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July 07, 2011

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STEM is the foundation of modernity. It is always important to make sure there's enough incentives for smart people to dig into those subjects.

This does not mean one is superior than the other. I am 100% up for upgrading liberal arts only for the elites (for they are essential for managing and ruling the society), but when too many people are digging into MBA, rushing into finance and investment banking, all you get is a credit crunch and a country based on virtual numbers.

The lesson in China is, we undervalued STEM and focused way too much on liberal arts, then we get fucked by Western science superiority.

You should be grateful for those immigrants who are taking up those STEM positions in the US, for their contribution to your country that others cannot be replaced.

You know what annoys me? I'm precisely 10 points off with respect to admission to the Triple Nine Society with my 1440 (740 verbal/700 math) SAT score. They want 1450. Go figure.

If I had known now what I know then (that it could be used as an IQ test, I would have tried really hard to ace that sucker). I actually got really ticked off that I didn't score an 800 in the math section. I suppose I'm intellectually well balanced between math and verbal skills.

I'm also ticked off that I never got an 800 on the GMAT. Fortunately, my 770 is enough to get me into the Triple Nine society so that I can be a member of that illustrious organization along with Half Sigma.

Anyway, that being said, I was a major in chemical engineering. I was completely uninterested in the subject matter or being an engineer, only majoring in the stupid thing because it was a free scholarship at "State U".

I had absolutely no direction in life at that point, had completely trashed my GPA by not attending class or doing work, so I decided to go to Duke Law. From there I proceeded to not get a job in Big Law, having no interest in living in either NYC or DC.

In any event, I now provide legal representation for, along with others, retarded people.

So, having monetized my high IQ for undergrad, I now monetize low IQs for government benefits.

I also have no interest in this career or life in general, spending most of my time bored out of my mind.

I will again remind the other readers here that I found this blog because I was trying to research I.Q. and mental retardation.

There's a moral here somewhere. One of which is that I should have applied myself in school at some point.

Lopsided scores here. 800 math, 800 math 2, 800 physics, 740 verbal, 660 writing(new sat...clearly)

Before I knew how bad a career in the sciences suck,relative to other jobs available, I wanted to go into it, even at a very young age. I was pretty certain I would go into it when I was in the second grade. But now its medicine im going into, because I may be earning 40,000 into my later 30's.

How disappointing it was to learn how bad the career would be. Plus, I didn't learn of math competitions such as the AMC until late in my high school career(the real test as to how successful of a scientist you could be)

At Michigan, my school, most stem teachers are white. I did have Asian TAs for basic calc, but that's about it. All my physics proffesors are whites.

If you look at what the children of the old elite of Silicon Valley are studying/doing you will see tons of aspiring "creative types" (film producers,fashion designers, writers etc.) You will not see a lot of them grinding through STEM majors or working as engineers.
These kids have the intellectual chops but not the desire to pursue technical careers. It has nothing to do with a verbal cognitive type, it has to do with having the freedom to take risks and have fun instead of putting their nose to the grindstone. Their chosen fields and majors are simply more fun things to do if you are not worried about money. Really, if you don't come from money you are almost prohibited from pursuing these creative fields because of the risk, low-pay (or frequently required no pay internships), and need for start-up funds for your fashion label/production company or whatever.

I was a science major and I have just graduated law school. Where I went undergrad, engineering was known as a major for immigrants and awkward nerds who have never kissed a girl. My science was not like that (pretty much everyone was white) but I realized that $$ in science is not great. Engineering $$ is good coming right out of school and I had no interest in it though.

Law school of course is no guaranteed ticket. But I can't say I regret doing it. At least there are some attractive women around, and I'm interested in the material.

P.S. my math SAT was a good amount higher than my verbal, though I always did very well in Social Science/History courses.

Anyway, it's true that (unfortunately) certain hard sciences are known for smelly brown people.

I'd probably like to marry a girl with greater verbal talent than mathematical.

Here is a perfect example of what children of the truly elite do with their lives. Why would she want to do this instead of adding value as an engineer? It must be her verbal cognitive profile.

http://gawker.com/valleywag/tech/valley-spawn/ellison-daughter-goes-hollywood-320685.php

http://realestalker.blogspot.com/2008/02/sweet-life-of-billionaires-baby.html

If the term STEM is used to refer to people who major in these fields, I would argue that Computer Science and Economics be included.

Or, maybe there should be a distinction between the vocational parts of these fields and the theoretical parts.

Economics at the undergrad level may be somewhat fluffy because the topics ("international trade" or "health economics") are too broad and complex to be covered in depth. However, the courses become much more mathematical later in undergrad and in graduate school, almost to the point that they could be included as a subset of math (economic theory is axiom-theorem-proof).

The same can be said for computer science, as one studies, for example, algorithms run-times and computational complexity.

In computer science, the Ivy Leagues maintain some prestige and desired impracticality by purposely teaching some introductory courses in obscure languages that no one will use in order to emphasize the theory.

[HS: Why do you think that the "S" in "STEM" excludes Computer Science?]

Econ and CS majors are very different people. Look at an Ivy lacrosse or football roster and compare how many Econ majors there are to how many CS major there are.

"Here is a perfect example of what children of the truly elite do with their lives. Why would she want to do this instead of adding value as an engineer? It must be her verbal cognitive profile."

Because some people don't consider the products of engineers to be value?

The STEM acronym is unfortunate, because it lumps together disciplines that are very different. For example an engineering degree is more valuable than a BSc degree. And science and engineering are rather different disciplines as well. I have no idea what "technology" is supposed to mean, there is no technology major. Medicine is a post-graduate degree by definition, unlike science and engineering.

To Anon:

At most schools, CS falls under engineering. Even barring that, the "T" in STEM should include everything concerning computers.

Econ, however, clearly falls under liberal arts. Econ is more about psychology than anything else. There's a little bit of math thrown in, but mainly it's about psychology.

[HS: Econ is a social science, and STEM only includes technological, formal and natural sciences.]

Econ is an awesome major from a Ivy School. It's totally worthless from a state school.

"STEM falls into the category of jobs that Americans don’t want to do"

This is a self-fufilling propecy. Back when the US was trying to put a man on the moon--and wouldn't dream of using a Chinese or a Russian to help out in the task--STEM was totally something every American wanted to do.

But once you allow a special exception for a profession in the Visa laws, the status of the occupation is suddenly lowered. The lower status of STEM workers caused by the H-1B visa makes Americans indifferent to further injury inflected on them. Hurting a rocket scientist seems wrong; hurting a grunt coder does not. And what's the difference between a senior software engineer and a grunt coder? Their status--which is dependent on the number of H-1Bs you imported this year.

As a result of the lower wages CAUSED by H-1B, Americans don't object to bringing in more immigrants and having even lower wages for STEM workers. It becomes a vicious cycle.

If STEM workers could have prevented the inflow in the beginning--if it was firmly established that this is an occupation that will not tolerate special exceptions in the visa laws--the debate on whether the cap should now be raised further would not be happening. And it would still be reasonable advice to major in a STEM field.

[HS: There aren’t many jobs for economists, but it’s the most businessy-sounding thing you can major in at six of the eight Ivies, so it’s a popular major for those Ivy League students seeking to work in finance or consulting.]

"To Anon:

At most schools, CS falls under engineering. Even barring that, the "T" in STEM should include everything concerning computers.

Econ, however, clearly falls under liberal arts. Econ is more about psychology than anything else. There's a little bit of math thrown in, but mainly it's about psychology."

I'll agree that Econ most properly falls under liberal arts as a whole. But, check out the course descriptions of any good Econ 1st year PhD sequence and you will see that it is all math/applied math.

At the top colleges, a small but consistent portion of the Econ majors are dabbling in these math-heavy types of econ classes in their junior and senior years.

I was a math and econ double major so I am biased but I don't think most people realize how math-heavy advanced economics really is.

[HS: Social sciences and liberal arts are not the same thing. Econ falls under social sciences.]

"Back when the US was trying to put a man on the moon--and wouldn't dream of using a Chinese or a Russian to help out in the task--STEM was totally something every American wanted to do."

You are right, we relied on German rocket scientists like Wernher von Braun instead. We would never have made it to the moon without them. There has never been a golden era where STEM majors were what everyone wanted to do here. They have always been for nerds.

Economics is not "STEM" since you have to express yourself, and the ratio of bloviators to theorem-proof microeconomics or statistic nerds is pretty high. It's a reasonable choice if you can get a masters/professional degree somewhere nice and avoid bankrupt state schools.

"STEM" is an unreasonable choice because labor in the richest countries can never compete on costs with the third world countries with improving educations. HS et al may be three times as good/productive as an Indian or Chinese coder, but if he costs four times as much it'd be a no-brainer to fire him.

College kids today avoid CS because they're being rational, and no amount of op-eds that it isn't just C++ and sorting algorithms is going to change that.

The only reason why elites prefer non-STEM majors is coz they have become lazier from soft living.

I made a 560 Verbal/800 Math on the pre-1995 SAT, so liberal arts majors are hard for me (I'm terrible at grammar and reading comprehension and can't remember the name of anything), but I barely studied in any math class.

I worked in academic physics for a long time and didn't meet a lot of elite people, but I wasn't doing research in anything trendy or especially important. I met a lot of kids who had parents who were engineers and high school teachers. Also, there were quite a few kids that grew up in farms and had working class backgrounds as well.

I didn't know anyone who made it through the Master degree at least who ended up doing anything less than respectfully middle class. There were also people who ended up in hedge funds, but I think quants are a down a peg from the real action. Medical physicists make about the same salaries as dentists, but its about the most boring job in the world.

One difference between physics and law or business school is that you get paid to go to grad school in physics. That means many more foreign students, but you aren't burdened by additional debt (though significant opportunity cost). This has to be a big draw from middle class and unappealing to elite.

There are some elite kids who end up in theoretical physics or astronomy/astrophysics because its the more glamorous side of science. I imagine Edward Witten would be an example, but I'm not sure what his parents did.

My cognitive profile is a lot more balanced:730 verbal,740 Math.I am in STEM

We really, really need to elect Republican presidents who will put strict constructionists on the Supreme Court who will overturn Griggs v. Duke Power, Co. because IQ tests are vastly superior to this stupidity. As a child I went to a school that eliminated tracking when I was in Kindergarten or 1st grade. I discovered that I could advance faster in math by finishing all of the problems in the math textbook. I finished vector calculus before graduating from high school, and then engineering was the logical major to study for vocational training. I never enjoyed engineering, but I could see that the grading was more objective, and humanities professors were unintelligent and politically biased in grading.

I also think that science, itself, provides a somewhat well-rounded education because it has import into all human knowledge. I agree with Edward Wilson’s notion that hard science will gradually overtake other fields. Plus, advanced technology has an associated spirit and aesthetic, which is most apparent to me in experimental electronic music. This aesthetic might sometimes lack classical training and appreciation, but “popular music” for smart people is not the same as popular music for unintelligent people. I associate that aesthetic with late 1990’s “futurism,” in which people seemed to have more confidence in imagining how society might be better without dumb traditions and power structures.

Incidentally, many medical students study bio-chemistry as undergraduates. This major does not seem to have an obvious career track without graduate school, so it is less vocational than engineering. I have heard that nurses who apply to medical school have more difficulty matriculating, but that engineers actually have an advantage. In other countries, doctors are younger because they need not have a bachelor’s degree first.

[HS: Griggs was mere statutory interpretation, Congress can overturn it with a simple majority. The Supremes, even conservative Supremes, won't bother because of stare decisis.]

Technically, Einstein worked at the Institute of Advanced Study and wasn't required to teach any classes and liked it that way.

Half Sigma --

This is the most wrong and economically harmful post I think you have ever written.

A study was done on the demographics of fortune 500 CEOs. The study is here:
http://content.spencerstuart.com/sswebsite/pdf/lib/2005_CEO_Study_JS.pdf

What do we learn about undergrad studies (page 6)?
20% of Fortune 500 CEOs were Engineers, more than any other major.
15% studied business
11% studied econ
9% studied liberal arts and
7% studied accounting

Considering how many more liberal arts students there are than engineers, the liberal arts majors are clearly underperforming.

And notice that this is just one prong of STEM, engineering. It doesn't even count science and math.

There is more. The leading university for Fortune 500 CEOs is Harvard, but it only has a 3% share. The whole Ivy League has only a 10% share.

What's more, in my engineering classes, I was surrounded by kids of elites. If elites start avoiding STEM in great numbers, we are in big trouble. And even more, pay in STEM fields is significantly higher than for liberal arts degrees.

[HS: (1) Two-thirds of CEOs are over the age of 50, and what worked 30 years ago doesn’t mean it’s going to work for students going to college today; (2) 80% of CEOs didn’t major in engineering; (3) nowhere in this post did I state it was about the best way to become a CEO, but to maximize your chances my advice is to work in sales, operations, or marketing in the industry you are interested in, and make sure you get an MBA from Harvard. For example, Jeffrey Immelt has an MBA from Harvard.

But trying to become a CEO is not something I recommend. There are only 500 S&P 500 CEOs. You will probably fail in your quest. It’s safer to seek work in finance where the number of people making million-dollar salaries is a lot greater than 500.]

About 3 years ago I worked in HR for a software company run by a group of Venture Capitalists (mostly former Wharton grads).

As soon as they acquired us they had my HR unit implement an aptitude test as a requirement for applying to every position. It had SAT math style questions, word problems and other questions that resembled the GRE Analytical. It was a real eye-opener.

No blacks ever got a passable grade, even the ones with outwardly strong qualifications, the right degrees/credentials and strong communication abilities.

We had to fudge some results for black applicants for fear of getting sued on one day, because our workforce would have started trending 100% White/Asian, and that doesn't work in a 70% black metro area like Atlanta.

I read that there are 2 million engineers, which would make them maybe 2% of the workforce. If Fortune 500 CEOs are 20% engineers, that is 10x overrepresentation.

Study engineering, kids! Don't listen to Half Sigma!

Even in law, the STEM people (i.e. patent lawyers) do particularly well, and don't even have to get their feathers ruffled like most other lawyers do, or sink to the same lows!

[HS: Those CEOs with engineering degrees either never worked as engineers, or did a very brief stint in engineering and quickly got promoted to managing engineers, and then managing a people who manage engineers. Furthermore, engineering was a more prestigious major 30 years ago.

Patent prosecution seems like the driest and most boring form of law imaginable, which is why it's easier to get a job in it if you qualify to take the Patent Bar.]

STEM major is the way to go.They have the highest LSAT,GMAT,MCAT&GRE scores meaning it is easier to branch out from STEM to a lucrative discipline.The elites already have their money,why should i worry about what they major in when i am yet to make my own?

I would argue that security and stability in life is a big part of status, and STEM majors have a lot more of that than most people.

If a STEM major is fired, they will likely be okay and find another job at a similar level. Most Americans don't have that.

[HS: Engineers have very poor job security if they don't rise into management. Their skills eventually become outdated, and employers prefer to hire young engineers. As I've written before, accounting is a much safer career even though it may appear to pay slightly less.]

It is not liberal arts major that made elites elite,so trying to copy that model simply wont work

A lot of engineers never work in Engineering since they move into Consulting or IT right out of college...

"STEM major is the way to go.They have the highest LSAT,GMAT,MCAT&GRE scores meaning it is easier to branch out from STEM to a lucrative discipline.The elites already have their money,why should i worry about what they major in when i am yet to make my own?"

Philosophy majors have the highest GRE verbal and also would be tied with Math and Physics for highest LSAT if the studies didn't group Philosophy and religion majors together in one group.

"The children of the elite have no interest in majoring in STEM"

Probably true. What's important is that the children of the non-elite understand that the fact the children of the elite like to study liberal arts doesn't mean you'll be elite if you do.

"Liberal arts classes were a lot more interesting than STEM classes"

Me too, mainly because there were women in them.

"What do we learn about undergrad studies (page 6)?

20% of Fortune 500 CEOs were Engineers, more than any other major.
15% studied business
11% studied econ
9% studied liberal arts and
7% studied accounting"

That's only because you split "business" into general management, econ, and accounting but you didn't split Engineering into Chemical, Mechanical, and Computer Engineering.

I am with k.

If you study engineering, you can branch out from there. You often can't go into engineering on the other hand if you didn't study it.

Wall Street **loves** physicists, math types and people who studied hard majors.

Seriously, have a look at the leadership of Pimco, the world's largest fund. They manage over a trillion dollars and are surely paid at plutocratic levels.
http://www.pimco.com/EN/OurFirm/Pages/Leadership.aspx

See their bios. Many times it doesn't say what they studied in undergrad, but when it does, it is almost always STEM. They love physicists, including physics PhDs.

Elite firms hire for intellegence and STEM will only help, even when it is totally unrelated, as physics to a bond fund.

"Philosophy majors have the highest GRE verbal and also would be tied with Math and Physics for highest LSAT if the studies didn't group Philosophy and religion majors together in one group"
Economics ties with philosophy and most philosophy majors double major

For most people getting a difficult professional certification (CFA,CPA, PE, actuary)or getting an in demand medically related graduate degree (pharmacy, dentistry, nurse practitioner) is the best bet to a figure income and decent lifestyle. All of these signify actual valuable knowledge.

If your elite liberal arts from Ivy is the best bet.

If you are not elite some version of STEM is best, even if you plan to pursue a non STEM career.

The only way for non elites to join elite circles is to be the guy in the office that can do what most elites can't do (usually STEM). To the extent that elites can import easily abused H1-Bs to do those jobs they will, but they will always need top 1% IQ Americans to do the truly hard stuff they can't or don't want to do.

Not elite and not top 1% IQ? Get used to being upper middle class unless you get lucky in a winner take all contest.

The status of STEAM is growing and will continue to grow. Zuckerberg is now an Harvard darling. A Stanford graduate has more status now than twenty years ago. In most of the world engineers are seem has having a similar status as doctors and lawyers. The only problem with a proper STEAM education is that it is HARD.

"In most of the world engineers are seem has having a similar status as doctors and lawyers."

Where?

STEM is only prestigious if you end up founding or getting in on the ground floor of a successful startup (also easier to do if you are born elite, like Zuck's parents were on the cusp of). So for the most part its just CS that can do that, I don't know a lot of start up civil engineers. If you end up working for the man like HS then you have zero prestige.

If you are middle class, really smart, and don't have a lot of obligations that can hold you back trying to get into the Silicon Valley startup scene may be your best bet at becoming elite. IB and BIGLAW are rigged heavily in the favor of elites. At least in the startup world you sink or swim on whether the business takes off. The main problem is you can work hard for years and end up with nothing, which is why its easier for children whose parents have money and can bail them out if they fail.

Now you are all making me anxious. I am majoring in Economics at SUNY Binghamton ("a state school") this fall. Is my degree going to be worthless? I know Binghamton is the most selective school in the SUNY system, and apparently, it has one of the most heavily Jewish student bodies in the United States at 29.5%, so I figured it can't be that bad. (http://tinyurl.com/6fb5md9 - PDF from a Reform Judaism magazine)

[HS: If I were you I would try to transfer into an elite school. And if that fails, change your major to accounting. No one needs to hire economics majors from state schools.]

"Is my degree going to be worthless?"

It depends on what kind of lifestyle you want.

Remember "worthless" on this blog means below the 99th income percentile.

Half Sigma, I think you used some cherry picking with your examples. Is a Computer Science major at Stanford less prestigious than an English major at Harvard?

I'm also really surprised that you said that Penn's CAS is more prestigious than Wharton. I have to disagree. Without Wharton, I couldn't see a case for Penn being in the top 10 or even the top 20.

Ryan wrote:

I am majoring in Economics at SUNY Binghamton ("a state school") this fall. Is my degree going to be worthless?

--

Depends on what you want to do with it. If you want to go into finance, you'll probably only qualify for back office positions. The money isn't terrible, but those jobs don't really help you to move into the better front office positions. It's probably not a target for any major consulting firms. Perhaps there are opportunities in corporate finance.

[HS: Wharton undergrads have better career prospects than Penn liberal arts undergrads, but the liberal arts undergrads look down on the Whartonites anyway.]

Much agreement w/ HS here. I earned my BS in Computer Science in 1986 at a private New England college. Back then there were no immigrant students or profs in the STEM majors at my school. Back in '86 new CS grads w/o any experience were getting $30K salary offers in the Boston area. Jobs in the field were plentiful. 20% salary increases were the norm for job-hoppers.

I was a top CS student, but only an average software engineer. I realized that I only majored in CS because of the decent starting salaries and job opportunities. By the late '90s, I earned my MBA from a top state school w/ a customized concentration in CS. Now, by this time, I was the only American-born student in those graduate CS classes, and the CS profs were all foreigners.

The MBA opened up a wide selection of job opportunities across industries and has garnered me some respect in some organizations, but it hasn't been a financial boon. I'm probabably making 10% less now than if I had remained working in software, but the other gains have made it worthwhile.

lol @ people who think getting to BIGLAW or IB is easy.

First round- is undergrad school ivy or not? If not no BIGLAW or IB. (I suppose some lower ivies don't help)

Second round- What major? (Anything that has anything to do with postmodernism I assume gets laughed at by IB.)

Third Round (for BigLaw)- Get into a T6 or graduate top 10% T14. Only 2% of LSAT takers get into the T6 (also many people from podunk state u's get a good LSAT so a low ranked undergrad school doesn't hurt).

Fourth round- Work 80-100 hours a week at IB or BIGLAW until you become partner or burnout. 4/5 people burnout and do something else. (This is assuming you're even good at what you do).

As a caveat you can avoid all this if you are born into >99th income percentile.

Conclusion- Be happy with what you have or eat shit and die.

Another caveat I forgot, most people in BIGLAW stay simply just to pay off the debt they incurred while in school then move off to something usually very average like public interest.

At any rate, it seems that auditioning for American Idol is probably a safer bet at becoming rich and famous, and even if you don't become either at least you actually offer value by being able to sing instead of paper pushing and number crunching.

Science people think they are the elites. They think people who study the humanities are less intelligent.

Just saying.

I know that the path I have chosen in science and engineering pays less. But when you're a genius, being around business types is unbearable. I'd rather work alone in a room all day, and not bother with such douchebagery.

"First round- is undergrad school ivy or not? If not no BIGLAW or IB. (I suppose some lower ivies don't help) "

Yeah, screw Stanford, Duke, Hopkins, MIT, and CalTech. The lower ivies are where it's at.

Conventional wisdom of the blogosphere: if you work in anything except BIGLAW or i-banking you are a hopeless loser.

The guys who built this site ( http://wearenytech.com/ ), which was a clever idea, are state college comp sci grads from New Jersey. As I'm typing this, they hosting a huge party on a rooftop in SoHo, sponsored by Microsoft's search engine Bing. They are making money and having a blast. And I'm sure they're not worried about whether anyone thinks they're elite.

Interesting mix of backgrounds in the NY Tech scene though. Some do come from money, but my impression is that, overall, there seems to be more merit and luck at work than family backgrounds.

With the ever increasing number of people aiming for value transference jobs, will STEM majors ever regain their former glory? Or are they forever condemned to be the major of the poor/ nerdy / foreign dude?

The reasons why the elite largely dislike science and technology (and Paul Fussell alluded to this in his Class book) are numerous. For one, it disrupts the status quo, and any change to society can potentially dislodge them from their positions of power*. Elites also distrust technology because its advancement means for freedom for the proles. Today, because of the automobile the lower classes can drive from New York to the largest suburb in the world (i.e., Los Angeles). Technology also gives more people access to more information, and that is information that could potentially be used against the elite to compete against them.

Ironically, this reasoning is somewhat flawed because as technology advanced in the later part of the 20th century greater social stratification and barriers into higher socioeconomic strata occurred. While everyone knows that correlation doesn't mean causation it is an interesting coincidence. Other factors, such as tracking, increased tuition costs, higher competition (domestically and globally), etc., also contributed. Opportunity exists for those who know where to look, and the elite have prime real estate for such observation. This still shouldn't discourage anyone from trying to succeed.

"Anyway, it's true that (unfortunately) certain hard sciences are known for smelly brown people."

I thought Brown was better known for its liberal arts.

*Or so they might fear; for example, those who sit on the board of directors for big oil and coal companies could move over to alternative energy companies. However, the infrastructural changes would mean a serious overhaul of the infrastructure over time.

If you don't make a lot of money at a corporation they are not worth working in. Corporations are Hell for average workers. I was a good student in high school, but not good enough to get into any really top school. My grades were better than my SAT score. People with much lower grades than me got much higher Sat's. I really should have been an MRI or X-ray tech and would have been making ok money for my IQ and would have been out of the corporate world. Everybody thinks they are going to make a lot of money, but almost nobody is, especially if you don't have a high IQ and a certain personality.
I would rather work in a factory than an office if I had to work for a corporation.I was in an auto plant and it was pretty pleasant in there.

It’s very difficult to get top (non-STEM) grades at a top school, regardless of the major, because you are competing against ...

I don't really care about this, but the statement is nevertheless belied by some pretty well-placed observers, e.g. Harvard government professor Harvey Mansfield. In '02 he told his class they'd be receiving two grades - their official transcript grade and their real grade. The latter was the non-affirmative action grade. He explained that since the mid-70's, in order to accommodate blacks F's had become C's, and so pre-1975 "C" now received an A or A-. More generally, it was recently reported (I think by Ross Douthat) that the average undergraduate grade at Harvard was A-. How do you square this?

DaveinHackensack,

Tech startups have been the way for outsiders to move up into the elite for decades now. The issues for poor and middle class kids remain the same:

1) You need some capital for a start up. Much less then almost every other business, but still some. Time not working a paying job is part of that start up capital. The rich will always have an advantage here, but its gotten much much better in this specific industry.

2) The poor and middle class often have family members they must support or care for, while the rich and children of the rich can hire people to deal with that.

3) If you are not rich and you have pre-existing conditions working for a big company is one of the best ways to get health insurance. If you are likely to be sick or need medicine its difficult to be self employed. Future changes to the healthcare industry could change this.

4) Start ups are risky. Going into IB/BIGLAW is pretty much a guaranteed hit once your in. You can spend years of your life on failed start ups, and the majority do fail. Upper middle class kids like Bill Gates and Zuckerberg can play winner take all games like that because they can use their parents as fall backs if they didn't succeed. Poor and middle class kids could be destitute after a single failure.

If you are young, healthy, a little bit of spare cash, have no outstanding obligations, and some talent for programming I highly recommend trying to do some kind of tech start up. However, many don't meet those criteria and even then its a crap shoot.

Dude, this "elite" fixation of yours is getting old. You do realize that according to your definition Barry and Michelle are "elite."

God save the Queen.

Statistics is a pretty good major. Aside from the fact that you have to go up to Calculus III it isn't too hard. And statisticians make the big bucks ;)

"the third-semester math class which covered differential equations and imaginary numbers"

Exaplains A LOT.

HS does not what IQ is and does not understand the mathematics of heritability.

Hence all of his mistakes in talking about IQ.

HS is very like an elite journalist.

STEM majors are more valuable in Germany, Taiwan, Japan, Scandinavia, etc. Surprise.

CEOs inthese countries are much more likely to be engineers than CEOs in the US.

Politicians are much more likely to be engineers or scientists than politicians in the US.

The US and UK are satanic shithole.

"More generally, it was recently reported (I think by Ross Douthat) that the average undergraduate grade at Harvard was A-. How do you square this? "

Those students would be getting A's if they went to state schools, they'd just be raping le curves

Me 760 V, 800 M new SAT. 720 V, 740 M old SAT.

Despite its being lower the V score is a higher percentile than the M score.

UG degree mathematics.

I found humanities courses to be annoying because the professors were so stupid and the grading subjective.


My scores: 760 M, 650 V old SAT (1990) - 99th percentile.

GMAT: 660 - 93rd percentile. (1997 GMAT. Would be around 700 on today's scale.)

"Those students would be getting A's if they went to state schools, they'd just be raping le curves"

Grade inflation is rampant in elite private universities. They grade harder at Rutgers than at Harvard.

Econ is totally worthless from a state school? I assume that the author of THAT comment is an East Coaster unfamilar with the Big Ten environment. Elinor Ostrom, who won a recent Nobel in Econ for her work on institutions, is a professor at Indiana. In Health Economics, Michigan and Minnesota compare well to schools like Harvard- as do California and North Carolina. Purdue is known for the outstanding work coming from its agricultural economics program. Minnesota has a general economics program as good as any except maybe Chicago, and has had such leading lights as George Coase pass through.

The same is true of other programs. In history, LSU, Wisconsin, and North Carolina are as good as any private school. Georgia and IU have better programs in public administration than Harvard's vaunted Kennedy school in terms of intellectual influence and quality of graduates, although not in the quality of the rolodex entries an alum gains.

One can go on and on. It's even more pronounced in the STEM fields.Purdue, Berkeley, Minnesota, Illinois, etc - all are clearly stronger than the Ivy League elite. Probably state schools are better because so many are land grant institutions, with a historical mission to focus on applied disciplines.

You don't necessarily buy a top-notch education at the "elite" privates - rather, you buy access to an alumni network and the chic cachet of the school's name.

Verbal 747 Math 781 (old SAT, 1967, so apply appropriate inflation factors for today's numbers). Chem Eng in 1974. Member Triple Nines. Have met few nerds in the last 36 years and still work in the industry, as engineer, and for good money. For those complaining about H1-B visas, think that is more a problem for CS folk (like with one of my sons for example) but saw less of this in ChE field. And having worked almost half my professional life outside of USA (now in India, before in Singapore, China, Spain, England, twice in Germany), I guess I am sort of the reverse visa person. Good engineers can compete anywhere.

George,

let me get my troll on here...

"Econ is totally worthless from a state school? I assume that the author of THAT comment is an East Coaster unfamilar with the Big Ten environment."

Duh. Getting an economics degree so you can do economics is pretty retarded unless you are going to make big $$$ as an IB economist. If you aren't making at least 500k/year, you fail.

"Elinor Ostrom, who won a recent Nobel in Econ for her work on institutions, is a professor at Indiana."

Faculty does not equal graduates. Lots of loser schools have some good faculty. Who cares.

"In Health Economics, Michigan and Minnesota compare well to schools like Harvard- as do California and North Carolina."

What do you do with health economics? Unless its high priced mercenary lobbyist then its a waste. And the best thing a lobbyist can have is reputation, not knowledge.

"Purdue is known for the outstanding work coming from its agricultural economics program."

Agriculture? Fucking farmers? Go back to podunk you redneck hick.

"Minnesota has a general economics program as good as any except maybe Chicago, and has had such leading lights as George Coase pass through."

Wake me up when these guys become treasury secretary and bilk the USG out of $700 billion. That's some HBS magic right there. Till then go write some papers nobody with real power gives a shit about.

"The same is true of other programs. In history, LSU, Wisconsin, and North Carolina are as good as any private school. Georgia and IU have better programs in public administration than Harvard's vaunted Kennedy school in terms of intellectual influence and quality of graduates, although not in the quality of the rolodex entries an alum gains."

Intellectual influence? Are you kidding me? In the real world elites care about actual influence. Actual influence gets you a private jet.

"It's even more pronounced in the STEM fields.Purdue, Berkeley, Minnesota, Illinois, etc - all are clearly stronger than the Ivy League elite. "

But STEM is low prestige that you can't get rich doing it. A few do tech start ups and get rich, and a few who graduate from top STEM programs and have very high IQs can get jobs at google or something. But its a crap shoot, and if your kids don't have the same very high IQ you do they aren't going to be able to work at google. By contrast, IB and BIGLAW have always made bank and will always be around. And your kids only have to be a little above average it make it if you help them. Those fields provide the kind of sustained eliteness that you could never get actually making real things and competing in real markets.

"You don't necessarily buy a top-notch education at the "elite" privates - rather, you buy access to an alumni network and the chic cachet of the school's name."

Duh, but who cares. Those things are easily as important as ability. If not you wouldn't see mediocre Harvard legacy kids making big $$$.

The yardstick by which we are judging at this point is what career track graduating tends to get you on. Faculty, research, classes. Who cares. You could lock someone up in a basement for for years but if they graduate to work in an IB for big $$$ while some non Ivy kid with the same or better IQ is in a cubicle at some mega corp for 1/4 the wage who gives a shit.

To all you idiots who are denigrating state schools. The following state schools are excellent academically:
CA, TX, MI, WI, IL, NC, MD, VA

sigma,

You know some people actually find science fun and interesting.. and you get to interact with smart people.. my kid is heading for penn (perfect SATs, 5s in a raft of APs, science, math, history etc) Not sure about career but will take the hard science/math courses in addition to a mix of language and some social science type courses and study elite behavior; I agree that Wharton undergrad seems a bit premature (the MBA is prestigious). The point of university is to experiment a bit with options and see what kind of life choices would make you happy, given your talents and interests. The reason that elites cant handle hard core STEM is due to a combination of regression to the mean and the fact that they can bullshit through life (at least in the USA) via liberal arts.

I work at a very successful Fortune 200 company. About 80% of the top managers were engineers. The rest were business majors. None of them went to elite colleges. The CEO makes $8M/year. The senior VPs make around $2m/year.

HS should do a post sometime on how there are still paths to success when not going to an elite school and when studying STEM. I bet that the number of highly successful people with this background, by sheer numbers of people in this group, swamp the number of elite college non-STEM highly successful people.

Personally I find engineering work, at least in the position I have, more enjoyable than say it would have been to work as a lawyer or in finance. But I have to agree with HS the college work would have been much more enjoyable studying liberal arts. There are a lot of classes to this day that I would liked to have taken.

It's probably time that I mention "Gertrude," the owner of the sales and marketing company where I work. Although it functions as the local office of nationwide Parent Corporation, it's set up as a separate corporation with Gertrude as sole owner.

Gertrude started out working in a different office of Parent Corporation four years ago as an ordinary sales representative, just like me. As far as I know she has an ordinary education, perhaps a BA from an average university. No Ivy League or STEM background, and she didn't come from family wealth. But she worked hard and did well, and advanced through the ranks until the point at which Parent Corporation provided her with the resources to open her own office. Today she has something like 25 people working under her and earns in the neighborhood of $250K per year.
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Gertrude is 25 years old.

The elites you refer to are one type that's out there. You should realize that there's such a thing called the academic elite. Due to their high g-factor, this group actually looks down on non-STEM professions, and consider people in business and liberal arts to be full of shit. Becoming and staying part of the academic elite it tough-- regression to the mean and decadence erode their numbers and makes the formation of dynasties highly elusive. In order to maintain elite status, both parents have to possess high numerical and spatial abilities. This means that finding a proper mate is key. Every IQ point must be fought for! A loss of 5 IQ points over one generation may do you in.

Me: 720 GMAT + ten years of solid professional work experience. Didn't get in to HSY biz scholl. Did get accepted at UNC. But went to UF w/ a 50% free ride. I'm sure UF wanted me so they could boost the average GMAT.

My point is the competition for entry into HSY for a non-eleite RWG is crushing.

Now, ten years after the MBA, I'm sure my salary is 25% of what a HSY MBA grad's salary is. I was never was able to get on that premier career track that HS talks about.

"Gertrude is 25 years old"

Gertrude is hot. There's lots of ways for women to get rich when their young provided they're good looking--without having an Ivy League background or a STEM degree. One is sales.

A great benefit these women have is they'll get rich while they're young. (A major risk is they won't get serious about making money until its too late.)

Of course, attractive women often (but not always) have at least middle class parents; good genes usually exist in families that have at least some money.

That being hot is a great way to make money doesn't need to be said. Or if it does, Howard Stern already said it. It's not as relevant in a high-IQ blog where people are trying to figure how to make money with a high IQ (and, perhaps, no other inputs such as looks or wealthy parents.)

"720 GMAT + ten years of solid professional work experience. Didn't get in to HSY biz scholl. Did get accepted at UNC. But went to UF w/ a 50% free ride. I'm sure UF wanted me so they could boost the average GMAT.

My point is the competition for entry into HSY for a non-elite RWG is crushing."

My GMAT was 93rd percentile (around 700-710 on today's scale.) I was declined by a top 20 business school. I was accepted by a top 30 school.

Had I scored lower, I wouldn't have gotten in. My MBA has been pretty much worthless and has even, at times, worked against me. If you have an MBA and don't make it into management within ten years, people start to ask why. They never answer their own question with "because he's short."

Why can't people get it through their heads that the following question is all that matters: what is the marginal value of adding an additional STEM practitioner to the existing pool of STEM practitioners?

It does not matter if STEM is the essence of modernity. We are not going to wake up one day and find that all the STEM people have disappeared.

What we have is a situation where the supply of STEM people has exceeded the demand. Salaries are dropping and, worse, the opportunities to practice STEM are diminishing for newly-minted graduates. Why shouldn't people walk away from a profession that seems like a vow of poverty or celibacy.

Also, receiving a STEM degree in 1967 is not the same as receiving one now. The economic circumstances are different.

"It does not matter if STEM is the essence of modernity. We are not going to wake up one day and find that all the STEM people have disappeared.

What we have is a situation where the supply of STEM people has exceeded the demand. "

Very true for natural science and maths except geology. Very not true for engineering. Only about 5% of UG degrees are in engineering. I think that bio and chem majors who go to medical dental pharmacy school etc are a small minority.

I work for an oil company that rhymes with "ET". I've got a degree from one of Half Signa's "bogus schools" (Illinois Institute of Technology).

So a few engineers here are involved in college recruiting. They go back to their Alma maters to recruit.

So I suggested to the boss that we recruit at IIT, which is local. You should have seen the look of disgust on her face.

I forget what she said, but it was pretty clear that they didn't recruit there because IIT has too many Indians (the big joke is that IIT really stands for Indian Institute of Technology).

So even in STEM there is a pecking order. I wonder how many of those CEO engineers are Michigan grads.

There is also, of course, a pecking order in the engineering disciplines. Chemical engineering is on top, electrical under that. God help the Civils, especially those building roads. Scum of the earth. ;)

"There is also, of course, a pecking order in the engineering disciplines. Chemical engineering is on top, electrical under that. "

Isn't Industrial Engineering below them all?

It's also the engineering discipline with the most women majors, as far as I can tell.

"what is the marginal value of adding an additional STEM practitioner to the existing pool of STEM practitioners?"

That's why we need a labor union. Labor unions move the percieved value of engineers from the marginal value of the last one hired (ie, zero) back towards the average value of the whole group (ie, in a group of 7, a labor union would make the percieved value of the group equal to the marginal value of the 4th engineer hired. The engineers are worth more; three less--the percieved value would be equal to the middle engineer. Or, the perceived value is equal to the cost of the entire group going on strike, devided by 7.)

In a free market, the entire group is assigned a value equal to the last one hired in the absence of a labor union. That's because the group isn't going on strike, and if you quit, there's basically no replacement cost at all (since your replacement has already been hired, and is an "understudy" sitting in the cube next to you.)


Make that

"Three engineers are worth more; three less--the percieved value would be equal to the middle engineer"

---Now you are all making me anxious. I am majoring in Economics at SUNY Binghamton ("a state school") this fall. Is my degree going to be worthless? I know Binghamton is the most selective school in the SUNY system, and apparently, it has one of the most heavily Jewish student bodies in the United States at 29.5%, so I figured it can't be that bad. (http://tinyurl.com/6fb5md9 - PDF from a Reform Judaism magazine)

[HS: If I were you I would try to transfer into an elite school. And if that fails, change your major to accounting. No one needs to hire economics majors from state schools.[---

What are you going to do with an econ degree? If the USA is destined for a Brazilian-like existence, then accounting is a good way to go because it requires technical and administrative competence which are in short supply across developing-world peoples. Not only is accounting instrumental to every business, it has a few mental hurdles (contra accounts) that most people do not understand. Therefore, your schill set will always be in demand. Half Sigma is focused on making it into the elite and there is a lot of wisdom in that. However, if you are a looking for a nice life and think that you can have one on $120,000/year, then accounting is a sure thing. Moreover, you will learn every facet of the business for which you work. The only other skill I wish I had was something in computer programming. I have had so many great idea, but without money it has been impossible to do anything. For instance, I thought of the GroupOn idea more than 8 years ago and even proposed it to some programmers. No dice.

What the dot come bubble was to CS majors, a new bubble in the future will be to accounting majors.

"Conventional wisdom of the blogosphere: if you work in anything except BIGLAW or i-banking you are a hopeless loser."

No kidding. I know some people in both of those career tracks and they're not fun. Lots of people burn themselves out because of the work load and monotony. Imagine someone's despair once they finally get into BIGLAW or IB only to find out it's not for them and that they've wasted half their lives.

Peter,

Gertrude's story was inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

It's depressing to see that there's no one like me, who studied science at Caltech and Harvard because it was interesting, the key to understanding the universe, and has had a good life in research.

Why so materialistic? Why so focussed on the elite?

"What are you going to do with an econ degree?"

If you're getting a 3.5 or so, law. Econ had the advantage in my school that it wasn't time consuming. A midterm and a final--that was it.

And I got straight A's in my econ classes, so it helped make up for my mediocre grades in some liberal arts classes. (Unforunately, I graduated with a 3.3)

---

It wouldn't matter if you could code GroupOn. You can get your idea built for less than $20,000 if you know how to hire and retain good foreign coders who work from home.

You need millions to market your idea--how do you plan to get people to sign up? It takes millions to market a .com. It takes millions to maintain a .com--once a million people "group on" handling the traffic costs millions. And all of that cost is incurred before you earn a single dime.

The ONLY exception is myspace. MySpace was started by some spammers, back when spamming was possible. That's how they reached millions of people initially. Then they got funding.

Lucky for them, people signed up. And the actions they took have sent others who are less lucky to jail.

Almost every .com I heard of was started by an Ivy League dropout with millions in funding long before they went online. Twitter had 20 people work for them, each making nearly 6 figures, before the first page went online--and that site is routinely mentioned as a spartan site that was an accidental success.

--

I don't think many accountants make 120K. 40-60K is more like it.

Public CPAs definately don't make that much.

However tax acccontants only work full time 3 months a year, so in terms of dollars per hour its good.

Robert Hume,

HS is a NYC jew, so his status anxiety is through the roof.

Besides that my guess is bitches. People try to use status to get bitches, all men need to stick their weiner in bitches on a fairly regular basis so they do a lot of shit they won't want to do. You've got a lot of high IQ nerds on this blog, so many think lots of $$$ will get them bitches.

Finally average jobs blow. Being a cubicle drone blows. If your elite you can retire early and no longer be a cubicle drone, and your kids won't have to be cubicle drones.

A joint major in Economics and Applied Mathematics is a good way to get hired onto a Wall Street trading floor. I encouraged my son to do this major at Brown University, and he in now trading credit default swaps at Citi. There are many people with STEM degrees employed as traders or quantitative research analysts on Wall Street, and those jobs pay very well.

"Finally average jobs blow. Being a cubicle drone blows. If your elite you can retire early and no longer be a cubicle drone, and your kids won't have to be cubicle drones."

"He is happy, whose circumstances suit his temper; but he is more excellent, who can suit his temper to any circumstances." -David Hume

"It's depressing to see that there's no one like me, who studied science at Caltech and Harvard because it was interesting, the key to understanding the universe, and has had a good life in research.

Why so materialistic? Why so focussed on the elite?"

I think you have an education and career that most on this blog would be jealous of.

Do me a favor, though. Look at your grades and test scores, and the current admission standards (and tuition) required of a white or asian male.

Some of the jealousy may because your slightly smarter. But some may also be because you were born in a more forgiving time.

The nerds (this would include myself) choosing IT aren't doing so because they were offered a career as a PhD in a research lab--and then they turned it down. They didn't get in and are trying to make a buck with the brains that they do have.

I got the best degree I could with the money, time, and brains that I had. I scored in the upper 99th percentile on a test where half the population didn't even try. That doesn't make me 99th percentile no matter what MENSA says.

I was poor. I lived in a $300 a month room in college and sold tens of thousands of credit cards to pay the bills. My grades reflected this.

I scored in the 93rd percentile on the GMAT and only the 85th or so on a practice LSAT. I was stronger on the math section than the English section, consistently. So, I went to business school.

THAT SAID, I deserve a lot better life than what competing with millions of H-1B drones allows.

And had I been born earlier, my GMAT would have gotten me into a PhD program--and I would have gotten some scholarship money as well.

"he is now trading credit default swaps at Citi"

Well we all know how *that* particular activity worked out in the recent past.

"Gertrude is hot. There's lots of ways for women to get rich when their young provided they're good looking--without having an Ivy League background or a STEM degree. One is sales."

As you have no idea who she is, you're making quite an assumption.

For the record, Gertrude is reasonably decent looking, but then again most young women her age are.
I haven't even been in sales for two years yet I've already seen some *very* hot women fail completely in the business.

I think there's two main types of swaps for mortgages--credit default, where you agree to pay someone if some defaults on bonds that they own in return for a fee--and total return, where they forfiet their return on bonds they own in return for a fee.

So it's a pretty common security; it was demonized in the mortgage mess simply because the mortgage mess happened.

I'm 33 and need an MBA - I have shitty work experience since graduating in 06 (no managerial experience), my UGPA is 3.01 and I haven't cracked 35k per year ... to say my post college expectations have not been met would be a gross understatement. I haven't taken the GMAT but I'm sure I can crack 700.

Thoughts?

"most young women her age are"

Most young women could be millionaires if they wanted to stay thin, sell themselves, and quit trying to get the horrible jobs men are stuck doing.

--

Not every good looking woman is good at sales. True. But everyone good at sales has an appearance that implies they are upper class. Typically that requires a certain height for men, and a certain weight for women.

Show me the 5'5" guy who sold a million dollars in houses last year--or the 300 pound woman. I knew the woman was attractive because she made good money, and she's not Einstein. If you told me she graduated from MIT and couldn't make manager, I'd know she's unattractive.

Somethings can be inferred with a very high probability even if not known for certain.

"I'm 33 and need an MBA - I have shitty work experience since graduating in 06 (no managerial experience), my UGPA is 3.01 and I haven't cracked 35k per year ... to say my post college expectations have not been met would be a gross understatement. I haven't taken the GMAT but I'm sure I can crack 700."

How tall are you?

Zzzzz, you'll get into a state school. With that GPA top 10 and probably top 20 is out of the question.

The return on your MBA depends on whether you have made management already. Were you supervisor during your jobs in college?

If not, the MBA isn't going to help you as much as your classmates.

"I'm 33 and need an MBA - I have shitty work experience since graduating in 06 (no managerial experience), my UGPA is 3.01 and I haven't cracked 35k per year ... to say my post college expectations have not been met would be a gross understatement. I haven't taken the GMAT but I'm sure I can crack 700."

"How tall are you?"


6'1'' lololololol

"Most young women could be millionaires if they wanted to stay thin, sell themselves, and quit trying to get the horrible jobs men are stuck doing."

Pretty true. But lets get a little more specific. They need to be 8+, though some 7s or lucky 6s could fake it with a lot of work.

They also need to be feminine, demure, act upper class, and know how to seduce. So lots of attractive prole women fail this category and end up in porn or something. Upper class girls are taught how to act right so they can use their beauty to land a sweet sales job and a good man.

Pharmaceutical sales rep is probably the best example I can think of for how a good looking woman of moderate intelligence can cash in big time.

"Well we all know how *that* particular activity worked out in the recent past."

Well for him, and who gives a shit what happened to everyone else.

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