Monday, April 11, 2011

Failing Economics 101 With Bad Statistics

In this brilliant piece of research by Payscale and Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the authors seek to calculate the return on investment in a college education.  They find numbers all the heck over the place, (here's the Economics 101 reference, with a very cool interactive plot of their completely useless results.)  They highlight state by state some big winners, especially amongst engineering schools, that seem to ensure big earnings for graduates. 

What's the problem with their study?  I thought you'd never ask!  You can't evaluate the return on investment to a college education by looking at only college graduates.  Do you really think the top ranked students of Caltech would earn nothing if they didn't attend college?

A return on investment calculation is a return on investment not a return on existence

Let's raise the bar on this analysis a little...maybe compare the net lifetime earnings of Caltech grads to UCLA's science and engineering grads?  Something tells me the marginal value of that Caltech education isn't very high...especially if you are a California state resident!