Saturday, February 24, 2018

Another chance?

A Pew survey finding that 58% of Republicans say that colleges and universities are having a negative effect on the way things are going has been getting a good deal of attention.  However, according to a Pew survey from 2016, there was no partisan difference among college graduates in views of of how useful their college education had been in giving them job opportunities and workplace skills (there was some difference in views about how useful it was for personal growth).  That reminded me of a post I had a few years ago about a survey that asked how important various factors were in getting ahead.  Liberals were more likely to rate "a good education" as important, while conservatives were more likely to choose hard work or saving and spending decisions.

I looked for more questions about the individual value of education, and found a CBS News survey from 2011 that asked "Would you go back to school to further your education if you could
do it for free?"  65% of those who had voted for Obama said yes, compared to 51% of those who had voted for McCain, and 79% of those who had not voted.  I thought that people who had less education would have more interest in going back to school, but there was no clear difference by educational level.  However, opinions were related to age gender, and race (older people, men, and non-Hispanic whites were less likely to say yes).  The Obama/McCain difference was still there, and just about as large, after controlling for those factors.*

So it seems like there is some ideological difference in views about the individual value of education.  That value is both economic and non-economic, but the strong negative association between age and interest in further education suggests that people were focusing on the economic benefit.  Like the survey I wrote about in my earlier post, this one suggests that people on the left are more likely to see education as important for success.  Combined with the results of the Pew survey, it seems that this is not because they think that educational institutions are more effective in teaching job skills, but presumably because they think you can make up for lack of education by other qualities.  (This happens to be something that Piketty speculated about in the talk mentioned in my previous post.)

*The Obama/non-voter difference was reduced and was not statistically significant--there's a lot of uncertainty because the number of reported nonvoters was fairly small.

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