Bullying and Depression

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A new study from researchers at the University of Delaware shows links between victimization and depression, and subsequent smoking and alcohol abuse.

The study involved 4,297 students from Birmingham, Houston and Los Angeles, following their journeys from 5th through 10th grade.

The findings: Children who were bullied in 5th grade are more likely to show symptoms of depression in 7th grade and to be users of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana by 10th grade. It seems to be a simple and direct causal relationship, and shows that victimization as a child has lasting impact.

My read of the article is that while bullying has to stop, victims need help. Victims may be reluctant to identify themselves. Parents and caregivers need to practice active surveillance, and not assume that all is well. Assumptions can kill.


Sources:

  1. Valerie A. Earnshaw, Marc N. Elliott, Sari L. Reisner, Sylvie Mrug, Michael Windle, Susan Tortolero Emery, Melissa F. Peskin, Mark A. Schuster. Peer Victimization, Depressive Symptoms, and Substance Use: A Longitudinal Analysis. Pediatrics, 2017
  2. University of Delaware. “Bullying’s lasting impact: Peer victimization in fifth grade increases health risks a few years after the incidents.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 May 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170508144650.htm>

 

 

 

Your Health: The Right to Life?

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The US was founded on the promise of “the Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of ben_franklinHappiness” in Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.

From the start, the relationship between the country and this promise has been at best inconsistent and sometimes ironic. After all, the principal writer of the Declaration, Jefferson, was a slave-owner.  So for whom was this promise made? Everyone? Or the wealthy, the planters, the slave-owners and the merchants? (Remember, there were no factories — that was before the industrial revolution.)

The inconsistency continues to this day.

We have groups concerned with whether babies or born, but not with what happens to them after they are born. How long do they live? What’s their quality of life? As Ed Cara notes, in some areas of the US, children will now have shorter lives than their parents. (2)

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association talks about discrepancies in life expectancy. I’ve blogged about this before, but it’s nice to see authoritative sources recognizing the issue.

The new statistical analysis shows that there is a difference in life expectancy of up to 20 years based on the county in which you live. In this analysis, the issues affecting life expectancy are

  • Income and poverty
    • The wealthy live longer
  • Race/ethnicity
    • Both Native Americans and African Americans have a shorter life expectancy
  • Regular exercise
    • Those who do live longer
  • Obesity, Diabetes and Hypertension
    • Shorten life expectancy
  • Education
    • Each level completed adds to life expectancy
  • Quality of health care
    • Higher quality is associated with living longer
  • Having health insurance
    • Having health insurance promotes longer life
  • Access to physicians
    • Having more physicians in an area helps

These factors translate into differences in life expectancy in the US based on where one lives:

  • Residents of central Colorado, coastal California and the New York Metro area live longer
  • Residents of eastern Kentucky and much of the Old South, especially along the lower Mississippi River, have a shorter life expectancy
    • The Old South in this case includes Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia (outside of Atlanta), Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee (outside of Nashville)
    • The two metro areas, Nashville and Atlanta, offer much better life expectancy than the rest of their states

The states with the lowest life expectancy are those with the lowest spending on public health and health education.

One limitation of this study is that the analysis is at a county level, and there is only selected data available at that level regarding health. In particular, suicide is now one of the top 10 causes of death in the US. Suicide isn’t reported accurately or consistently, and there is limited data available on the causes of suicide.

A second limitation is the inter-relationships between some of the factors measured. For example, wealth is associated with having health insurance, with less use of cigarettes, and with living in an area with better access to medical professionals. By breaking the analysis into this much detail, does the report understate the role of wealth in life expectancy?

By the way, I use the image of Ben Franklin on some of these posts for the following reasons:

  • His brilliance
  • His common sense
  • His skill at negotiation
  • And among the Founding Fathers of the US, he became a profound opponent to slavery

Sources:

  1. Laura Dywer-Lindgren, et. al., “Inequalities in Life Expectancy Among US Counties,1980 to 2014,” JAMA Intern Med. Published online May 8, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.0918. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2626194
  2. Ed Cara, “Kids Will Die Younger than Their Parents in Some Parts of the US,” Vocativ. 9 May 2017. https://www.aol.com/article/news/2017/05/09/kids-will-die-younger-than-their-parents-in-some-parts-of-us/22077174/

 

 

Universities and International Students

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The world is complex. One of the problems in making public policy is that for every action, there is a reaction that isn’t anticipated and usually isn’t desired.

Rules about immigration and visas are a case in point.

International students have formed a core resource for many smaller, private colleges in the US as well as for graduate programs at larger universities.  That core is eroding, leaving the future of some schools and programs in doubt. (7)

Education isn’t factored into the US balance of payments, but it should be. It’s been a major source of funds for the US economy. Students from elite families in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia don’t get financial aide at US schools. Instead they pay full freight, bringing hard cash into the US economy. Overall, more than 85% of all college students in the US receive financial aid, as compared with 20% of international students studying in the US. (2,)

In 2015, there were over 1 million foreign students in US colleges and university, accounting for 5% of the total student population. The top schools for hosting international students (undergrad and graduate) were

  • NYU
  • USC
  • Columbia
  • Arizona State
  • Univ. of Illinois
  • Northeastern (3)

The top schools in terms of the percent of undergraduate enrollment from outside the US are

  • Florida Institute of Technology (32.9% from outside the US)
  • New School (31.7%)
  • Illinois Institute of Technology (29.8%)
  • Univ of Oklahoma (26.7%)
  • Lynne Univ (23.0%)
  • Carnegie Mellon Univ (20.9%)

While domestic applications for graduate school have declined over the last 10 years, until very recently, growth in international applications had increased. In 2015, 2/3 of the applicants for graduate programs at Cornell were international students.

The US is experiencing a troubling drop-off in applications from international students for graduate and professional degrees at US universities. The slowdown started in 2015, and may have been exacerbated by election campaign rhetoric and travel bans.

Demand for MBA degrees started to slide domestically almost a decade ago. Schools changed their product offerings — basically reinventing themselves — to survive financially. (8) As tuition and fees have soared, fewer Americans could afford or found adequate value in these degrees. Online courses created new options. They weren’t necessarily better than traditional classroom instruction, but they were (and remain) cheaper.

Like many smaller private colleges, some MBA programs turned to foreign students to fill enrollment gaps left by the flagging demand in the US. In the example of the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School,

The school recruited in more than a dozen countries last year, holding events in Buenos Aires, Cairo, Taipei, and Istanbul, among other cities. The efforts reflect the school’s “very strong commitment to global diversity within its student body,” says Rebekah Lewin, assistant dean of admissions and financial aid at Simon, where about half of the 98 full-time MBA students in the class of 2017 are from overseas. (6)

However, the international market for the US MBA is now easing. In 2014, 60% of MBA programs saw growing applications from overseas. That fell to 39% in 2015, and to 31% in 2016.

STEM programs rely on international students, and there has been a worrying drop in applications. (5)

  • UMass has seen a 30% drop in international applications for electrical and computer graduate programs this year.
  • Vanderbilt has seen an 18% drop in international student applications for its graduate engineering school.

A decline in international students will affect universities financially. As noted in the Science article,

Such declines could have a major impact on a university’s bottom line, although calculating its magnitude is not straightforward. The federal government heavily subsidizes graduate education in the sciences and engineering, so most doctoral students don’t have to worry about tuition bills. But universities generate considerable revenue from professional master’s degree programs, a subset of all master’s training. And in those programs, international students at public universities pay tuition rates that are much higher than for in-state students. (5)

So, one of the unintended consequences of the current anti-immigrant hoopla may be a hit on the value of the US dollar as well as a weakening of higher education in the US. Whether we see a demand for taxpayer bailouts, or we see programs and schools simply close, remains to be discovered.

That  makes the decision by New York State to make college free to residents earning less than $125,000 per year triply smart:

  • The action alleviates pressure on schools from declining overseas applicants;
  • It provides a major incentive for the workforce to stay in the state;
  • It frees up money that consumers can use to fuel the local economy.

Sources:

  1. Reem Heakel, “What Is the Balance of Payments?” Investopedia, 19 April 2017. http://www.investopedia.com/articles/03/060403.asp
  2. National Center for Education Statistics, “Fast Facts.” https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=31
  3. Laura McKenna, “The Globalization of America’s Colleges,” The Atlantic, 18 November 2015. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/11/globalization-american-higher-ed/416502/
  4. Caroline Howard, “50 Best Colleges for International Students 2016,” Forbes, 28 Sept. 2016. https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinehoward/2016/09/28/50-best-u-s-colleges-for-international-students-2016/#5a21f1137566
  5. Jeffrey Mervis, “Drop in foreign applications worries US engineering schools,” Science, 14 February 2017. http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/02/drop-foreign-applicants-worries-us-engineering-schools
  6. Nick Lieber, “The Selling of the American MBA,” Bloomberg, 26 March 2016. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-03-18/the-selling-of-the-american-mba
  7. Stephanie Saul, “Amid ‘Trump Effect’ Fear, 40% of Colleges See Dip in Foreign Applicants,” 16 March 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/16/us/international-students-us-colleges-trump.html?_r=0
  8. Sherrie Negrea, “The new business of b-schools,” University Business, 22 January 2016. https://www.universitybusiness.com/article/new-business-b-schools
  9. Ferran Powell, “10 Universities That Attract the Most International Students,” US News and World Reports, 5 July 2016. https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2016-07-05/10-universities-that-attract-the-most-international-students

 

Equality of Education; Inequality of Teacher Pay

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In theory, the quality of teacher impacts the quality of education students receive. In the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision in 1954, the USSC rejected the argument that students in unequal schools could receive equal education. However, if teachers are important, then how do we reconcile the Court’s decision with these findings:

  • There’s a huge disparity in teacher pay between school systems. Affluent districts pay much higher salaries than others.
  • Charter schools, which are supposed to be the road to improve education, pay much lower salaries than most public school districts.

New Jersey treats teachers as public employees, and their salaries are public information. Without going into detail on all 650 public school districts and charter schools in the state (available at reference 1 below), here’s the outlines of the situation:

  • The median salary in 2016 for a school teacher in NJ was $66,117 per year.
  • Northern Valley Regional district in affluent Bergen County paid the most, with a median salary of $105,650.
  • Teachers in the Edison Township school district in Middlesex County had a median salary of $95,432.
  • At the other end, Milford Township in Hunterdon County had a median salary of $48,007.

New Jersey just isn’t that large geographically. The cost of living is relatively uniform across the state.

Many/most of the charter schools are worse: for example the Jersey City Global and Red Bank charter schools both have median salaries of $42,000. Of course, the charter schools haven’t been around as long. We could expect salaries to increase with teacher seniority. However, the need to generate profits at many of these schools may restrict what goes into the classroom.

If you were a capable teacher, where would you want to teach? Where would you expect the best teachers to go? How does this reconcile with equality of educational opportunity?

By comparison, NJ is one of the best-paying states for teachers in the US. The only states that pay as much or more are Alaska, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Massachusetts and New York. Maryland pay is lower than NJ, but close. (2) Conversely, South Dakota and Mississippi are at the low end of teacher pay, paying less than 65% of what New Jersey pays.

Again, where would the best go?


Sources:

  1. Tom Davis, “NJ Median Teacher Salaries, Highest To Lowest: How Much Does Your District Pay?” NJ Patch, 24 April 2017. https://patch.com/new-jersey/princeton/s/g3o6z/n-j-median-teacher-salaries-highest-to-lowest-how-much-does-your-district-pay?utm_source=alert-breakingnews&utm_medium=email&utm_term=weather&utm_campaign=alert
  2. National Center for Education Statistics, 2013. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_211.60.asp

Politicians Take Care of Themselves

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This is either sad or funny.

24/7WallStreet ranked counties in the US on a combination of three measures:

  • Education (economic status of residents)
  • Poverty rate (how the local economy is doing)
  • Life expectancy (a measure of health and medical services)

The top 5 counties in the US (and 7 of the top 10) on these measures are suburbs of Washington, DC, where Congress lives.

  1. Falls Church (Independent City), VA ————————————- (DC metro)
  2. Arlington County, VA ———————————————————– (DC metro)
  3. Fairfax County, VA ————————————————————— (DC metro)
  4. Loudoun County, VA ————————————————————- (DC metro)
  5. Howard County, MD ————————————————————- (suburb of both DC and Baltimore; location of Columbia, MD)
  6. Douglas County, CO (part of Denver metro area)
  7. Los Alamos, NM (Federal nuclear research center)
  8. Fairfax (Independent City), VA ———————————————- (DC metro)
  9. Marin County, CA
  10. Alexandria (Independent City), VA —————————————- (DC metro)

Surprised?

Conversely, the worst counties in which to live are

  1. McDowell County, WV
  2. East Carroll Parish, LA
  3. Issaquena County, MS
  4. McCreary County, KY
  5. Clay County, KY
  6. Holmes County, MS
  7. Quitman County, MS
  8. Jefferson County, MS
  9. Calhoun County, GA
  10. Stewart County, GA

Given what I’ve posted recently on education and healthcare in the South, this list shouldn’t come as a surprise either.


Sources:

  1. http://247wallst.com/special-report/2017/01/13/the-worst-counties-to-live-in/
  2. http://247wallst.com/special-report/2017/01/24/the-best-counties-to-live-in/?utm_source=AOL&utm_medium=CPC&utm_content=the-best-counties-to-live-in&utm_campaign=AOL

Free College Tuition: a new reality in USA

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Free college tuition — it’s back!martin-luther-king-anger-quote1

There has been a continuing debate as to whether college education is a privilege or a right of citizenship. In an age in which demand for unskilled labor is fading, will people without college be employable in 10 or 20 years?

The US has taken one position on this; Europe and the Commonwealth countries, the opposite. Today, it’s possible for a US family to put four children through college in Europe at the price of sending one to college in the US. For Europeans in several countries, college is free.

In the “golden age” of the US economy after World War II, college was either free or very inexpensive in the US. When I was in high school, City College of New York and the University of California still were free to residents.  Ronald Reagan eliminated free tuition in California.  New York was earlier.

On February 7th, San Francisco because the first city in the current era to offer free community college education.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced at a press conference yesterday that, starting next fall, community college will be tuition-free for all San Francisco residents through the City College of San Francisco.

As first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco would become the first city in the nation to make community college free to all city residents. Any student who has lived in San Francisco for at least one year – regardless of income – is eligible.

“To California residents who are living in San Francisco, your community college is now free,” Lee said at the press conference. (1)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a plan in January to make all state, city and community colleges free to residents. There is now a bi-partisan budget deal to make that a reality.

Budget negotiators struck a deal late Friday that could make New York the largest state to offer tuition-free public higher education.

The $163 billion state budget agreement includes the Excelsior Scholarship, which covers tuition for any New Yorker accepted to one of the state’s community colleges or four-year universities, provided their family earns less than $125,000 a year. (2)

Interesting question: Why would you want to live in an expensive state like New Jersey when your kids can attend college for free next door? Or leave San Francisco for anywhere?

 


Sources:

  1. Zack Friedman, “Free College: San Francisco Joins New York With Tuition-Free Plan,” Forbes, 7 Feb. 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2017/02/07/free-college-san-francisco/#590c8b482bb6
  2. Danielle Douglas-Gabrielle, “New York set to become first state to offer free tuition at public four-year colleges,” The Washington Post, 8 April 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/new-york-to-become-the-largest-state-to-offer-tuition-free-public-higher-education/2017/04/08/3fe0563a-1c8b-11e7-9887-1a5314b56a08_story.html?tid=sm_tw&utm_term=.e16eea88beb6

 

Pavement versus Healthcare?

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Featured Image -- 6277Is this just a statistical oddity, or an example of how politicians use spending to deceive the voters?  The states that offer the best quality of life have poor roads.  The states with the best roads are the worst in which to live.

24/7WallStreet is a blog that publishes rankings of cities and states on various topics.  I’ve used them in several of my posts.  Today they had a new one ranking states son quality of road infrastructure. I’ve mentioned their rankings of states on healthcare  and as “best places to live” previously.

The seeming paradox is that the states ranked highest for roads are ranked lowest for healthcare, and vice versa.  For example,

  • Tennessee ranks #3 for best roads and #43 on best places to live.
  • Kentucky ranks #4 on roads and #46 on best places to live.
  • Idaho ranks #1 on roads and #29 on best places to live.
  • New Jersey ranks #5 on best places to live and #49 on roads.
  • Connecticut ranks #2 on best places to live and #48 on roads.
  • Massachusetts in #1 on best places to live and #41 on roads.

The ranking for best places to live considers poverty, educational attainment and life expectancy.  The ranking on roads is based on data from the Federal Highway Administration.

So, do people in places like Kentucky actually prefer pavement to healthcare and education?  Or do politicians use roads to distract people from the areas they are neglecting?

What do you think?


Sources:

  1. http://247wallst.com/special-report/2016/10/21/states-with-the-worst-roads/10/
    In my post, I talk about ranking on having the best roads, which simply means reversing the ranking used in this article.  Being ranked 47th on worst roads is the same as being 3rd on best roads.
  2. http://247wallst.com/special-report/2016/11/29/americas-best-states-to-live-in/