation's racial homogeneity, and people with foreign origins even if they were born there and are fully assimilated are viewed with a certain level of distrust, despite the fact that neither South Korea, nor Japan, is an insular society at this point isolated from the rest of the world. Both societies, for example, are heavily influenced by U.S. culture and mandate the teaching of English to every student in school (although, as in the U.S., the amount of functional proficiency that students acquire from this exercise is often underwhelming).

No one can predict with any confidence what will emerge from this unstable and dynamically evolving process of reshaping gender roles in these societies.

Brain Drain From India Is Over

In the year 2017:

Not even 200 of the approximate 10,000 students from the Indian Institutes of Technology took up positions outside India last year. Fifty students, who make up the largest contingent, will be leaving from IIT-Bombay, followed by 40 from Delhi, 25 from Kharagpur, 19 from Kanpur, 13 from Madras, 17 from Roorkee and five from Guwahati. In 2012, 84 IIT-B candidates had accepted international job offers.

“Compared to 20 years ago, a very small percentage of students go abroad today. This is contrary to the general perception ,” says IIT-Delhi director V Ramgopal Rao. “Twenty years ago, 80% of the BTech class used to go abroad. Now these numbers are insignificant.

Something in the economic balance for Indian tech workers has changed historic brain draining migration patterns. 

Some of this may be due to remote work. Some of this may be due to an increased demand for tech workers in the domestic economy of India. Some of this may be due to a reduced demand for tech workers abroad that graduates from universities in India used to fill. It could also reflect a shift from hiring new college graduates to hiring tech workers with more experience who have proven themselves in the industry. I don't know enough about the economics of this industry to know.

22 September 2022

Tax Code Provisions WIth Expiration Dates in 2022 to 2027

It is much easier in the U.S. political system, especially if there is divided control in Congress after the midterm elections which is a very realistic possibility, to leave the status quo in place than to enact new legislation to extend or replace it. 

Over the next few years, especially 2025, a large share of Trump tax cuts for big businesses and wealthy individuals, most notably the 20% deduction for income from pass through entities, will expire of their own accord if they are not extended. Allowing them to expire could be a powerful tool for Democrats seeking greater tax equity.

Provisions Expiring in 2022
 50% Rate for Railroad Track Maintenance Other Temporary Provision
Full Deduction for Business Meals Provisions

Expiring in 2025
 Special Expensing Rules for Certain Film, Television, and Live Theatrical Productions
 Seven-Year Recovery Period for Motorsports Entertainment Complexes
 Empowerment Zone Tax Incentives
 New Markets Tax Credit
 Employer Tax Credit for Paid Family and Medical Leave
 Work Opportunity Tax Credit
 Transfers of Excess Pension Assets to Retiree Health and Life Insurance Plans
 Look-Through Treatment of Payments Between Related Controlled Foreign Corporations Other Temporary Provisions
 Deductibility of Employer De Minimis Meals and Related Eating Facility, and Meals for the Convenience of the Employer  
 Higher Exclusion Rates for GILTI and FDII
 Lower Tax Rates and Credits for BEAT
20% Deduction for Pass-Through Businesses

Other Temporary Provisions Expiring in 2026
 Limit on Excess Business Losses of Noncorporate Taxpayers
 First Year Depreciation
 Additional Depreciation for Trees Producing Fruits and Nuts
 Election to Invest Capital Gains in an Opportunity Zone

Other Temporary Provision Expiring in 2027
 Citrus Plants Lost by Casualty

From the Congressional Research Service (May 24, 2021 report).

Quote Of The Day

This is a fascinating perspective explaining the logic underlying the political fraud predominantly committed by the Republican party in recent years. 

Donald Trump’s so-called big lie is not big because of its brazen dishonesty or its widespread influence or its unyielding grip over the Republican Party. It is not even big because of its ambition — to delegitimize a presidency, disenfranchise millions of voters, clap back against reality. No, the lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 election has grown so powerful because it is yoked to an older deception, without which it could not survive: the idea that American politics is, in essence, a joke, and that it can be treated as such without consequence.

The big lie depends on the big joke. It was enabled by it. It was enhanced by it. It is sustained by it.

When politicians publicly defend positions they privately reject, they are telling the joke. When they give up on the challenge of governing the country for the rush of triggering the enemy, they are telling the joke. When they intone that they must address the very fears they have encouraged or manufactured among their constituents, they are telling the joke. When their off-the-record smirks signal that they don’t really mean what they just said or did, they are telling the joke. As the big lie spirals ever deeper into unreality, with the former president mixing election falsehoods with call-outs to violent, conspiratorial fantasies, the big joke has much to answer for.

21 September 2022

Can You Help The Working Class In A Conservative Way Without Raising Taxes?

The Republican Party has a greatly shifted base with new interests, and the conservative political establishment is still struggling to figure out how to reconcile its historical policy positions with this new mix of constituencies.
How does a party that historically represented the rich and big business adapt to a world where conservatism’s constituencies are not just middle class but blue-collar, downscale and disappointed with the modern American economy?
How does the Republican Party, which is still the party of free markets and tax cuts, represent and support its working-class constituents?

Broadly speaking, the national conservative answer has been to combine the Trumpian emphasis on trade and industrial policy with the reform-conservative emphasis on family policy, with some trustbusting impulses added in as well. It’s a vision in which conservative governance supports skilled blue-collar jobs, domestic industry and parents of young children, while seeking to weaken the power of the Ivy League and Silicon Valley. 
. . .

[I]nflation, if it lingers, will force ambitious policymakers to make hard choices, and for conservatives those choices are constrained by the right-wing anathema against raising taxes on the rich.

There are exceptions to this ban, and Cotton and Rubio make the most of them. You can tax the rich if they’re wealthy liberal institutions, and so Cotton funds his training voucher in part with a tax on the endowments of wealthy private colleges. You can tax the upper class by cutting off their tax breaks, and so Rubio funds some of his family policies by ending the state and local tax deduction, a policy that especially benefits higher‌ earners in bluer states.

From Ross Douthat at the New York Times

When Is Higher Education Not Worth It? A Dialog

The Discussion 

This is an excerpt from a Facebook discussion of when higher education is not worth it. Some of this discussion is excerpted from my prior posts at this blog without citation, and the discussion is lightly edited and supplemented with links and bracketed additional support. 

My post:
Most often when you don't have the high school grades, college admission test scores, and the math and English proficiency from high school, sufficiently strong to give you a very high chance of graduating (or full benefits from the experience even if you do scrape out a degree). 
Roughly speaking when you look at the data, college isn't worth it for students who are below the 65th percentile on ACT or SAT composite scores (about 22 for the ACT and 1120 on the SAT), who are not in the top 35% of his high school class (in a high school that is representative of the general population) or have below a B+ high school GPA in schools that are not representative of the general population, or who need remedial math or English.
[[F]ewer than 38 percent of high school students who plan to get a college degree actually do so within 10 years of graduating. Of those with poor high school grades, less than 14 percent achieve their college plans. . . . 92 percent of students with low grades planning to earn an A.A. failed to do so—even higher than the 86 percent of those who abandoned their plans to earn a BA. . . . 45 per cent of dropout in the first two years of college can be attributed to poor academic performance in college classes. . . . One of the better sets of data with marginal graduation probabilities involves a comparison of likelihood of graduating from Northern Iowa Area Community College between students with some college level work exposures in high school and those without this exposure. It compared the performance of students at the lowest quartile (with an average high school GPA of 2.29, the middle quartile with an average high school GPA of 2.74 and the highest quartile with an average high school GPA of 3.21). For those without exposure to college level work, graduation rates were as follows, while those exposed (about a fifth of the sample) had the rates in parenthesis: Lowest Quartile: Male 4.18% (6.57%); Female 17.17% (25.04%); Middle Quartile: Male 19.04% (27.49%); Female 44.51% (56.38%); Highest Quartile: Male 41.25% (53.08%); Female 68.58% (77.86%). . . [S]tudents placed into remediation had lower ACT scores and high school GPAs. For example, students placed in math remediation scored a mean of 17.4 on the math section of the ACT while students who did not take the classes scored 23.3 (a similar gap, 15.8 versus 22.8, is found for English remediation). A simple comparison of the outcomes of students placed into remediation and those who are not suggests that remedial students had worse educational outcomes. After five years, a larger proportion of them dropped out of college without a degree (65.2 for those in math remediation versus 30.8 percent) and fewer of them completed a baccalaureate degree (18.1 for those in math remediation versus 53.3 percent). About sixteen percent of each group received a two year degree rather than the planned four year degree. . . . At least 3%-5% of students will fail to graduate in six years no matter how well academically prepared and screened they are, for reasons that are generally completely unrelated to any lack of academic ability or study skills or interpersonal skills, such as a serious illness or injury, death, family financial woes, elder care demands, deciding to have children, or pursuing a promising non-academic opportunity (e.g. founding a company with some partners). But, the remainder of the non-graduation rate seems to be strongly correlated with academic ability.]
Also, college/university might not be worth it if you have a viable career path in your chosen field (e.g. military service, Olympic sports, baseball, music, art, computer programming, non-financial marketing/sales, running a small business, or a skilled trade) where a college degree is not formally required.

Further education and training after high school do make sense for everyone. But, a two or four year academic degree isn't what benefits everyone, or even most high school graduates.
Those are solid guidelines. If there were a way to get that into the testing system so kids know. You can imagine those families/students of people who do not reach that promise themselves..."I'm going to work harder in college mom and dad" but when the freedoms of being out in the semi-real world of college and in many cases away from home it doesn't add up. My son's first college room mate lasted 7 weeks before he had to go home. The Constant Party and Drinking were too much.

But again, I appreciate the data. I wonder if they could make a Prep School, held at Community College that students would have an extra year of getting there studies on board and then enter a 2-4 year program would work. Enabling them to sink or swim better.
My next comments:
My intuition is that kids who aren't at that point academically when they are seniors in high school wouldn't benefit much from more classroom instruction, which wasn't very fruitful for the last twelve years, right away. 
Like J.D. Vance (odious politics of late notwithstanding), something like two to four years of military service (or some other structured with a very non-academic classroom format experience, for example, learning a trade or working construction or the Peace Corps or semi-pro art or music, or ski instruction/river guide type work) first would probably be more helpful. Some people just need more time to mature too.

When I was in junior high and high school (I grew up in a college town as a child of a professor and a college administrator) and again in college itself, the old timers on the faculty would talk about how much more thoughtful and focused the GI Bill students were than traditional seventeen or eighteen year old college freshmen. 
[GI Bill students had served in the military in the post-World War II era before going to college and their veteran's benefits paid for it. They were older and had more life experience for that reason. They were also often even older than the twenty to twenty-two year old veterans who enlisted straight out of high school, because many GI Bill students were drafted, or enlisted voluntarily, when they were already a few years out of high school. Most GI Bill veterans were men and men, in particular, often mature later than women, which is one factor in the higher education gap between men and women.]

Even lots of academically high achieving kids were are academically ready can burn out after too many years of non-stop classroom academic education (something that is really common in Japan and Korea and Europe where high school is more intense, that is mediated in places like Korea and Israel and Switzerland with mandatory military service).

Sliding one to four one semester long college class length remedial math or English classes in during that time period, stretched out over two to four years with only one class at a time at a slower pace than in regular school instruction, while doing something else primarily, might work though. Frustration with remedial classes in community college is one important reason that community colleges have the highest dropout rates of all, even after a single year.

Math is the #1 remedial subject that holds kids back from benefitting from college and can be fruitful to remedy because the body of knowledge that kids with remedial needs who are otherwise ready for college need is quite small and can all fit in one or two textbooks that you can learn step by step at a modest pace.  
[Algebra is one of the biggest hurdles to getting a high school or college degree — particularly for students of color and first-generation undergrads. It is also the single most failed course in community colleges across the country. . . . At American community colleges, 60 percent of those enrolled are required to take at least one math course. Most — nearly 80 percent — never complete that requirement. In Colorado, of those starting two year college: 52.7% needed remedial help in math, reading or writing. 40% needed remedial help in math. 17% needed remedial help in math, reading and writing. 12.7% need remedial help only in reading or writing. Of those starting four year college: 19% needed help in math, reading, or writing. 16% needed help in math. 3% needed help in reading or writing and very few need help in all three areas. Students who need remedial work in mathematics are much, much less likely to graduate than those who do not, in part, because of the remediation requirement which slows down the process of getting into real college work and is simply insurmountable for some students, and in part, because it is a litmus test for poor preparation for college and low academic ability in general. But, it certainly isn't entirely about IQ. For example, in the early 2000s, among students identified as "gifted and talented" (i.e. in the 98th percentile of better on standardized tests) by the Denver Public Schools, some high schools sent almost all to college without needing remediation, while others had less than 19% of its gifted and talented students achieve this feat.]
If you are in some sort of environment like electrical work or carpentry or operating an artillery battery that makes math more relevant to you, the motivation needed to cross the remedial math hurdle can surge. This new positive attitude towards math was common place in kids that transferred from traditional format schools to a regional vocational high school in the district I attended growing up, especially for boys from rural farm areas who were being taught by teachers who lived in the college town that shared the district creating a cultural clash and lack of buy-in.

Remediating English is much harder but not impossible if you start as young as possible. It involves several distinct issues that have to be addressed. Sometimes the issue is English as a second language instruction. Sometimes the issue learning an academic standard dialect of English when you grew up speaking a less prestigious dialect of English like AAVE (African-American Vernacular English) or Appalachian dialects of English. Sometimes the issue is just weak vocabulary and grammar and writing style, rather than learning a new language or a new dialect of English. 

Getting away from classroom instruction and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and having a more focused pre-professionally oriented program in the wings tentatively afterwards rather than a vague too free for people not mature enough to benefit from the freedom general four year degree program afterwards, can also re-motivate people.

But there will always be lots of people, probably 25%-50% of high school graduates, more men, fewer women, for whom any further academic instruction ever is simply fruitless for the student and a recipe for frustration and self-confidence destroying failure. 
We should recognize that and not let the best be the enemy of the good by trying to not rule out being a lawyer, doctor, or President of the U.S. for kids, when it has long before been clear that those goals, or even a college degree, is an unreasonable and even absurd expectation for a particular student. We need to have life scripts in our economy and society that work for them too.
Another fun fact: 
I mention the ACT composite above, but ACT English + ACT Math are actually more predictive of college success and retention than the ACT Composite or the other two parts of the ACT that are more content based. In relative terms, here is how predictive each subsection of the ACT is:

Math (significant at p=0.01 level) 26
English (significant at p=0.01 level) 16
Reading (significant at p=0.05 level) 3
Science (not statistically significant) -1.

The May 2013 study tested for differences in predictive power among the four sub-scores of the ACT using Ohio Board of Regents data on all students that matriculated to a four-year public college in Ohio in 1999.
Again, backing up your intuition with Solid Numbers. I appreciate your insight into this. Its Obviously something you have researched a lot and have thought a lot about.

Other Considerations

This discussion doesn't cover all of the relevant issues. There is also a whole body of data on several other key factors involved in determining if higher education is worth it.

(1) Particular majors and educational programs have greater or lesser returns. 

STEM programs and other quantitatively oriented fields, like economics and finance, tend to have higher economic returns for students. But these programs also require more demanding minimum academic preparation thresholds to succeed; "in most majors (e.g., History, English, Biology, social sciences, ...) students with modest SAT scores can still obtain high GPAs, presumably through hard work. However, we found almost no cases of SAT-M scorers below about 90th percentile who obtained high upper division GPAs in physics or pure mathematics[.]" So, despite high economic returns make these programs a poor choice for academically marginal students.

Other programs vary in the returns that they provide. 

Culinary programs have very poor economic returns despite being pre-professional. 

Sometimes it is hard to separate out factors like the fact that students in many P-12 education majors (especially the less academic ones) tending to be less academically able from the poor economic returns to these majors generally due to lower pay levels in P-12 education.

Graduate and professional school programs also have greatly varying returns. Economic returns in graduate J.D. and medical programs are particularly strong. Many MBA programs provide poor returns, and more generally, many kinds of master's degree programs don't produce great economic returns relative to PhD and professional degree programs. Other kinds of graduate programs vary considerably in the returns that they provide.

Medical school has such rigorous admissions due to an unreasonable shortage of medical school admissions slots (about 50% lower relative to the U.S. population than two generations ago), that almost every admitted graduates, becomes a doctor, and is successful in doing so from an academic ability perspective.

Law schools, however, admit many people who have dim chances of both graduating from law school and then passing a bar exam. If you aren't academically in the top half of college graduates, you are unlikely to graduate and then pass the bar exam. And, even then you are a marginal law student. Students who more reliably become lawyers and who thrive in law tend to be academically in the higher end of the top half of college graduates. This said, there are large economic returns to passing the bar exam even if your academic ability to do so is marginal, if your "W" factors, cultural capital, marketing ability, and business aptitude are strong. Academically marginal lawyers in the right kind of practice with the right other factors can do very well compared to their prospects in another other career.

(2) Particular institutions and kinds of institutions have greater or lesser returns. "For profit" educational institutions aren't worth it with only a handful of exceptions like flight schools. Only 26 percent of students who enrolled in private, for-profit institutions in 2013 managed to graduate within six years. Other schools’ six-year graduation rates weren’t great, either: 62 percent for public institutions and 68 percent for private nonprofits. 

In one study, student characteristics in that study explained 25% of the variance in dropout rates, while institution type explained just under 10% of the variance.

Some colleges are particularly effective at providing good returns for first generation college students and lower income students, such as the City University of New York system and the California State University system.

(3) Factors other than IQ, which test scores and to a lesser extent high school GPA and curriculum rigor discussed below measure, matter as well in academic success. Many of these factors are collectively called the "W" factor by one researcher for "work ethic" that are better reflected in GPAs than test scores and reflect conscientiousness, lack of ADHD, grit, and so on. 

But there are also other non-W factors that matter, such as cultural capital or a lack thereof that puts many first generation college students at a disadvantage. Closing related is the observation that students are more likely to benefit from higher education, if they have fewer "ACEs" (adverse childhood experiences) which can cause students to develop coping strategies that aren't very functional in a college or university environment.

Knowing how to overcome a learning disability or other disability if you have one is another factor.

Someone with strong W factors, lots of cultural capital, and a lack of disabilities or good practices for managing disabilities may benefit from higher education, even if their academic ability reflected in their test scores, grades, and the rigor of their coursework is marginal. This is, in part, because a college degree provides a lot of signaling benefits in the economic marketplace even when the experience itself doesn't intrinsically add much value.  

These additional factors can only make up for so much of a short falling in academic ability, however. Certainly, it isn't enough to make up for being in the bottom quarter of academic ability for typical women, or the bottom third of academic ability for typical men.

(4) Post-secondary education provides economic returns mostly in urban areas with healthy economies while providing much weaker economic returns in rural areas and places with stagnant economies.

(5) Marginal students who are admitted to a college and earn a degree have much better economic prospects than marginal students who can't quite manage to do that, despite similar levels of academic ability, due to signaling effects in the economic marketplace associated with having a college degree, even if they don't actually learn much in college and aren't very well socialized into the socio-economic class of college graduates. 

To some extent this effect is one of the symptoms of the degree inflation that our economy has experienced where many jobs expect college degrees that don't actually provide knowledge necessary to do the job and really just sort for IQ, W factors, and social class socialization.

(6) Less academically prepared students also learn less in college.

[A study] of more than 2,300 undergraduates . . . [from a representative sample of 24 colleges and universities described in] the book, "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses." . . . found an average-scoring student in fall 2005 scored 7 percentage points higher in the spring of 2007 on the [College Learning] assessment [which measures critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing]. In other words, those who entered college in the 50th percentile would rise to the equivalent of the 57th after their sophomore years. . . . After four years, 36 percent of students did not demonstrate significant improvement, compared with 45 percent after two [years]. Students who studied alone, read and wrote more, attended more selective schools and majored in traditional arts and sciences majors posted greater learning gains. . . . Students who spent more time studying with peers showed diminishing growth, and students who spent more time in the Greek system had decreased rates of learning . . . [A]ctivities such as working off campus, participating in campus clubs and volunteering did not affect learning. Students from families with different levels of parental education enter college with different learning levels but learn at about the same rates while attending college. . . . Black students improve their assessment scores at lower levels than whites.

Factors That Matter For Life Success But Less So For Academic Success

There are also other factors that are demonstrated to help life economic success, like extraversion, and connections with affluent or upper class individuals, that are only modestly relevant to academic success. 

Lots Of People Who Would Benefit Still Don't Get Higher Education Because They Can't Afford It Or Think They Can't Afford It

Also lots of people for whom higher education is worth it in the U.S., don't get that education due to low family incomes and a lack of appreciation of how lower income families can get higher educations with high sticker prices at much lower costs and with little to modest debt if the financial aid game is played right.