David Brooks: The Character Factory

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Tyndmyr
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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Aug 05, 2014 8:55 pm UTC

Mokele wrote:Show.

Evidence.


The marshmallow studies are evidence. Maybe not as much as you would like, but even the OP cited them. You've not shown any opposing evidence. You're insisting that this is all some strategy to cast blame but...nobody here actually seems to be focused on that but you. Discussing alternative forms of education is not focusing on blame.

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Jave D
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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby Jave D » Wed Aug 06, 2014 6:26 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:And your responding to something I haven't said. Your responding to what you believe character means. A middle class family may be a shrinking part of America but the skills that make them middle class are valuable at any economic strata. Why shouldn't we try to impart those skills to the poor? It won't solve all of the problems but it might solve one or two.


You are making assumptions tying economic class with personal qualities. You're doing it constantly. Even here, you're assuming that people have been made middle class because they have skills the poor don't, namely self control. If only someone were to teach self control to those barbarian poor, they could be civilized like that middle class. You make claims like "Self control is a skill... from doing homework when you come home from school to walking away from unhealthy treats. Most middle class families teach these skills as a matter of course" and "If you can't teach self control then all the rest fails. And if I said this in a middle class living room, people would accuse me of stating the obvious." that have nothing to support them. No facts. They simply repeat your assumptions, that if you were to say these things in a lower class living room, it'd be - what - eye-opening revelations? Or that middle class and above don't eat unhealthy treats, and they do their homework? Bullshit!

You know what else is a skill? Making a persuasive and reasonable argument. Get it.

morriswalters wrote:
Mokele wrote:Time is a huge part of it. How can you do college classes when your job has unpredictable hours and you're called in at a moment's notice? You either skip the class you paid for (possibly getting a lower grade or failing) or refuse to be called in, losing the job that pays for the class (and food, and electricity, and rent). And yes, bosses can and do make such demands, routinely, and will fire you if you refuse to comply. And for many folks, there's childcare, which they need to find for cheap from unreliable sources because daycare costs exorbitant amounts and only opens for certain times. Ever thought to ask why most poor folks don't cook much, even though it saves money over fast food? Because they lack time as well as money.
To put a short end to it these are excuses. And I have made most of them.


These are not excuses, they're reasons. Actual reasons. The refutation-by-handwave doesn't cut it here, not even if you qualify it with yet another reminder that you're so eager to characterize poor as being inferior because that's how you see yourself and projection is a thing.

And before some social justice warrior jumps out of the weeds that doesn't mean abstaining from sex. It means having the self control and responsibility to make certain that you don't have them within the statistical limits of what is possible.


Oh, did the marshmellow test show that people who have higher willpower have fewer children? No? No. So, bullshit!

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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby morriswalters » Wed Aug 06, 2014 11:37 am UTC

Jave D wrote:You are making assumptions tying economic class with personal qualities. You're doing it constantly.
No, I'm not and your righteous indignation means nothing to me. And it certainly isn't an argument. If you are poor, then you will have any number of things that statistically will set you apart from better educated and wealthier members of society. And you will be preyed on by wealtheir menbers of society who understand those things that poverty does, particularly generational poverty. The existence of payday loans and rent to own stores are one indication of this. The prevalence of liquor stores in poor neighbor hoods is another.
Jave D wrote:that have nothing to support them. No facts.
How many links would you like? And of what type?

Behavioral and neural correlates of delay of gratification 40 years later
The ability to resist temptation in favor of long-term goals is an essential component of individual, societal, and economical success.


From the one of UC Berkeley Psychology departments researchers.
In collaboration with Walter Mischel, I also study the developmental precursors and long-term consequences of the ability to delay gratification in children For example, in past work, we have shown that sensitive parenting is an important precursor to the development of this competency in children. Our work has also documented that early delay ability in children predict a wide range of positive outcomes later in life, including better cognitive control in adolescence, and social-cognitive competencies in adulthood. As outlined above, we have also documented that delay of gratification ability serves as buffer against interpersonal vulnerabilities. - See more at: http://psychology.berkeley.edu/people/o ... xceO8.dpuf


How many more would you like? The skill is important. That you conflate my belief with a moral presumption of right or wrong is irrelevant to me.
Jave D wrote:These are not excuses, they're reasons.
They are excuses. Poor people aren't inferior. Poor people in a lot of cases lack skills to make the act of not being poor possible. However when you attempt to have the discussion about how those skills might be taught, well meaning individuals seem more interested in attacking you for hating the poor than for solving the problem.
Jave D wrote:Oh, did the marshmellow test show that people who have higher willpower have fewer children? No? No. So, bullshit!
Is this you idea of a cogent argument? Deferred gratification won't keep you from getting pregnant. But it might help you to resist sex without the benefit of the additional protection supplied by the use of a condom. Both for STD's and pregnancy.

I'll give a succinct example of deferred gratification. You are poor. You want that shiny new tablet. You can save for it, or you can go to the rent to own store. Poor think. I can rent it now and I'll be able to make the payments. Middle class think. I don't currently have the disposable income for a tablet, but I can save for it. The second is a better strategy, even for the poor. The reality is that that owning a tablet is a poor choice for a poor person period. The poor, particularly the generational poor don't in a lot of cases have disposable income. This is an exaggeration for effect, not meant to model reality. But the existence of rent to own stores is telling.

Tyndmyr
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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Aug 06, 2014 12:47 pm UTC

Jave D wrote:
morriswalters wrote:And your responding to something I haven't said. Your responding to what you believe character means. A middle class family may be a shrinking part of America but the skills that make them middle class are valuable at any economic strata. Why shouldn't we try to impart those skills to the poor? It won't solve all of the problems but it might solve one or two.


You are making assumptions tying economic class with personal qualities. You're doing it constantly. Even here, you're assuming that people have been made middle class because they have skills the poor don't, namely self control. If only someone were to teach self control to those barbarian poor, they could be civilized like that middle class. You make claims like "Self control is a skill... from doing homework when you come home from school to walking away from unhealthy treats. Most middle class families teach these skills as a matter of course" and "If you can't teach self control then all the rest fails. And if I said this in a middle class living room, people would accuse me of stating the obvious." that have nothing to support them. No facts. They simply repeat your assumptions, that if you were to say these things in a lower class living room, it'd be - what - eye-opening revelations? Or that middle class and above don't eat unhealthy treats, and they do their homework? Bullshit!

You know what else is a skill? Making a persuasive and reasonable argument. Get it.


Well, it seems likely that poverty is not solely genetic or immutable. If it was, we wouldn't expect to see such variation between different governmental/educational systems. This implies that skills are indeed quite important, and that they can be taught....and that, yes, the poor are intrinsicly little different than say, the middle class, and that having skills is indeed a significant advantage.

"accuse of stating the obvious" is not "eye opening revelations". That's not what he's saying...he's saying this should be obvious, and most people already take it for granted. There is some objective truth to this, in that people have long viewed education as significant for lifting people out of poverty. The only sort of novel concept here is that there is also a divide in skills not traditionally emphasized in schools...and even there, you're not in uncharted territory. It's been brought up before in research, and surely nobody believes our current educational system is perfectly equal in teaching skills.

And before some social justice warrior jumps out of the weeds that doesn't mean abstaining from sex. It means having the self control and responsibility to make certain that you don't have them within the statistical limits of what is possible.


Oh, did the marshmellow test show that people who have higher willpower have fewer children? No? No. So, bullshit!


There's a correlation between poverty and having children, yes. It's fairly strong. Having a bunch of kids young does limit your options. It's a major life decision that SHOULD be well planned out, yes. Morris isn't drifting off into some "abstinence only" la-la land, he's just advocating family planning. That's...not really that weird.

As a source for higher paid people working longer hours, here's one. It's not the graph I was looking for, which was much more illustrative, but it attempts to explain the why, and discusses trends(it's growing stronger), which may be interesting.

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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby leady » Wed Aug 06, 2014 1:15 pm UTC

I've long suspected that the people that who side on "mostly circumstances" vs "mostly choices "(informed or not) are from non-poor circumstances.

Personally I'm a choice person, from a working class background in a poor northern town, but "middle class" value upbringing, now cleariy economically upper middle - so naturally my opinion is somewhat potentially biased.

Geneally I find heavy "circumstances" folks are straight from the liberal middle class (annecdotal I admit)

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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Aug 06, 2014 5:06 pm UTC

leady wrote:I've long suspected that the people that who side on "mostly circumstances" vs "mostly choices "(informed or not) are from non-poor circumstances.

Personally I'm a choice person, from a working class background in a poor northern town, but "middle class" value upbringing, now cleariy economically upper middle - so naturally my opinion is somewhat potentially biased.

Geneally I find heavy "circumstances" folks are straight from the liberal middle class (annecdotal I admit)


Anecdotally, I agree.

Now, obviously, circumstances influence what choices you make. Chain of causality all the way back, o' course. So it's not really about 100% right or wrong between these viewpoints, but how we fix it. And it's really hard to fix "poverty" without, at some point, interacting with and altering the lives of the actual people who are poor. So, for any practical fix, we HAVE to talk about choices. It's not a replacement for doing something, it's an essential part of doing something.

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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby Meteoric » Wed Aug 06, 2014 7:52 pm UTC

I do not currently have time to read the whole thread here, but I feel compelled to drop a couple of links which suggest "self control -> better life outcomes" is an incorrect (or at least incomplete) interpretation of the marshmallow experiment. "Trustworthy authority figures in childhood -> better life outcomes" is another possible component, as is "some third factor -> trusting + better life outcomes".
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Jave D
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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby Jave D » Wed Aug 06, 2014 8:37 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
Jave D wrote:You are making assumptions tying economic class with personal qualities. You're doing it constantly.
No, I'm not and your righteous indignation means nothing to me. And it certainly isn't an argument. If you are poor, then you will have any number of things that statistically will set you apart from better educated and wealthier members of society. And you will be preyed on by wealtheir menbers of society who understand those things that poverty does, particularly generational poverty. The existence of payday loans and rent to own stores are one indication of this. The prevalence of liquor stores in poor neighbor hoods is another.


It's as if you aren't reading a single thing I wrote. You say "No," and then go on a diatribe having nothing to do with it. Brilliant fucking argument.

Jave D wrote:that have nothing to support them. No facts.
How many links would you like? And of what type?

Behavioral and neural correlates of delay of gratification 40 years later
The ability to resist temptation in favor of long-term goals is an essential component of individual, societal, and economical success.


Again, you're responding to literally nothing I've said. Can you read?

From the one of UC Berkeley Psychology departments researchers.
In collaboration with Walter Mischel, I also study the developmental precursors and long-term consequences of the ability to delay gratification in children For example, in past work, we have shown that sensitive parenting is an important precursor to the development of this competency in children. Our work has also documented that early delay ability in children predict a wide range of positive outcomes later in life, including better cognitive control in adolescence, and social-cognitive competencies in adulthood. As outlined above, we have also documented that delay of gratification ability serves as buffer against interpersonal vulnerabilities. - See more at: http://psychology.berkeley.edu/people/o ... xceO8.dpuf


How many more would you like? The skill is important. That you conflate my belief with a moral presumption of right or wrong is irrelevant to me.


You're so keen on emphasizing that the skill of self control is important that you're literally not reading anything I'm actually saying. There's a communications skill gap here, namely that I communicate, and you do not. What a waste of time.

Tyndmyr wrote:"accuse of stating the obvious" is not "eye opening revelations". That's not what he's saying...he's saying this should be obvious, and most people already take it for granted.


He's said that it already *is* obvious - to middle class people. But not to the poor. Because the poor, in addition to being irresponsible child-having excuse-making lazy unskilled people with no self-control, are dumb and need the obvious faults in their character explained to them.

These assumptions are so transparent to him (and to many people, apparently) that they can be made, repeatedly, and when confronted simply ignored because fnord.

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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby leady » Wed Aug 06, 2014 9:01 pm UTC

Meteoric wrote:I do not currently have time to read the whole thread here, but I feel compelled to drop a couple of links which suggest "self control -> better life outcomes" is an incorrect (or at least incomplete) interpretation of the marshmallow experiment. "Trustworthy authority figures in childhood -> better life outcomes" is another possible component, as is "some third factor -> trusting + better life outcomes".


Neither of those links show its incorrect, they merely pose a good hypothesis for why long term bad behaviours are learned. "No shit its the parents" - is my response to said hypothesis.

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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby morriswalters » Wed Aug 06, 2014 9:27 pm UTC

Jave D wrote:It's as if you aren't reading a single thing I wrote. You say "No," and then go on a diatribe having nothing to do with it. Brilliant fucking argument.

So far you haven't written anything much worth reading, other than profanity and insults. I'm certain you know the word fuck and bullshit, but I'm not certain of what else. I asked you a question, what type of data would you have me give you to support my argument?

I'll state my argument more explicitly. Since the middle part of the Twentieth Century we have been attacking poverty with money. It doesn't seem to be working. Poverty is growing. The question is what else can we do besides throw money at the problem? The trait I am talking about isn't a moral characteristic. It appears to be something that can be taught. Much like teaching 1+1=2. I've given examples of the types of behavior that it might help with. This isn't about hating the poor. This is about giving children the best skills that we can give them. If you don't speak to this point then you are wasting your time and mine and this conversation is over
Meteoric wrote:I do not currently have time to read the whole thread here, but I feel compelled to drop a couple of links which suggest "self control -> better life outcomes" is an incorrect (or at least incomplete) interpretation of the marshmallow experiment. "Trustworthy authority figures in childhood -> better life outcomes" is another possible component, as is "some third factor -> trusting + better life outcomes".
The original argument had a component that suggested mentoring. If I had all the answers or I thought the author did I wouldn't need to discuss it. Thanks for the input.

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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby elasto » Thu Aug 07, 2014 1:44 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:I'll state my argument more explicitly. Since the middle part of the Twentieth Century we have been attacking poverty with money. It doesn't seem to be working. Poverty is growing.


Why do you say that? Whether we're talking just about the West or worldwide, people everywhere are materially better off in absolute terms than they've ever been - simply by improvements in technology if nothing else. Yes, there is a growing differential between the richest and poorest in the US in particular, but that's to do with changes in the tax system over the last 50 years, not the poor suddenly losing their ability to make sound life-choices.

And also bear in mind that poverty is a deliberate feature of our financial systems: A low level of unemployment is baked in by design, with full employment considered to have bad implications in terms of inflation and so on. And unemployment and poverty are going to be correlated for obvious reasons. So the figures mentioned in this thread that most people who fall into poverty find their way out is not surprising.

Yes there is not much evidence of people going from pauper to prince within their lifetime, but was that ever really the case? Most of the time it's just a case of people ensuring their children have a better start in life than they did: They were born into poverty but their children have a nice middle-class existence.

Yes we can and should do more to alleviate poverty, including (imo) universal tax-payer funded healthcare, highly subsidized academic and trade education no matter the student's age, a citizen's wage and so on. And yes, the help given to those in generational poverty needs to be different to those newly unemployed. But a flat assertion of 'it doesn't seem to be working' seems unduly pessimistic to me.

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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby Meteoric » Thu Aug 07, 2014 7:15 am UTC

leady wrote:Neither of those links show its incorrect, they merely pose a good hypothesis for why long term bad behaviours are learned. "No shit its the parents" - is my response to said hypothesis.

"It's the parents" is the obvious common-sense response to this, and many related questions. Everybody knows that how your parents raise you is super important and has enormous effects on your personality and attitudes, this is so obvious that it requires no justification. But as far as our research can tell, it's a very minor factor, totally swamped by the effects of nonshared environment (peer group, etc), genetics, and choices/accidents/opportunities/random chance. This is one of the weirdest, most counterintuitive results I've ever seen, but it seems to be fairly robust.

Twin studies consistently find that the effect of "shared environment" (meaning the home) is near-zero for many personality traits, including - relevant to this conversation specifically - the Big Five trait Conscientiousness. Sample reference here, emphasis not mine:
page 74, referring to table 3.2 wrote:The contribution of the rearing environment was statistically significant for all traits except extraversion, but accounted for only 2% to 9% of the total variation. The least important component was parent-child environmental influence: the parameter p [representing parental influence] could be set to zero in all trait models.


More importantly, the article in the OP states
Walter Mischel’s famous marshmallow experiment demonstrated that delayed gratification skills learned by age 4 produce important benefits into adulthood.

This is a defensible interpretation of the experiment, but not the only one. As a headline, "self-control is the key to success" may sound sexier than "growing up surrounded by deadbeats makes your life suck (and, as a mostly-separate effect, makes you less trusting)", but the results don't particularly distinguish the former from the latter. The marshmallow test supports the argument only to the extent that it isn't confounded by something totally unrelated to self-control.

Does this mean some kind of "character-based" public education can or cannot cost-effectively address poverty? Hell if I know. I'm just pointing out that the marshmallow test is a much weaker argument than how it's usually presented.

To the degree self-control is a useful skill, we would hope it's not typically determined by age 4. That would be a very bad sign for the prospect of public education.
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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby leady » Thu Aug 07, 2014 9:20 am UTC

Meteoric wrote:"It's the parents" is the obvious common-sense response to this, and many related questions. Everybody knows that how your parents raise you is super important and has enormous effects on your personality and attitudes, this is so obvious that it requires no justification. But as far as our research can tell, it's a very minor factor, totally swamped by the effects of nonshared environment (peer group, etc), genetics, and choices/accidents/opportunities/random chance. This is one of the weirdest, most counterintuitive results I've ever seen, but it seems to be fairly robust.

Twin studies consistently find that the effect of "shared environment" (meaning the home) is near-zero for many personality traits, including - relevant to this conversation specifically - the Big Five trait Conscientiousness.


Again, im in agreement. I'm aware that its who the parents are rather than strictly what they do that is the dominant factor - but I don't draw a huge difference in the consequences. If your parents raise you well, but actively act anti-intelectual or lazy, thats were you will end up too. Now does this mean that providing alternate influence can negate this I'm unsure - I should point out that I believe in the problem, but I'm far from sold on the solution.

More importantly, the article in the OP states
Walter Mischel’s famous marshmallow experiment demonstrated that delayed gratification skills learned by age 4 produce important benefits into adulthood.

This is a defensible interpretation of the experiment, but not the only one. As a headline, "self-control is the key to success" may sound sexier than "growing up surrounded by deadbeats makes your life suck (and, as a mostly-separate effect, makes you less trusting)", but the results don't particularly distinguish the former from the latter. The marshmallow test supports the argument only to the extent that it isn't confounded by something totally unrelated to self-control.


Again fully agree (this feels wrong), but I think the differential in the two interpretations is moot in drawing conclusions if they are actually different in a meaningful way. Poor deadbeats create poor deadbeats, poor non-deadbeats do not. Either way the self control aspect assuming its isolated in the study (one assumes that they show that poor kids with self control conversely achieve good outcomes etc) is differentiating factor. Giving deadbeats money I'd assume would just perpetuate the cycle, but with more expensive deadbeats and probably an increasing number across the generations (sounds familiar....)

Does this mean some kind of "character-based" public education can or cannot cost-effectively address poverty? Hell if I know. I'm just pointing out that the marshmallow test is a much weaker argument than how it's usually presented.

To the degree self-control is a useful skill, we would hope it's not typically determined by age 4. That would be a very bad sign for the prospect of public education.

[/quote]

The depressing thing is that a lot of studies show exactly that, in that you pretty accurately predict someones life outcome by the age of 4. I believe a lot of the social soft wiring is laid down in that time period, which I suspect is a complete turd to change if you even can.

My view, because I'm a bit of an amoral tool, is that to solve the problem you don't target fixing after the fact, you stop it starting. Yes by that I mean stop deadbeats having kids. Doing this I think will need the religous to quiet down and for people to stop screaming "nazi" at practical solutions such as increased benefits for mandatory contraception before a bigger problem manifests later. :)

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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby morriswalters » Thu Aug 07, 2014 9:44 am UTC

elasto wrote:And also bear in mind that poverty is a deliberate feature of our financial systems: A low level of unemployment is baked in by design, with full employment considered to have bad implications in terms of inflation and so on. And unemployment and poverty are going to be correlated for obvious reasons. So the figures mentioned in this thread that most people who fall into poverty find their way out is not surprising.
Maybe, but I'm not convinced. I think it is an oversimplification to think that the economy is deliberately structured to produce unemployment. And this chart illustrates what I mean when I say the poverty is growing. The rate is effectively flat since Johnson's Great Society, so population growth has increased the absolute number of people in poverty. I'm uncertain if that is a fair read of the data, but lacking anything better I will stand with it.

Image

@Meteoric
Rowe seems to believe you are your genes. I distrust that point of view since it leads me to the thought that the poor are poor because they are genetically inferior. I don't believe that. However I will have to absorb more. That reading may be bias on my part.

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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby Meteoric » Thu Aug 07, 2014 9:50 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:Rowe seems to believe you are your genes. I distrust that point of view since it leads me to the thought that the poor are poor because they are genetically inferior. I don't believe that. However I will have to absorb more. That reading may be bias on my part.

Yeah, I would not go nearly that far either. Chalking everything up to genes when environment is >50% of the variance is... questionable.

Full disclosure: I haven't read his book, it was just the reference I happened to have at hand.
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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby elasto » Thu Aug 07, 2014 11:52 am UTC

Morris: What definition of poverty is being used there? Often such graphs measure relative poverty (eg. how many are below some percentage of median income) in which case obviously people are going to be classed as poor no matter what...

Relative poverty is an important measure to be sure: Societies with big disparities in wealth tend to be unhappier, and those with well-funded social security systems where management don't earn huge amounts more then their employees tend to be much happier, but it's a bit of a red herring to use that measure if the complaint is that we haven't made progress towards eliminating poverty...

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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby morriswalters » Thu Aug 07, 2014 3:35 pm UTC

The chart is from the Wikipedia article on poverty in the US. They say the government uses this definition.
Since the 1960s, the United States government has defined poverty in absolute terms. When the Johnson administration declared "war on poverty" in 1964, it chose an absolute measure. The "absolute poverty line" is the threshold below which families or individuals are considered to be lacking the resources to meet the basic needs for healthy living; having insufficient income to provide the food, shelter and clothing needed to preserve health.
Apart from these changes, the U.S. government's approach to measuring poverty has remained static for the past forty years.
I suppose the credence you give to the numbers depends on the credence you give to the Wikipedia.

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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby leady » Thu Aug 07, 2014 3:49 pm UTC

On a slightly different note - I do wonder whether absolute poverty rates in the US would be a lot lower if they stopped importing poor people (which incidentally the start of which lines up almost exactly with the static plateau of poverty)

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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Aug 07, 2014 5:20 pm UTC

leady wrote:On a slightly different note - I do wonder whether absolute poverty rates in the US would be a lot lower if they stopped importing poor people (which incidentally the start of which lines up almost exactly with the static plateau of poverty)


Probably not. On average, immigrants to the US do better than natives, all other things being equal. It selects for people with long term planning, willing to take risks, etc. They may impact poverty rates when they first arrive, but they tend to improve their lot in life at a good clip. So, at least in this respect, I wouldn't consider immigration to be a problem. You probably could fudge numbers on a short term basis by stopping immigration, but it'd be a bad long term strategy.

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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby johnny_7713 » Fri Aug 08, 2014 7:30 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:
elasto wrote:And also bear in mind that poverty is a deliberate feature of our financial systems: A low level of unemployment is baked in by design, with full employment considered to have bad implications in terms of inflation and so on. And unemployment and poverty are going to be correlated for obvious reasons. So the figures mentioned in this thread that most people who fall into poverty find their way out is not surprising.
Maybe, but I'm not convinced. I think it is an oversimplification to think that the economy is deliberately structured to produce unemployment. And this chart illustrates what I mean when I say the poverty is growing. The rate is effectively flat since Johnson's Great Society, so population growth has increased the absolute number of people in poverty. I'm uncertain if that is a fair read of the data, but lacking anything better I will stand with it.
<snip>

.


Allow me to introduce the concept of non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment (NAIRU). In the US it's slightly different, but in the eurozone the ECB's job is to minimise inflation, and only inflation, and thus it's explicitly part of their job to keep unemployment above NAIRU.

Sure it's not supposed to be unemployment on the scale we're seeing now, but it is very definitely deliberate to keep the unemployment rate above a certain value.

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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby morriswalters » Fri Aug 08, 2014 12:51 pm UTC

Okay. In December of 1980 when the Prime Rate hit a high of 21.5, unemployment was at 7.1 percent and inflation was at 13.5 percent. In 2008 inflation was running at about 5 percent, unemployment around 4.6 percent and a prime rate of 3.25 percent. These were peaks for their eras. Has there been a point where central banks ever sought to actively reduce employment to combat inflation? Perhaps I am misunderstanding something.

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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby johnny_7713 » Fri Aug 08, 2014 2:04 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Okay. In December of 1980 when the Prime Rate hit a high of 21.5, unemployment was at 7.1 percent and inflation was at 13.5 percent. In 2008 inflation was running at about 5 percent, unemployment around 4.6 percent and a prime rate of 3.25 percent. These were peaks for their eras. Has there been a point where central banks ever sought to actively reduce employment to combat inflation? Perhaps I am misunderstanding something.


I must admit I don't know all that much about economics, but the key points of the NAIRU concept as I understand it are: 1) there is some nonzero lower limit of unemployment and if unemployment drops below that, rapid inflation will occur and 2) NAIRU can be reduced by government policy (usually involving such things as removing minimum wages and employment protections). Regardless of the truth of those statements, the prevailing views seem to be that actually having 100% employment would not be a good thing and the focus should be on keeping inflation as low as possible, even if that happens at the cost of increased unemployment.

Some further reading my Google-fu turned up: http://www.boeckler.de/pdf/p_wsi_diskp_095.pdf and http://ineteconomics.org/blog/institute ... and-growth

morriswalters
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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby morriswalters » Fri Aug 08, 2014 2:39 pm UTC

Ok. So that is an argument about competing economic theories. I can't speak to that. I still don't think it is anywhere near that simple. But that is just me being bullheaded I suppose.

Tyndmyr
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Re: David Brooks: The Character Factory

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Aug 08, 2014 4:37 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Ok. So that is an argument about competing economic theories. I can't speak to that. I still don't think it is anywhere near that simple. But that is just me being bullheaded I suppose.


You need a non-zero rate of unemployment, true. For ANY market, labor included, you need some slush between what is available and what is consumed, because markets are imperfect, and people need to be able to get what they need when they need it.

But...that's not exactly the same thing as poverty. If you're off for a few weeks between jobs, no big deal. You probably are not truly poor, if your financial situation was in good shape beforehand. But...that's not how it works for everyone. Some people bounce back and forth between extended periods of unemployment and jobs that are..not great. Listed financial status will vary depending on where they are in that cycle, but this sort of model is not ideal for climbing out of poverty. Periods of unemployment that are lengthy tend to burn through any accumulated gains, for instance.

You gotta have some unemployment, but we can have that minimal amount and still make significant progress on the issue of poverty.


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