Thursday, August 28, 2014

Are Doctors or Lawyers Richer?

Careers in medicine and law are known for high levels of educational credentials and high levels of income. But, which pays more?

The answer, as most people know, is doctors. Doctors, according to CNBC, are paid about $160,000 to $200,000 on average (depending on speciality) compared to to about $130,000 for lawyers. Stark difference indeed.

Not surprisingly, going into the medical field is more likely to get you rich than going into the legal field. 21% of doctors make the top "1%" of earners compared to 12% of lawyers.  Both fields are pretty wealthy, but doctors far outpace lawyers.

So, to answer the question posed in the title, doctors are clearly richer than lawyers. That truth, however, may mask a more complex reality.

Being a doctor may be a better path to being rich, but it may not be a better path to being super rich. That is to say, doctors are richer than lawyers, but rich doctors may not be richer than rich lawyers.

Luckily, we have data that can help shed some light on the differences between the rich doctors and rich lawyers. Bradley Heim, Adam Cole, and Jon Bakija did a study on the occupations of the "1%". Unfortunately, the data only reaches up to 2005, but, for the purposes of this analysis, that shouldn't be a major problem.

What does the data show?

Just as indicated earlier, doctors are more common than lawyers in the "1%". In 2005, doctors made up 15.7% of the richest 1% compared to only 8.4% for lawyers. But, the question I am asking here is whether or not doctors or lawyers that are already in this 1% make more.

The answer is: Lawyers. Rich lawyers make more than rich doctors. Some simple calculations show that both lawyers and doctors in the top 1% make less than the average income in the top 1% (because CEOs and Financiers make up a big portion of this group). But, doctors in the 1% make 78% of the average while lawyers in the 1% make 85% of the average. This means that rich doctors only make 92 cents on the dollar of what rich lawyers make. Not a huge difference, but quite significant.

The difference is even greater among the super rich: the top 0.1%. Doctors in the 0.1% make about 60% of the average income in 0.1% while lawyers in this group make about 73% of the average income. This means that, in the top 0.1%, doctors make 82 cents on the dollar of what lawyers make.

The conclusion?

Doctors are richer than lawyers, but rich lawyers are richer than rich doctors. If you're goal is a high 6 figure salary, medicine is a better choice for you. If you are obsessed with great riches, however, law might be a better choice than medicine. Of course, this is all relative. Both medicine and law are far less likely to bring great wealth than finance and corporate management.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The "Rape Culture" Myth

An article of faith among feminists is that we (meaning the USA) live in a "rape culture". That is, we live in a culture that condones rape and often blames victims of rape. This is, according to feminists, why rape is so common while rape convictions are, relatively, rare.

Of course, the existence of such a "rape culture" is non falsifiable. It is impossible to disprove. This is, as any scientist will tell you, the mark of a very bad theory. It is impossible to disprove, for example, the existence of a giant, flying spaghetti monster in the sky (as Richard Dawkins often says). Yet, most people can recognize that the absence of evidence for such a spaghetti monster is likely evidence of absence.

The same is true of "rape culture". While it cannot be disproved anymore than a flying spaghetti monster can be disproved, there is pathetically little evidence that such a culture exists and tons of evidence that suggests otherwise.

Let's also make clear exactly what believing in "rape culture" entails. I, like most people, believe that rape is a uniquely horrible crime. I also believe that it is far too common and too few rapists are given the punishment they deserve.

I also, by the way, believe all of these things about the one crime that is at least on par with rape: murder. Murder is uniquely horrible, far too common, and all too often murderers do not end up in jail.

Yet, I do not believe in the existence of "murder culture", a culture where murder is condoned and murder victims blamed. The existence and even commonality of murder is not in and of itself damning evidence for a "murder culture". The same is true of rape and "rape culture"

If "rape culture" actually existed, for example, we would not expect severe, criminal punishments for rape. Yet, convicted rapists are often given life sentences for their crime (and rightly so). It's hard to square this reality with the claim that rape is accepted by society or our judicial system.

Likewise, contrary to the claims of believers in "rape culture", most of society judges rapists (even if they are just believed to be rapists) quite harshly and rape victims quite sympathetically. This is not exactly the kind of societal reaction one would expect from a "rape culture".

Given all of this, how is it even possible that so many people believe that society engages in victim blaming and rape apologetics?

Quite simply, it is because the believers in "rape culture" conflate accused rapists with rapists and have a much broader definition of rape than most people. It is impossible to understand "rape culture" hysteria without understanding this.

Take, for example, a case where a man breaks into a woman's house and forcibly penetrates her while she screams in resistance. Virtually all of society will, rightly, see the rapist as a horrible person and the victim as just that: a victim. A horrible rape indeed, but there is no "rape culture" present.

Imagine another case. In this case a college student who had been drinking has sex with a college girl who had also been drinking. By all means, the young male believed the sex to be consensual. However, the girl, believing that she was too drunk to consent and was thus raped, accuses the young man of rape.

In this case, society's reaction will be more ambiguous. Plenty will label the young man a horrible rapist who deserves to go to prison, without him even getting a fair trial. Some will also label the young lady as irresponsible and dishonest for getting herself in that position and then lying about being raped to save face, also without a trial. Most reactions will fall in between.

Likewise, the justice system will give the young man due process and the presumption of innocence. And, as in all cases, the full circumstances of the alleged crime and the character of both the alleged criminal and victim will be relevant factors.

The implicit assumption in "rape culture" is that both of these cases are essentially similar. The fact that society and the judicial system react more ambiguously to the second case than the first is, to "rape culture" believers, evidence that such a culture exists.

Of course, for a rational person, it is very easy to see the differences. For one, whether or not the male thought they were having consensual sex is extremely relevant.

In cases regarding murder, there are different tiers of punishment for deaths that result from accidents, self defense, heat of the moment, or premeditation. In the same vein, if a man thought he had consent, he is no more a rapist than a person who accidentally shot another person is a murderer. Both instances are tragedies, but society and the judicial system is, rightly, not so quick to punch labels on the alleged criminal.

It makes sense then, that the man in the first situation is judged more harshly than the man in the second. That is not, in any sense, a culture that condones rapists. It is merely a civil culture that takes intent and justice seriously.

The same is true of societal judgement of an alleged "victim". Why do some people assume that alleged rape victims are not telling the truth?

The answer is two fold. First, there is little evidence that most people assume alleged victims are lying. Most people in my experience assume that they are telling the truth and assume the accused rapist is, indeed, a real rapist. Still, there are certainly some who often assume that the alleged victim is being dishonest. Why is this?

It's probably not culture. Instead, it is likely the reality of false rape claims.

Contrary to feminist claims, the prevalence of false rape accusations is widely debated. Luckily the wikipedia page offers an overview of the existing studies. Estimates vary quite widely. Even the lower estimates, however, indicate that it is not nearly as rare as feminists often claim.

The fact that false rape claims are, correctly, viewed as more common than for other crimes explains why alleged rape victims are often viewed with more suspicion. It is a tragedy that the prevalence of false rape accusations leads to true rape accusations being taken less seriously. But, the problem here is not a culture of rape. Instead, it is a culture with too many false rape accusations.

One more thing is the fact that in some cases, accused rapists have their identities hidden. This is often seen as evidence for "rape culture". This seems odd. If society were so accepting of rapists, why would accused rapists work so hard to keep their identity protected?

Vigilante feminists have often turned to "outing" accused rapists. This indicates that even they don't believe in "rape culture". In a real "rape culture", outing accused rapists would be useless because society would be so accepting of them. Of course, these feminists implicitly know that "rape culture" is a myth and therefore know that outing rapists will, indeed, ruin their (the accused rapists) reputations.

Another point that "rape culture" believers often turn too is their belief that alleged victims of rape are judged as being "slutty" or "irresponsible" in some cases. Returning to the second rape scenario I offered earlier, it is true that some would judge the girl in this case in such a way.

But, on the same note, some would judge the boy as being a rapist even if he was never properly convicted or even if there was little evidence of him actually committing rape. People making premature or incorrect judgements about people is a sad reality, but it is not evidence of any sort of pervasive culture of "victim blaming".

A murder victim who was, for example, a con man will be judged more harshly than a model citizen who was murdered. This is despite the fact that they are both victims of the same crime. It may be wrong to judge the con man more harshly or blame him for his own murder to a degree, but some people will still do this.

A related problem is the tendency to conflate explaining preventative measures that women can take to reduce their risk of rape and putting blame for rape on the victim. It may seem like victim blaming to instruct young women to avoid certain parts of town or getting overly intoxicated, but it is obviously not.

We tell people to lock their doors to their homes and cars to reduce risk of robbery. This does not, by any measure, amount to blaming the victims of theft for their own theft. It may be true that people will have less sympathy for someone who did not take preventative measures such as locking their door as someone who did. The same is true of rape.

The fact that people have more sympathy for some victims of rape than others is true of all crimes. Whether or not it is right is a legitimate question. But, it is not, in any way, indicative of a broader cultural view.

Confronted with all these realities, people who believe in "rape culture" turn to arguing that this culture is much more subtle. You get articles like this, claiming that John Cusack holding up a boombox is a hidden message promoting rape culture. In other words, "rape culture" hysteria has evolved into little more than a conspiracy theory, looking for hidden messages in popular culture for evidence.

Rape is a horrific crime. It's truly a tragedy that activists have taken to pushing this myth that, ultimately, minimizes the horrors that the real victims of rape must undergo. These victims, at least most of them, likely understand that the blame for rape lies squarely at the feet of their rapists and not some non existent "rape culture".

Monday, July 28, 2014

Why I'm Not a Feminist

I'm not a men's rights activist (MRA) or associated with any kind of anti feminist movement. However, I do consider myself quite opposed to modern, western feminism. Here are some reasons why:

1.) The Pay Gap

 I don't deny the existence of the pay gap. One does exist. However, it is an ignorance regarding the causes of the pay gap. The common figure is 77 cents on the dollar. Most, if not all, of this is explained by differences in hours worked, preferences for work, choice of occupation, and, yes, time out of the workforce due to child rearing. Direct pay discrimination, at the most, is one of many factors explaining this gap. More likely, it plays a negligible role in the gap.

Clever feminists respond by pointing out that it is possible that occupational choices, hours worked, etc could be the result of indirect discrimination and gender roles. I disagree with this assessment. But, for the sake of argument, we'll assume this is correct. Even in this case, the feminist solution is still wrong. Anti discrimination lawsuits, which feminists want to strengthen, are designed to fight direct pay discrimination. They would not, in any way, solve or mitigate these indirect channels for gender discrimination and are thus a bad policy option for solving this problem.

Ironically, the only real effect of things like the Lily Ledbetter Act would be to reduce the hiring opportunities for women because it raises the potential risk of legal action if a woman is to be hired. In other words, an act designed to reduce the pay gap would probably have the opposite effect.

2.) Lack of Compassion for Disadvantaged Men

Disadvantage can mean a lot of things. So, a disadvantaged man could be disadvantaged in money, looks, intelligence, or even things like social interactions. Feminism is incredibly insensitive to such men.

I understand that the feminist movement is, supposedly, about advancing women. But, my problem isn't that they don't talk about the problems that these men face. My problem is the vitriol and hatred aimed towards these men and the lack of interest in the fact that if society were to go in the direction that feminists propose, these men would be the losers.

Feminists like to think they are fighting male privilege. But, in fact, the actual men who are the targets of feminist criticism tend to be incredibly disadvantaged. For instance, there's been a lot of talk about a certain youtube channel devoted to a woman who "confronts" her "street harassers".

The woman in the video is, likely, attractive, white, wealthy (relatively speaking), and intelligent. With a couple exceptions, her harassers are black and disadvantaged. And, in most cases, they aren't harassers at all. They're simply men who aren't rich and white and decide to hit on her.

She may not like it when men she doesn't find appealing say she is pretty but that does not make it harassment. It's hard to imagine that she gets as upset when rich, white, good looking men hit on her in a more stereotypically "classy" way.

A sample of one of her videos is here:

3.) Ignorance About the Problem of Male Isolation

Most remember the tragedy in Santa Barbara a few months ago where Elliot Rodger killed 6 people before taking his own life. Feminists took this as an opportunity to push their own agenda. This is forgivable as the videos Rodger took displayed both profound arrogance and misogyny.

However, feminists seem to mistake correlation for causation. Elliot Rodger didn't kill because he was a misogynist. Instead, both his misogyny and homicidal (and suicidal) tendencies stemmed from a combination of insanity and isolation.

The insanity part is self explanatory as anyone who could kill 6 people in such a manner is obviously insane. The isolation part is, from a cultural perspective, more important.

It is much easier for a man to become isolated than for a woman. Women are, by nature, more social. Yet, they aren't in more need of social interaction. They are merely more aware of their need for social interaction. This is something of a paradox.

The bigger difference, however, comes with regards to intergender social relations. Feminists constantly complain about women getting unwanted male attention. This is, at times, unpleasant and uncalled for. However, there seems to be an ignorance of the corresponding problem males face: lack of female attention.

Humans are social animals. Males left out of social interactions have it at least as hard as women who are subject to non violent and non threatening but still unwanted male attention. Men who are socially awkward or unappealing do not receive female attention. And, if they attempt to talk to females, they are often labeled as "creeps" or "harassers" by women which discourages them from future interaction.

The same is not true of socially awkward or unappealing women who still tend to receive male attention and some degree of social interaction. It is simply much more common for men to become isolated.

It was this isolation that lead an already mentally unstable individual like Rodger to take so many lives in such a senseless manner. It is this isolation that contributes the fact that men are much more likely to commit such senseless murders.

It is also this isolation that leads to men being dramatically more likely to take their own lives than women. At the same time, women are more likely to attempt suicide. That is to say that women may see a suicide attempt as a "cry for help" because they know that some people will care if they think they tried to commit suicide.

For men, suicide is simply a way to end pain and isolation. It is, unfortunately, true that for a lot more men than women, nobody would care if they committed suicide.

One of feminism's core tenets these days is to discourage men from talking to women they don't know, even in a non threatening way. It's not hard to see how this may negatively effect the men who are already isolated to begin with.

4.) Feminism and Multiculturalism

Women are severely disadvantaged in many parts of the world. I don't believe women are disadvantaged in the modern, Western world. Even if you disagree with that, I'm sure we can agree that women are much more disadvantaged in, for example, the Muslim world.

Feminists, at least from my perspective, seem much more upset about magazine covers than the fact that Muslim women can be legally raped if they are married to their rapist in some countries. Of course, feminists have responded to such criticism before.

One common response is that the fact that some women in other countries have a worse deal than women in Western countries does not mean that the women in Western countries should be minimized. That's a fair point.

However, I do think the concerns of women should be correctly prioritized. Maybe it's because of my male privilege, but I simply believe that the plight of women in the third world is much worse than of women in the first world. It's quite difficult to argue that feminists talk as much about the problems of women in poor countries as compared to those in wealthy countries.

Feminists may respond by saying that since they are (mostly) in the first world, they are mostly going to be talking about the problems within the first world. This is also a fair response.

However, feminists should be more forthright in saying that they care much more about the utility of women in wealthy, predominantly white countries than women in poor, predominantly non white countries. Most feminists I know or know of would not exactly be receptive to such a message.

But, given how the feminist movement seems to prioritize, what other conclusion could one come to?

Modern feminism in such a light would look a good deal more like a racial and nationalistic women's movement than a global social justice movement. In my view, that's probably correct and one more reason I am not a feminist.

5.) Biological Differences Between the Sexes

To say that all behavioral differences between men and women are artificial social constructs is rather absurd. However, this implicit assumption underlies much of feminist thought on issues ranging from the pay gap to relations between the genders.

Even if there were no social influences or gender expectations, women and men would still behave differently simply for biological reasons. Once one realizes this, it is clear that not every inequity between the genders is indicative of discrimination. In other words, when it is claimed that the vast majority of CEOs are men, that should be the beginning of the conversation on whether or not discrimination is the cause of this. It should not be an automatic call for major action that ends "discrimination" before we even know that discrimination explains the difference here.

6.) Traditional Monogamy 

It has been well documented that the traditional, nuclear family structure has been slowly deteriorating for years. Feminism oftentimes portrays this as a positive development. I have a different perspective.

"Hookup Culture" has become quite popular among the younger generations. The increased availability of birth control and great societal acceptance of non marital sex has led to a more promiscuous culture with sex becoming less about commitment and child rearing and more about pure pleasure. Feminists tend to see this as a triumph of sexual liberation.

However, marriage and monogamous relationships, in my view, have been a great source of social strength. And, intimacy was a key part of this. With intimacy having a lot less to do with such commitment, it is easy to see why marriage has been on the decline.

Monogamous relationships tend to contribute to more emotionally stable childhoods and more economic security. They also help mitigate the aforementioned problem of isolation that many males (and even some females) face.

I'm not saying that feminism is too blame for the decline of marriage. But, at the very least, feminism has been something of a cheerleader for this trend. I see this as problematic.

These are just 6 of the reasons I don't consider myself a feminist. Of course, I'd love to hear other perspectives. Both those who agree and disagree.

Things to Come

I have been posting a bit more lightly as of late. I will, however, be picking up again in the coming months with some heavy topics and some topics the CC has historically stayed away from. Just a heads up.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

ACA and the Uninsured Rate

There's a lot of to do about the evidence that ACA has reduced the uninsured rate. They're right. I'm not fan of the law, but, from the beginning, I have believed that the ACA would be able to do one specific thing: reduce the share of people in the category "uninsured".

I also think there will be more uninsured than most ACA supporters claimed would be, but there should still be a significant reduction. Indeed, there already has been according to a number of measures.

Is this not a vindication of the ACA?

In my view, the answer is no. For one, being "insured" is not the same as having access to quality health care. I wrote a post a while back noting how public health coverage often doesn't offer the same quality as private health coverage.

Given that the Medicaid expansion is a big part of the fall in the uninsured and given that Medicaid patients receive worse access and lower quality than patients with private care, the fall in the uninsured may not mean as large an increase in health care access as one might believe. Given the changing nature of private insurance, it's possible that even the private coverage purchased on the exchange may offer worse access than pre ACA private insurance.

As I've said before, the major problems in the health care system are overregulation on the supply side and third party (and employer) dominance in the way we pay for it. ACA doesn't do anything to deregulate the supply side and actually worsens the third party dominance in payment.

The high uninsured rate was merely a symptom of these problems. Covering up the symptom by changing people's insurance status may make our system look statistically better, but it may not offer any real improvements in our health care system.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

College Majors, IQ, and Income

New post by Randy Olson on college majors, IQ, and gender. I encourage all readers to read the whole post, which is quite informative. I did leave a comment on his post to note what seems to be a mistake in the SAT to IQ conversions on the part of one of his sources. This mistake led to a systematic overestimation of average IQs in the various majors. Here is my comment:

"SAT to IQ conversion seems to be off. Here is a good site for SAT to IQ conversions:
The smartest major, physics and astronomy, have an average SAT score of 1270. This seems plausible. However, your source converts that 1270 to an IQ of 133.
As the source I provided above shows, the actual conversion of a 1270 SAT score to IQ should be 128-130 depending on the IQ test you use.
Because this post is about the relative IQs of majors, this doesn’t actually have any impact on your argument. But, it is important to note that it seems there was an error on the part of the source when converting SAT to IQ.
My suspicion is that it has something to do with how they handled selection bias. Of course, I could be wrong.
Overall, though, good post."

I'm interested in how this all relates to the expected income of the various majors. Luckily, Bryan Caplan has already provided some numbers on the wage premium of the various majors. I like Caplan's data because it controls for an important factor: pre existing ability bias. After this control, Caplan finds the wage premium by major to be:

Earnings Compared to H.S. Grads
Electrical engineering
Computer Science
Mechanical engineering
General business
Political science/gov't
Liberal arts
English language/lit.
Fine Arts
General Education

Note that this is not a comparison of the average expected income by major. Instead, this is a comparison of how much benefit (in terms of income) is derived from a given major.
Not surprisingly, engineering and computer science have the largest wage premiums. This is followed by economics, finance, and accounting. At the bottom of the list, we see english, fine arts, and general education. 
For once, the data seems to confirm conventional wisdom. STEM and business type degrees really do payoff a lot more than traditional liberal arts degrees.
Another piece of conventional wisdom is that the traditional liberals arts majors are just as smart or smarter than the STEM and business type majors despite the income differences. Here is the link to the SAT scores by major data. As noted above, the SAT to IQ conversion seems to be off, but that applies for all majors, so the relative order and differences between majors in terms of IQ should be correct. Of course, the SAT data should be correct too.
My reading of the chart is that, once again, conventional wisdom is confirmed. Liberal arts students are just as smart as STEM and business type majors. They just would rather study philosophy or english in college and make less money later on in life. At least, that is my theory.
This post was pretty off the cuff and written at 5 AM, so it is by no means organized or well written. But, if anything, I hope I at least exposed some readers to good data on majors, income, and IQ.

Friday, June 20, 2014

On the New Commonwealth Fund Report

The new Commonwealth Fund analysis of international health care systems is out and, not surprisingly, the USA ranks dead last out of 11 nations. Despite my contrarian nature, I'm not a defender of the USA health care system, but I do think that, relatively speaking, the USA gets a worse rap than it deserves. "Relatively speaking" is an important word. In an absolute sense, the system really is as bad as commonly believed. But, in a relative sense, other systems are vastly overestimated due to bad reasoning and, yes, zombies. It is also true that, as bad as the USA system is, even our system deserves a bit more credit than it gets at times. A few thoughts on the actual report:

1.) The study ranks the UK as being the best health care system of the 11 countries. This should be an immediate red flag that this analysis is more driven by an ideological preconceptions than a quest for an objective comparison. I could be wrong. But, the emphasis on "health care equity" certainly isn't helping their case. Neither is the fact that data on how long people in the UK have to wait for elective surgery (a measure that they probably wouldn't do all that well on) is missing from the study.

2.) Progressives are claiming this study as a slam dunk for their health care policy views. After all, the socialized UK system is on top and the USA system is at the bottom. But, a look at the in between rankings muddies up the picture. Switzerland, with a heavy reliance on private medicine and cost sharing (neither of which progressives are very big on), comes in at second place. Canada, with a single payer system, comes in at second to last, right above the USA.

3.) One of the biggest problems with these international health care system comparisons that supposedly "show" how bad the USA system is that they don't measure the best thing about the USA system: innovation. Yes, we spend a lot more money (more than we need to), and we don't get a ton of value. But, our decentralized system also offers more room for experimentation than the tighter models of Europe. The problem here is that the benefits from this innovation benefit the whole globe, so it doesn't show up in international comparisons of health care systems. Indeed, in some ways, these other health care systems that are supposedly so much better than ours "free ride" off of our innovation, and then brag about how they do so well with less money. Excellent (old) article on this by Tyler Cowen here.

I also plan on responding to TIE and Krugman about the idea of zombie arguments in the very near future. Stay tuned.