Monday, March 26, 2012

Seventeen thousand and change

My first job after getting my master's in statistics in the Nineties was as a lecturer at large state university. It was a full time, 9-month position and I stayed there for four years. During all that time I never broke eighteen thousand dollars a year.

I really didn't mind the low salary. The work was enjoyable and I've always been good at living within my means. Besides, there were adjuncts who had it worse than me. Still, seventeen thousand and change is a good number to keep in mind when you read something like this (by David Levy via Krugman):
With the 1970s advent of collective bargaining in higher education, this began to change. The result has been more equitable circumstances for college faculty, who deserve salaries comparable to those of other educated professionals. Happily, senior faculty at most state universities and colleges now earn $80,000 to $150,000, roughly in line with the average incomes of others with advanced degrees.

Not changed, however, are the accommodations designed to compensate for low pay in earlier times. Though faculty salaries now mirror those of most upper-middle-class Americans working 40 hours for 50 weeks, they continue to pay for teaching time of nine to 15 hours per week for 30 weeks, making possible a month-long winter break, a week off in the spring and a summer vacation from mid-May until September.
Seventeen thousand and change.

It is a deeply dishonest piece filled with statistical sleight-of-hand and numbers that don't add up. Robert Farley does a good (though hardly exhaustive) job of laying out the fallacies. I'm not sure I have much to add to it other than to recommend that as you're reading Levy's piece you stop from time to time and repeat to yourself,

"Seventeen thousand and change."

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