Social-Science

Category archives for Social-Science

The Evitability of History

As mentioned earlier in the week, I recently read Charles C. Mann’s 1493 (see also this interview at Razib’s place), which includes a long section about the colony at Jamestown. Like most such operations, the earliest colonists were almost comically incompetent, managing to nearly starve to death several times, despite being in an absurdly fertile…

Back when I reviewed Mann’s pop-archaeology classic 1491, I mentioned that I’d held off reading it for a while for fear that it would be excessively polemical in a “Cortez the Killer” kind of way. Happily, it was not, so when I saw he had a sequel coming out, I didn’t hesitate to pick it…

Of Education Bubbles and Bad Graphs

The new school year is upon us, so there’s been a lot of talk about academia and how it works recently. This has included a lot of talk about the cost of higher education, as has been the case more or less since I’ve been aware of the cost of higher education. A lot of…

A while back, I Links Dumped Josh Rosenau’s Post Firing Bad Teachers Doesn’t Create good Teachers, arguing that rather than just firing teachers who need some improvement, schools should look at, well, helping them improve. This produced a bunch of scoffing in a place I can’t link to, basically taking the view that people are…

The other big gender-disparity graph making the rounds yesterday was this one showing the gender distribution in the general workforce and comparing that to science-related fields: This comes from an Economics and Statistics Administration report which has one of the greatest mismatches between the tone of the headline of the press release and the tone…

Keeping the week’s unofficial education theme, Kevin Drum posts about the latest “kids these days” study, namely the just-released NAEP Geography results. Kevin makes a decent point about the 12th grade questions being fairly sophisticated, but includes one comment that struck me as off base: I gotta tell you: I went through the five sample…

One of the standard education reform proposals that gets suggested every time somebody brings up the condition of American public education is that teachers should be offered some form of performance incentive, whether in the form of “merit pay” programs on a continuing basis, or bonuses for reaching particular targets. This is one of those…

A lot of pixels have been spent discussing this study of grade inflation, brought to most people’s attention via this New York Times blog. The key graph is this one, showing the fraction of grades given in each letter category over the last fifty years: Lots of effort is being put into trying to explain…

Great Moments in Deceptive Graphs

This morning, via Twitter, I ran across one of the most spectacular examples of deceptive data presentation that I’ve ever seen. The graph in question is reproduced in this blog post by Bryan Caplan, and comes from this econ paper about benefits of education. The plot looks like this: This is one panel clipped out…

A bunch of people I follow on social media were buzzing about this blog post yesterday, taking Jonah Lerher to task for “getting spun” in researching and writing this column in the Wall Street Journal about this paper on the “wisdom of crowds” effect. The effect in question is a staple of pop psychology these…