Thursday, May 09, 2013

Speaking Of Educational Statistics. The Stories Graphs Tell and Should Jack and Jill Go to College

This Slate article about the well-paying right-out-of-college fields (which are engineering, engineering and engineering) uses the following graph:

It's not an illegal graph.  But the numbers tell you one thing, your eyes a rather different thing.  Note, for example, that the bar marked $84,182 looks at least four times higher than the bar marked $52,875.  Yet the former sum is not even twice the latter sum.

The reason for the discrepancy is in the way the vertical axis has been cut.  It begins at $45,000.

So what is the impression you are left with?  Do you believe your eyes or the numbers?

Elsewhere, in the weird and wonderful field of higher education, a new article points out that going to college isn't necessarily the bees knees anymore. 

Do read the original article.  But keep in mind that  in addition to the many different concerns the article mentions you might also consider the fact that the basic income available with a high school degree is not identical for men and women.  It is quite a bit lower for women. 

This turns out to make college a more attractive alternative for women both because what they can earn without college is less and also because the alternative or opportunity costs of going to college, in terms of wages lost while studying, are less for women, on average.

I'm not saying that those factors would change the recommendations.  They might or they might not.  But this particular study doesn't tell us about that.