A new way to rank colleges

So, this is cool.  The Economist has created a college ranking system based on the (economic) value added of a college above and beyond what models would predict their students would earn if educated elsewhere.

The Economist’s first-ever college rankings are based on a simple, if debatable, premise: the economic value of a university is equal to the gap between how much money its students subsequently earn, and how much they might have made had they studied elsewhere. Thanks to the scorecard, the first number is easily accessible. The second, however, can only be estimated. To calculate this figure, we ran the scorecard’s earnings data through a multiple regression analysis, a common method of measuring the relationships between variables…

We wanted to know how a wide range of factors would affect the median earnings in 2011 of a college’s former students. Most of the data were available directly from the scorecard: for the entering class of 2001, we used average SAT scores, sex ratio, race breakdown, college size, whether a university was public or private, and the mix of subjects students chose to study. There were 1,275 four-year, non-vocational colleges in the scorecard database with available figures in all of these categories. We complemented these inputs with information from other sources: whether a college is affiliated with the Catholic Churchor a Protestant Christian denomination; the wealth of its state (using a weighted average of Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia for Washington) and prevailing wages in its city (with a flat value for colleges in rural areas); whether it has a ranked undergraduate business school (and is thus likely to attract business-minded students); the percentage of its students who receive federal Pell grants given to working-class students (a measure of family income); and whether it is a liberal-arts college. Finally, to avoid penalising universities that tend to attract students who are disinclined to pursue lucrative careers, we created a “Marx and Marley index”, based on colleges’ appearances during the past 15 years on the Princeton Review’s top-20 lists for political leftism and “reefer madness”. (For technically minded readers, all of these variables were statistically significant at the 1% level, and the overall r-squared was .8538, meaning that 85% of the variation in graduate salaries between colleges was explained by these factors. We also tested the model using 2009 earnings figures rather than 2011, and for the entering class of 2003 rather than 2001, and got virtually identical results.)

After feeding this information into the regression, our statistical software produced an estimate for each college based exclusively on these factors of how much money its former students would make.

The Economist itself does point out the largest caveat:

Finally, maximising earnings is not the only goal of a college, and probably not even the primary one. In fact, you could easily argue that “underperforming” universities like Yale and Swarthmore are actually making a far greater contribution to American society than overperformers like Washington & Lee, if they tend to channel their supremely talented graduates towards public service rather than Wall Street. For students who want to know which colleges are likely to boost their future salaries by the greatest amount, given their qualifications and preferences regarding career and location, we hope these rankings prove helpful. They should not be used for any other purpose.

Nonetheless, pretty interesting.  My own alma mater (Duke) does pretty well– 29th.  I suspect that’s from all those now-rich physicians and attorneys who were my classmates.


Why are Asian-Americans Democrats?

Because they know Republicans don’t like minorities.  Seriously, that’s it.  No, there’s more than that, but this simple fact is big part of the story.

Obviously, Asian-Americans are a far smaller portion of the electorate than Hispanics,  but I think the clear shift of this group towards the Democrats is especially telling.  I’ve been meaning to highlight some really good Political Science research on this for a while, but have finally gotten around to doing it as Tom Edsall just wrote a post with the title I borrowed here.  Edsall:

In just two decades, Asian-American support for the Democratic presidential candidate more than doubled, from the 31 percent Bill Clinton got in 1992 to the 73 percent cast for President Obama in 2012, according to exit polls

Today, Asian-Americans, a population of 17.2 million, are among the fastest growing constituencies of the Democratic Party.

In some ways, Asian-American voters, combining personal wealth, entrepreneurial success, high incomes, traditional family values and a strong work ethic, would seem to be ideal recruits for the more conservative political party. Nonetheless, the Republican Party has steadily lost their support…

According to Taeku Lee, a political scientist at the University of California, Berkeley:

Asian-Americans are, their vaunted educational and economic successes notwithstanding, a group that has in various contexts experienced differential treatment and a group that in various contexts identifies as a minority group.

In addition, Lee wrote in an email responding to my inquiry:

Today’s Asian Americans are not only liberal on the expected issues like health care reform, immigration reform, and educational reform, but they also seem to espouse liberal views across a wide range of unexpected issue areas like environmental politics, affirmative action, and the like. We even find, in our 2012 National Asian American Survey, that nearly 2 out of every 3 Asian Americans who report earning more than $250,000/year supported an approach to reducing the federal budget deficit that would raise taxes on those earning more than $250,000-a-year…

The political liberalism of Americans of Asian descent is notable given their affluence, success in the marketplace and the high status of jobs they hold.

Asian-Americans, according to the Pew Research Center, “are the best-educated, highest-income, fastest-growing race group in the country.”

In 2014, median household income for Asian-Americans was $74,297; for whites, $60,256; for Hispanics, $42,491; and for African-Americans, $35,398…

What can we make of all this data? There are a few preliminary inferences.

The first is that despite their affluence, Asian-Americans are on course to become a mainstay of what Stan Greenberg, the Democratic pollster, calls the “rising American electorate”: the liberal alliance of black and Hispanic minorities, single women and young voters.

All good stuff, but what that doesn’t really get into is how, issues aside, Asian-Americans are very much alienated from the Republican Party.  As I’ve long argued, I think pretty much all non-white Americans have a sense that the Republican Party is simply not very welcoming to them.  Here’s the abstract from the Political Science research that I think pretty much nails this:

Asian Americans are overwhelmingly likely to identify as Democrats. This is surprising given that (1) income and voting for the Republican Party are highly correlated, and (2) Asians are the most affluent ethnic group in the United States. We focus on two explanations to address this puzzle: social exclusion and intergroup solidarity. Social exclusion arises from Asians’ perceptions that they are viewed as less “American,” and associate these feelings with the Republican Party. Additionally, Asians exhibit intergroup solidarity; they believe they have common interests with other ethnic minorities that already support the Democratic Party. As a result, Asians align themselves politically with these groups rather than whites. Using a large-scale representative survey and two experimental studies, we find empirical support for both hypotheses. [emphasis mine] Our findings speak to identity-oriented explanations of political behavior in American electoral politics as well as conceptions of political parties as coalitions of groups.

So, there you go.  It doesn’t matter what else they may believe, Asian-Americans know that the Republican Party is the white people’s party.  As for the issue positions of Asian-Americans, I have not seen any evidence on this, but I very strongly suspect the clearly liberal positions (nicely outlined by Edsall) are in a substantial way a consequence, rather than a cause of Democratic partisanship.  Partisanship is a very powerful emotional and cognitive influence/filter and the most plausible scenario, based on what we know of partisanship scholarship, is that Asian-Americans have come to embrace the Democratic party for reasons of minority group solidarity and that following that, they have moved to the left on the issues.


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