Bryan Caplan  

Intellectual Ability and Educational Difficulty

Not Necessarily Bad News... The Intellectual Danger of Lab...
Eli has a good comment on my signaling model with changing intellectual ability:

The math seems right, but I don't understand why you would assume that K is constant. It should be an increasing function of A, no? My intuition is that as ability increases, people have to do more and more costly stuff to differentiate themselves.

If K is increasing in A, then it's not at all clear that as A rises more people will signal.

This is definitely plausible in theory.  But in the real world, academic standards actually seem to fall at a given education level as education levels rise.  A B.A. ain't what it used to be; neither is a high school diploma.  Better students respond to stagnant or falling standards by acquiring additional degrees.  So if anything my model understates the response of diploma completion with respect to ability.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (4 to date)
PrometheeFeu writes:

It's true that a BA isn't quite as hard to get as it used to be, but it's also not quite the signal it used to be. More and more jobs that used to ask for a BA now ask for an MA. So more and more people who would have differentiated themselves with a BA 10 years ago are probably now using an MA to do the same.

DThinker writes:

How do you know a high school diploma "ain't what it used to be?" From what school? Are you basing this on anecdotes? The same question applies to the B.A.

I think it is interesting. People often to seem to rely on anecdotes and false memories. I think assertions that "high school" is not what it used to be need to be carefully qualified, as high schools themselves vary quite a bit in their quality and intellectual rigor. As a general statement, it is probably meaningless.

Robert Evans writes:

Being a better student and intellectual ability only have a loose correlation.

Miraca Gross:
"My longitudinal study of 60 Australian young people of IQ 160 (who appear in the population at ratios of fewer than 1 in 10,000) is now in its 23rd year and the young people are in their late twenties and early thirties."
"By contrast, young people of equal abilities who have accelerated by only 1 year, or who have not been permitted any form of acceleration, have tended to enter less academically rigorous college courses, report much lower levels of life satisfaction and, in many cases, experience significant or even quite extreme difficulties with socialization. Several dropped out of college or high school."

Robert Evans writes:

Forgot the url for that quote:

Comments for this entry have been closed
Return to top