Study finds college education not related to less religiosity

Adding to several other studies from recent years, a new study suggests education is not a hindrance to religiosity:

His study of 38,251 people found that college-educated folk born after 1960 are no more likely to disaffiliate from their religion than those who have not pursued a higher education.

And those born in the 1970s and ‘80s who have attended college are more likely to claim religious affiliation than their lesser-educated counterparts — thereby completely reversing the trends of education and secularization.

“This study suggests that, at least at an individual level of analysis, it is not the highly educated who are driving this change,” said Schwadel, an associate professor of sociology. “If anything, the growth of the unaffiliated over the last couple of decades is disproportionally among the less educated. … For younger generations, it’s the least-educated Americans who are most likely to disaffiliate from religion or say they have no religious affiliation.”…

“Religion is just a fact of life for a lot of college students. It is not compartmentalized as just Sunday morning (worship),” he said.

Some pockets of both liberals and conservatives may not like this news: conservatives who rail against agnostic and atheist college environments may have to back off while liberals may not like that college and higher levels of learning don’t discourage religion.

Additionally, religious groups and congregations may want to think about what it means if religion is increasingly the domain of the more educated. Marx suggested religion was a tool for dominating the lower classes but recent findings in the United States suggest those with more education favor religion more. Are lower income Americans less interested in religion (and if so, why) or do they find organized religion less appealing (perhaps they have less social capital with which to navigate religious organizations)?

Has the rise of football harmed male educational attainment?

With data in recent years suggesting that men are falling behind at the college level, Gregg Easterbrook suggests this may be due to football:

Women are taking more of the available slots in college at the same time boys are spending more time playing football. Are these two facts related?

The main force must be that girls as a group are doing very well in high school, making them attractive candidates for college. But perhaps the rising popularity of football is at the same time decreasing boys’ chances of college admission.

Having ever-more boys being bashed on the head in football, while more play full-pads tackle at young ages, may be causing brain trauma that makes boys as a group somewhat less likely to succeed as students. In the highly competitive race for college admissions, even a small overall medical disadvantage for boys could matter. More important, the increasing amount of time high school boys devote to football may be preventing them from having the GPA and extracurriculars that will earn them regular admission to college when recruiters don’t come calling…

Neurology aside, most likely the largest factor in the possible relationship of rising football popularity to declining male college attendance is that teen boys who play the sport spend too much time on football and not enough time on schoolwork. When they don’t get recruited, many may lack the grades, board scores and extracurriculars for regular college admission.

Easterbrook is suggesting a correlation between two pieces of data: the declining performance of men in school compared to women and a rising interest in football. (To really get at whether this is the case, we would need to undertake an analysis where we can control for other factors.)  He suggests two possible ways in which football might be having an impact: neurological damage and time spent playing and practicing the sport. Out of these, the second sounds more plausible to me.

But I wonder if there isn’t a lot more we could say about this second possible explanation. Why would high school and college males want to spend so much time playing football? Why is it such an attractive option? Perhaps this attraction to football suggests that society doesn’t present too many other attractive options to young males. Perhaps younger males lack good role models in their personal lives or in society who do other things, respectable males who would say that getting an education is an important step in order to participate in today’s society. Do we have cool scientists or academics or do we usually highlight celebrities (particularly those who are famous for being famous) and athletes? Perhaps “manliness” is now defined by football: across the positions, it requires speed (running), violence (hitting), decision-making, and competition. Plus, everyone has been playing this on Madden for years so how hard could this be?

I’m guessing it wouldn’t be too difficult to find some data regarding high school students to see who plays football and perhaps even indicates why they play.

Princeton: our scholars must own their copyrights

The 1709 Blog writes about Princeton University’s new Open Access policy:

[L]ibrarians and academics have long known that journal publishers monopolise the market; even as much as ten years ago the larger publishers were busy buying out the smaller ones who weren’t strong enough to compete with them. But outside of academia people are largely unaware of the struggles every electronic resources librarian faces each year as budgets shrink and journal bundle prices steadily increase. Tough decisions often have to be made, and naturally the impact is felt by researchers, academics and students.

Which is why today’s announcement that Princeton University is enforcing an Open Access policy forbidding academics from transferring the copyright in their articles to journal publishers is so significant. Academics are required to licence their work instead, so that they retain the copyright and are therefore able to reproduce it elsewhere without having to seek the permission of the publisher. This could spark a welcome trend which would allow academics and universities to maximise their outputs and revolutionise knowledge sharing. [emphasis added]

In many disciplines–particularly the sciences–scholars already pay journals to publish them.  In other words, the scholars’ universities foot some or all of the bill for peer review and editing (in addition, of course, to “subsidizing” scholars by way of salaries).  Especially in these circumstances, it seems that the scholar/university have a lot of leverage to do what Princeton is doing here since academic publishers’ leverage to push back is directly tied to their value-add.  Since, under these particular circumstances, the publishers are adding almost no value, their leverage is near zero.

A more interesting question arises where the academic publishers add more value–i.e., where the publisher directly incurs the editing and peer reviewing costs.  There, the scholar/university may well get more push back.

If other colleges and universities follow Princeton’s lead, traditional academic publishers could find themselves effectively cut out of the market very quickly.

Thinking about the sociology of cricket

If you thought that cricket was a pleasant and quaint sport with matches that last days, a British commentator suggests otherwise. Like other sports, cricket has become dominated by money (“lucre”) and this threatens to overwhelm the commentator’s interest in watching the interactions between players:

Cricket has had a real battering in the last few months. This was not just because of the match-fixing scandal at the end of the last English season; it was also because of the rather gutless way in which certain parts of the cricket establishment, here and internationally, responded to it. Cricket is a game now obsessed with money. Even those who do not engage in match-fixing, and who condemn (quite rightly) those who do, share the same devotion to filthy lucre. The only difference is that they prostitute the game in different, and entirely legal, ways.

I have never been an especially partisan follower of cricket. It is not just that, on one level, it’s only a game (I shall deal later with the charmingly old-fashioned notion that it is, by contrast, more than a game), and therefore which side wins or loses is in the end irrelevant. It is that the main interest to me, as a follower of the game, has been its aesthetics and, almost as much, its sociology. It has the capacity to be a visually beautiful game, and because games of cricket can go on for up to five days, there is plenty of time for the spectator to examine the interaction of the players with each other – with those on their own side as much as with those on the opposing team.

The solution for this writer is to watch cricket at a lower level, such as watching is son play with other 14-year olds. You will hear this argument from some Americans as well: the professional sports are tainted and if you want to enjoy an authentic version of the game where players play because they love the same, you have to go to the college level or lower. I tend to think this argument leaves out an important aspect of why people watch sports – they want to see the best athletes in the world perform amazing plays. High school athletes may love what they are doing but it is hard not to think about how a college or pro athlete could athletically do so much more.

I have also always enjoyed watching the interactions between players. Additionally, I enjoy going to sporting events to watch interactions between fans and the players and amongst fans. In short, if you gather so many passionate people together in a relatively small location with much on the line, there is bound to be some interesting interactions.

Of course, cricket on the international level also has the potential to open up discussion about colonialism and class – how exactly did an English sport find its way to the streets of Australia, the West Indies, Pakistan, and India?

Dissenting voices: “There is no college cost crisis”

So says Stanley Fish in his NYTimes review of economists Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman’s new book, “Why Does College Cost So Much?”:

The causes of the increase in college costs (an increase that has not, [Archibald and Feldman] contend, put college “out of reach”) are external; colleges are responding, as they must, to changes they cannot ignore and still provide a quality product. Chief among these is the change in the sophistication and cost of the technology that has at once transformed the setting of higher education and become one of the areas of knowledge higher education must impart to students.

This is an intriguing dissent from what Archibald and Feldman call the “new orthodoxy” or the “dysfunctionality narrative” of spiraling college costs.  As Fish himself opines:

As a dean who encountered the rising costs of personnel, laboratory equipment, security, compliance demands, information systems and much more every day, I knew [my own critiques written in 2003 were] basically right, but I am happy to ride (belatedly) on the coattails of people who really know what they’re talking about.

What do you think?  Is technology the major driver of increased costs in higher education?  Or are other, more relevant factors at work here?

Why veterinary medicine is a female dominated field

Sociologists have long been interested in why certain career fields are dominated by men or women. A recent article in Social Forces examines why veterinary medicine is dominated by women:

More women than men are applying for veterinary school—making up as much as 80 percent of applicants at some schools. That’s not because men are avoiding perceived lower wages in veterinary medicine, says one researcher. It’s because male applicants are avoiding fields filled with women.

That’s the conclusion of Anne Lincoln, an assistant sociology professor at Southern Methodist University, whose study of the changing face of veterinary medicine is the first to look at gender in college applications from 1975 to 1995. Lincoln used decades of surveys and application information shared by the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges in her recently published study, “The Shifting Supply of Men and Women to Occupations: Feminization in Veterinary Education,” in the journal Social Forces.

In addition to men’s “preemptive flight” from female-dominated colleges, Lincoln also attributes veterinary medicine’s gender shift to women’s higher graduation rates from college as well as the landmark 1972 federal amendment that prohibited discrimination by gender in college applications. Women have been enrolling in college in greater numbers since 1972, according to Lincoln.

I would like to hear more about this argument and the idea of “preemptive flight”: so men who are interested in veterinary medicine go to class or the department, see it is dominated by women, and then choose another field. How did this happen in the first place in this particular field – was there an important tipping point? What fields do the men who wanted to go into this field then go into because of the surplus of women in veterinary medicine?

It is also interesting that Lincoln suggests the trends in this field are likely to occur several decades down the road in the fields of law and medicine. If this idea of “preemptive flight” is pervasive in any field dominated by women, what happens when there are fewer and fewer careers where men can flee to?

Defining the middle class

A Yahoo! article lays out six markers of being middle class, according to an unnamed government task force. As the article suggests, middle class is a nebulous term in America:

People earning 20% of the average income and people earning 80% all claim to be part of the middle class. More than a few millionaires make the claim too.

Here are the six markers according to the task force: home ownership, automobile ownership, providing a college education for children, having retirement security, having health care coverage, and being able to take family vacations.

Looking at this list, I’m struck by three thoughts:

1. It seems quite American with its emphasis on owning a home, owning a car, and being able to take vacations.

2. This sounds like a life that has to be, or at least typically is, lived in the suburbs.

3. This would take quite a bit of money. Particularly with the point on providing for college, the middle class lifestyle is going to take a decent amount of income. Would the US median household income of $52,029 (2008 estimates from the American Community Survey) cover this? I’m guessing it would be difficult and it means most families would have to have two good incomes. Critical to all of this (and it was not mentioned) is to have a fairly high-paying career.

The economics of tutoring

The New York Times has a piece analyzing the ROI of private, non-remdial tutoring.  On the one hand, journalist Paul Sullivan quotes a “cynic” who likened “tutoring and private school as a forward contract on the Ivy League, with anything less being a disappointment.”  On the other, he notes

[o]n the positive side, for children, tutors can often comfort them and let them talk to someone beyond their parents. “They can say what they want and that person will translate it to Mom and Dad,” Ms. [Sandy] Bass [editor and publisher of Private School Insider] said. “That’s what the kid needs because they’re afraid of letting Mom and Dad down.”

I sense that non-remedial tutoring is driven more by the former than the latter.  I wasn’t personally tutored in grade school or secondary school, but I did take the ubiquitous BarBri bar review course after graduating from law school.  I took this course because I felt that I had to:  everyone else was taking it, and I couldn’t afford to not have the same “edge.”  (Never mind that state bar exams are designed to test one’s knowledge of the law, a skill presumably learned during the preceding three years of law school.)

Is non-remedial tutoring just an arms race?  I’d be curious to hear your thoughts and comments.

Colleges have debt too

The New York Times has published an opinion piece by Mark C. Taylor, the chairman of the religion department at Columbia University, that puts a slightly different spin on the perennial college-costs-are-out-of-control argument.  He suggests that the institutions of higher education are themselves as indebted (and troubled) as their students:

There is a similarity between the debt crisis on Wall Street and what threatens higher education. Just as investors borrowed more and increased their leverage in volatile markets, many colleges and universities are borrowing more and betting on an expanding market in higher education at the precise moment their product is becoming affordable for fewer people.

It’s an interesting observation with potentially far-reaching implications.  There is always going to be demand for higher education, but it’s hard to see how a university like N.Y.U. can sustain debt levels higher than its endowment (“a staggering $2.22 billion debt with a relatively modest $2.2 billion endowment,” according to the article) in a world where “four years at a top-tier school will cost $330,000 in 2020, $525,000 in 2028 and $785,000 in 2035” if present trends continue.

Unemployment and the millennials

The New York Times reprints some unemployment figures:

For young adults, the prospects in the workplace, even for the college-educated, have rarely been so bleak. Apart from the 14 percent who are unemployed and seeking work…23 percent are not even seeking a job, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The total, 37 percent, is the highest in more than three decades and a rate reminiscent of the 1930s.

…and fleshes out those figures with the anecdote of Scott Nicholson, a 2008 college graduate who is still looking for work:

The daily routine seldom varied. Mr. Nicholson, 24, a graduate of Colgate University, winner of a dean’s award for academic excellence, spent his mornings searching corporate Web sites for suitable job openings. When he found one, he mailed off a résumé and cover letter — four or five a week, week after week.

I think what makes this story so interesting is its intergenerational comparison of Scott, his father, and his grandfather and the opportunities available to each.  Louis Uchitelle makes a strong case that fundamental opportunities have shifted, that the millennials’ equivalent of “go West, young man” means leaving the U.S.–and its moribund economy–entirely.