Monday, November 3, 2008

Prop 8

Proposition 8 in California and other similar measures have garnered a lot of press. Like so many other things in politics, I think the question, "Yes or no on prop 8?" is misguided. I think a better questions are:
  • Why are the federal and state governments involved in marriage at all?
  • Isn't marriage a religious rite?
  • What about the separation of church and state?
I think it is time for the government to get out of our lives on this front. Stop allowing justices of the peace to act as clergy. Stop selling marriage licenses. View marriages as a civil contract when things go bad and assets need to be divided. And certainly don't tax us because we may or may not be married.

The ROI of college

At one time I had developed a fairly sophisticated spreadsheet to analyze the net present value of college. Alas, it was lost when a hard drive failed. Thankfully, other people have done a similar analysis. Thanks to April Norhanian for pointing to it. The article does a good job of pointing out that wages lost while going to college and debt servicing are often left out when college promoters quote their statistics.

No correlation between college and income

This morning I was reading some articles from the Utah Department of Workforce Services' Trendlines publication. One article discussed the increase in median household income for the six most populous counties in the state. Another discussed the educational attainment of the same counties.

Naturally, I wondered about the correlation between the two. After all, if the people making the most noise about college are correct, there should be a distinct positive correlation. Right?

I did a quick regression analysis on the data. The first article listed median income for 2005 and 2007. The second included the percent of the population older than 25 that had at least a bachelor's degree. Since I don't know how current the data from the second article is, I did two analyses: one for 2007 and another for 2005.

Here's the data that Gnumeric (my favorite spreadsheet application) produced for me:

County% B.A.2007 M.I.
Salt Lake30$56,350

County% B.A.2005 M.I.
Salt Lake30$48,068

Regression (2007)

Regression Statistics

Multiple R0.3763818345189

R Square0.14166328535581

Adjusted R Square−0.07292089330524

Standard Error7718.04054428782


Regression (2005)

Regression Statistics

Multiple R0.08550799026314

R Square0.00731161639884

Adjusted R Square−0.24086047950145

Standard Error5948.6234792109


If you don't know and/or care much for statistics, the key value to look for is "R Square". The closer that number is to 1, the more perfectly correlated the data. The closer to 0, the less the numbers have to do with each other. For 2007 that number is about 0.14. For 2005 it is about 0.01. Even the 2007 number does not indicate any correlation.

I, a devout doubter of the return on investment of college, was surprised by this. No correlation at all? Amazing. I'll grant that such a small sample (n=6) doesn't mean much, but I found it interesting nonetheless.

Election prediction

As the election is tomorrow, I thought I would share my predictions with the world. The outcome of the election... won't matter. Whether we have President Obama or President McCain in January, the issues that concern me most are passed the point of fixing.

1. The National Debt. If you have had the stomach to watch the news and also block out the political cruft, you might be aware that the national debt has passed the $10,000,000,000,000 mark. I predict that the recession will be long enough that government revenues will not be close to expenditures over the next four years. If the debt is only $12 Trillion four years from now I will count us lucky.

2. Health Care. No new policy or program can defy the simple law of supply and demand. The Baby Boomers, a huge generation, are retiring, and as people age they require more health care. Especially a generation that did a lot of drugs in the 60's and ate a lot of McDonald's in the 80's and 90's. Health care will be the largest segment of federal expenditures in four years, and will have grown faster than any other segment.

3. Education. Despite the mess of No Child Left Behind, more money will be poured into the Department of Education, producing even worse results. I doubt anyone in Washington will figure out that the best way for them to improve education is just to stay out of the way of educators and parents.

4. Energy. For reasons that still baffle me, elected officials just don't get it when it comes to energy. If I could vote for T. Boone Pickens for president, I would. Four years from now we'll still be driving gasoline powered cars. The few electric or plug in hybrid cars out there will be charged from a coal powered grid.

So if anyone reads this and remembers it by 2012, remind me to check my predictions. We'll have a month before the end of the world to reflect. (If you have a life and don't watch the History Channel, that last bit is a reference to the supposed prediction of the end of the world by the Mayan calendar.)