Those Born Poor, Benefit Less from College Degree

(p. A23) It’s a cruel irony that a college degree is worth less to people who most need a boost: those born poor. This revelation was made by the economists Tim Bartik and Brad Hershbein. Using a body of data, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, which includes 50 years of interviews with 18,000 Americans, they were able to follow the lives of children born into poor, middle-class and wealthy families.
They found that for Americans born into middle-class families, a college degree does appear to be a wise investment. Those in this group who received one earned 162 percent more over their careers than those who didn’t.
But for those born into poverty, the results were far less impressive. College graduates born poor earned on average only slightly more than did high school graduates born middle class. And over time, even this small “degree bonus” ebbed away, at least for men: By middle age, male college graduates raised in poverty were earning less than nondegree holders born into the middle class. The scholars conclude, “Individuals from poorer backgrounds may be encountering a glass ceiling that even a bachelor’s degree does not break.”
. . .
It shouldn’t here, either: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fewer than 20 percent of American jobs actually require a bachelor’s degree. By 2026, the bureau estimates that this proportion will rise, but only to 25 percent.
Why do employers demand a degree for jobs that don’t require them? Because they can.
What all this suggests is that the college-degree premium may really be a no-college-degree penalty.

For the full commentary, see:

Ellen Ruppel Shell. “College May Not Be Worth It Anymore.” The New York Times (Thursday, May 17, 2018): A23.

(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 16, 2018. The online version is substantially longer, and in some places has different wording, than the print version. Where the wording of a quoted passage differs, my quotation above follows the print version.)

The research by Tim Bartik and Brad Hershbein, mentioned above, is:
Bartik, Timothy J., and Brad J. Hershbein. “Degrees of Poverty: The Relationship between Family Income Background and the Returns to Education.” Upjohn Institute Working Paper 18-284, March 2018.

Shell’s commentary is related to her forthcoming book:
Shell, Ellen Ruppel. The Job: Work and Its Future in a Time of Radical Change. New York: Currency, 2018.

Experimental Immunotherapy Holds Hope of Curing Metastasized Solid Tumor Cancers

(p. B3) WASHINGTON–A novel immunotherapy method led to complete regression of breast cancer in a metastatic patient unresponsive to all other treatments, National Cancer Institute researchers said, suggesting a way to reverse some other internal-organ cancers.
The findings, from the NCI laboratory headed by Steven A. Rosenberg, were published Monday in the medical journal Nature Medicine.
The scientific report largely focused on the course of treatment for one patient, Judy Perkins of Port St. Lucie, Fla.
. . .
The research remains experimental, Dr. Rosenberg said in an interview.
“But because this new approach to immunotherapy is dependent on mutations, not on cancer type, it is in a sense a blueprint we can use for the treatment of many types of cancer,” he said. “This could be the future of immunotherapy.”
Dr. Rosenberg, who has investigated for three decades how the immune system can be employed to fight cancer, said he is hopeful this approach “holds the best opportunities for finding effective immunotherapies for patients with the solid tumors that last year caused over 500,000 deaths in this country.”

For the full story, see:
Thomas M. Burton. “Cancer-Fighting ‘Blueprint’ Seen.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, June 5, 2018): B3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 4, 2018, and has the title “Novel Immunotherapy Method Led to Complete Regression of Breast Cancer in Patient.”)

“Plumbing Industry Is Throwing the Kitchen Sink at Job Candidates”

(p. A1) FORT COLLINS, Colo.–The fast-growing business offers all the perks a pampered Silicon Valley tech worker might expect: An on-site tap flows with craft beer and the kitchen is stocked with locally roasted espresso beans. There is a putting green and a smoker for brisket lunches. Next up: a yoga studio.
Welcome to the gushing job market…for plumbers.
Colorado’s Neuworks Mechanical Inc. employs 75 plumbers but needs 15 to 20 more. To keep them happy, it offers “a lot of Zen,” says business-development manager Jackie Sindelar. That includes a sharing exercise that “brings out your raw emotions and makes you vulnerable,” she says.
Drained from a labor shortage, the plumbing industry is throwing the kitchen sink at job candidates.
Bonfe’s Plumbing, Heating & Air Service Inc. of South St. Paul, Minn., boasts an array of arcade games and a “quiet room”–a plush hangout space with insulated walls painted a calming sky blue. It has a lockable door, a comfy couch, a recliner and a sound machine that babbles with the soothing audio of ocean waves.
. . .
U.S. job openings hit a record 6.6 million in March, with the construction industry–where plumbers are heavily employed–seeing one of the largest jumps.
Building, needed repairs and retirements are fueling demand for plumbers at the same time the U.S. jobless rate in April fell below 4% for the first time since late 2000.
The annual median pay for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters was nearly $53,000 a year in 2017, according to federal data, but it isn’t uncommon to see jobs advertised for far higher wages, from $70,000 up to six figures.

For the full story, see:
Levitz, Jennifer. “Plumbing Firms, Drained by Labor Shortage, Tap Perks.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, May 24, 2018): A1 & A10.
(Note: ellipsis internal to sentence, in original; ellipsis between paragraphs, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 23, 2018, and has the title “Perks for Plumbers: Hawaiian Vacations, Craft Beer and ‘a Lot of Zen’.” The last sentence quoted above appeared in the online, but not in the print, version of the article.)

Google Nurtures Cats That Eat Threatened Owls

(p. 1) MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Silicon Valley is booming, and longtime residents are being driven out everywhere. But only in Shoreline Park are the newcomers eating the natives.
A handful of burrowing owls live in this 750-acre wildlife and recreation area, deep in the grass. As the breeding season begins, they are among perhaps 50 left in Silicon Valley. A California species of “special concern,” burrowing owls nest in the ground. That makes them especially vulnerable.
Death strikes hard at Shoreline. The remains of an owl — a leg, a wing, a few scattered feathers — were found here in 2015, shortly after a feral cat was seen stalking it. Another owl was discovered dead near its burrow, and a third disappeared that year and was presumed killed. That was fully half the owls nesting in the park.
Environmentalists have been alarmed for a long time about the number of cats at Shoreline, but they could not determine where they were coming from. Gradually, public records requests and old-fashioned snooping uncovered a trail. It led southwest from the sun-burnished slopes of the park, up Permanente Creek and into the ever-expanding empire of Google.
Google never set out to threaten biodiversity in its front yard, of (p. 4) course. Like so many stories these days about Big Tech, this is a tale about how attempts to do good often produce unexpected consequences, and how even smart people (especially, perhaps, smart people) can be reluctant to rethink their convictions.
At Google, it is not so much that workers do not like birds as it is that they really love cats. There is an employee group called GCat Rescue that traps the cats around the so-called Googleplex. Kittens and friendly adults are put up for adoption. Less-friendly adult cats are neutered and released.
Google is famous for feeding its employees well, and the cats are no different. Every night, all night, dinner is served from cat-feeding stations. The cat community calls this approach “colony care.”
. . .
“Cats that are fed still hunt,” said Mr. Longcore, assistant professor of architecture, spatial sciences and biological sciences at the University of Southern California. “Even neutered cats and spayed cats hunt.” He added, “If you have an outdoor cat sanctuary, you can expect there to be consequences to the native wildlife.”

For the full story, see:
Streitfeld, David. “Google Doesn’t Hate Owls. It Just Loves Cats.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, May 27, 2018): 1 & 4.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 26, 2018, and has the title “As Google Feeds Cats, Owl Lovers Cry Foul.” The online version says the print version appeared on May 6 on p. A17 of the New York Edition. My print version, as usual, was the National Edition.)

Assigning Property Rights to Internet Data Creators

(p. C3) Congress has stepped up talk of new privacy regulations in the wake of the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica, which improperly gained access to the data of as many as 87 million Facebook users. Even Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testified that he thought new federal rules were “inevitable.” But to understand what regulation is appropriate, we need to understand the source of the problem: the absence of a real market in data, with true property rights for data creators. Once that market is in place, implementing privacy protections will be easy.
We often think of ourselves as consumers of Facebook, Google, Instagram and other internet services. In reality, we are also their suppliers–or more accurately, their workers. When we post and label photos on Facebook or Instagram, use Google maps while driving, chat in multiple languages on Skype or upload videos to YouTube, we are generating data about human behavior that the companies then feed into machine-learning programs.
These programs use our personal data to learn patterns that allow them to imitate human behavior and understanding. With that information, computers can recognize images, translate languages, help viewers choose among shows and offer the speediest route to the mall. Companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft (where one of us works) sell these tools to other companies. They also use our data to match advertisers with consumers.
Defenders of the current system often say that we don’t give away our personal data for free. Rather, we’re paid in the form of the services that we receive. But this exchange is bad for users, bad for society and probably not ideal even for the tech companies. In a real market, consumers would have far more power over the exchange: Here’s my data. What are you willing to pay for it?
An internet user today probably would earn only a few hundred dollars a year if companies paid for data. But that amount could grow substantially in the coming years. If the economic reach of AI systems continues to expand–into drafting legal contracts, diagnosing diseases, performing surgery, making investments, driving trucks, managing businesses–they will need vast amounts of data to function.
And if these systems displace human jobs, people will have plenty of time to supply that data. Tech executives fearful that AI will cause mass unemployment have advocated a universal basic income funded by increased taxes. But the pressure for such policies would abate if users were simply compensated for their data.

For the full commentary, see:
Eric A. Posner and E. Glen Weyl. “Want Our Personal Data? Pay for It.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 21, 2018): C3.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 20, 2018.)

The commentary quoted above, is based on:
Posner, Eric A., and E. Glen Weyl. Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018.

Hot Students Learn Less

More evidence on why air conditioning increases our mental acuity:

(p. A5) Hot weather makes it more difficult for high-school students to learn, a new study suggests.
. . .
The study was circulated by the National Bureau of Economic Research as a working paper by Mr. Goodman and three other researchers.
They found that, on average, every increase of 1 degree Fahrenheit in the average temperature during the school year reduced learning by about 1%.

For the full story, see:
Ben Leubsdorf. “Heat Found to Hurt Studies.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, June 8, 2018): A5.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 7, 2018, and has the title “American Students Don’t Learn Well When It’s Hot Outside.” The online version is substantially longer, and in some places has different wording, than the print version. Where the wording of a quoted passage differs, my quotation above follows the print version.)

The NBER paper, mentioned above, is:
Goodman, Joshua, Michael Hurwitz, Jisung Park, and Jonathan Smith. “Heat and Learning.” National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Working Paper Series, # 24639, May 2018.

After Losing Circus Job, Clown Applies His Skills by Running for Congress as a Democrat

(p. A1) As an elephant handler for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Lauren Ramsay used to spend her time herding four-ton pachyderms.
As an elephant handler for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Lauren Ramsay used to spend her time herding four-ton pachyderms.
Last May, the circus closed down after 146 years traveling the country and thrilling millions with “the Greatest Show on Earth.” In the year since, the contortionists, acrobats, stilt walkers and other per-(p. A8)formers have walked a tightrope trying to adapt to more-conventional jobs, while sometimes using their circus skills. It takes some professional clowns a while to find a second act: One is now running for Congress.
Former clown Sandor Eke, of Las Vegas, Nev., wanted to put his entertaining and juggling skills to work behind a bar after 20 years with the circus. But nobody would hire him without experience. He’s now picking up random clown jobs and painting houses. “I try to have fun with it, but it’s not exactly what I wanted with life. I mean, I used to be a clown!”
In April, Mr. Eke auditioned for a mascot job with the Oakland Raiders once they move to Las Vegas for the 2020 season. He tried on the “Rushing Raider” costume, and did what he called a “crowd-pleasing routine.” He’s waiting to hear back, but remains hopeful. “I got good vibes,” he says.
. . .
Former clown Steve Lough, of Camden, S.C., who left the circus in 2004, later found employment working for McDonald’s at special events and volunteering for political campaigns.
This spring, Mr. Lough decided to run for office himself and is running in the Democratic primary for U.S. Congress in South Carolina. “I juggle at every campaign stop now,” he says.
He did a pratfall at the South Carolina Democratic Convention in April that “got a big reaction and laugh.”
. . .
. . . Mr. Lough says the crowds love his clown skills.

For the full story, see:
John Clarke. “Ex-Clown Is Hard to Hide on a Résumé.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, May 22, 2018): A1 & A8.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 21, 2018, and has the title “What’s A Clown to Do After the Circus? One Is Running for Congress.”)