Arnold Kling  

Timothy Taylor on NCH

Bastiat's Letters... Models Vs. Hand-Waving...

He writes,

In particular, it's intriguing to brainstorm about certain kinds of jobs that are not extremely high on skills (not everyone is going to be a research scientist), but also aren't extreme low-wage jobs either. These would be jobs where people learn and develop skills and experience, and perhaps where they can leverage their skills by interacting with information and communications technology. In addition, they should be jobs that can't easily be outsourced, maybe because geographically tied to U.S. (like provision of support for chronic health conditions) or maybe because it is not the kind of routinized task where outsourcing works well.

Taylor discusses projections by the Department of Labor and by McKinsey on the loci of future job growth. The number one sector is health care. Taylor expresses some skepticism about job growth in manufacturing, and I share his doubts. I am surprised that education, which is the other sector in what Nick and I call the New Commanding Heights, is not mentioned.

I will repeat my view that government credentialism is one of the factors holding back job creation. If you could design health care delivery services in which you train people to work the way you want, rather than having to obey licensing rules, some of the people who are now out of work could have jobs that fit Taylor's desiderata.

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CATEGORIES: Labor Market

COMMENTS (9 to date)
MikeDC writes:

I'm not surprised that education isn't mentioned because my observation is that most education is useless and already considered way too expensive. The future of education is the Khan academy.

The prime difference with health care is the government can't stop people from learning most things on their own. The flip side of that view is I'm also pretty skeptical of just how useful many of those health care industry employees are.

Shangwen writes:

I'm always puzzled when people speak optimistically about job growth driven by health care, because it is a low-productivity area weighed down by intense rent-seeking. More HC jobs means more HC spending--isn't that supposed to be a problem?

Taylor is one of many who argues that more technology in health care will make it more efficient (electronic records, etc.). As an insider, I can confirm that most IT spending in health is, at best, cash-neutral. Indeed, so are many new technologies in health-care, if you factor in the value of marginal health gains. I don't think you'll find too many PSST fans at the AMA or the American Hospital Association.

Noah Yetter writes:

I just realized that I've been accepting your proposition of education as a growth sector without question. Now I mean to question it.

How is it possible for there to be significant growth in education, in terms of headcount? We can certainly spend a great deal more money on it, but I didn't think that's what you meant. It seems to me that the number of school teachers is determined by population and local school budgets, and the number of higher-ed instructors is tightly limited by credentialism.

So while health care can absorb tens of thousands of new workers into nursing, billing, etc., and government is able to employ unlimited numbers of people doing essentially nothing at all, it doesn't seem to me that education can grow in the same way.

Jim Ancona writes:


Public K-12 education has grown exactly that way for the past 40 years:

Public School K-12 Enrollment
1971 46,071,000
2008 49,266,000

Public School K-12 Teachers
1970 2,059,000
2008 3,219,000

So enrollment has grown by 7% and the number of teachers by 56%. That understates things, since I'm sure that other staff has grown even more quickly. (Anyone know where to find historic figures on non-teaching staff numbers?)

My guess is that the situation is much the same in higher ed although perhaps obscured by the the large increases in enrollments. How much has Harvard's faculty and staff grown over the last 40 years? How does that compare to enrollment growth, if there is any?

No doubt Stein's Law applies at some margin, but it's not clear from the numbers that we're approaching it.

Jonathan Bechtel writes:

@MikeDC (this is know...from other parts of the net)

I think the healthcare sector can absorb more overpaid useless workers without crumbling on itself for at least the medium term. It's kind of a horse race between an aging population and productivity growth.

I doubt the education industry can grow very much in the public sector.....there are way too many universities as it is, and none of those places seem to be hiring more professors.

However, I think there's a lot of potential job growth in private education. Licensing restrictions will get in the way, but college is probably a bad proposition for the bottom 75% of the population right now, and I'm willing to bet on spontaneous order overcoming legal obstacles because of that.

MikeDC writes:

Those are interesting numbers. They'd suggest an aggregate average class size of 15 students per teacher nationally.

Which is odd, because as both a K-12 student and parent over that time period, I have never seen nor heard of class sizes approaching 15 students per teacher. So I suppose the interesting question is where are all these teachers hiding?

Also interesting to look at the changes over time. In 1970, public student to teacher ration was about 22.3 and private was 23. In 2008, if I ran the numbers you posted correctly, the public ratio was 15.3 and the private ratio was 13.1.

Noah Yetter writes:

Like @MikeDC, I don't understand how those numbers are possible. Very puzzling.

Jaap writes:

is that headcount FTE?

Jim Ancona writes:

As to how this is possible, I assume special ed is a part of the story. Also classes are somewhat smaller and teachers are handling smaller loads.

MikeDC, I assume part of the shift in the private school numbers reflects the shrinking of parochial, especially Catholic, school enrollment relative to other private schools. Catholic schools historically had high student-teacher ratios.

Jaap, I believe those are FTE numbers--see this document which specifically says FTE.

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