Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Death to the apples-to-oranges comparison!

What induced the look at the "education pays" numbers, was this interesting comment from a English professor at George Mason University begging Garrison Keillor to stop his English major jokes (and commented on by the excellent blog Liberal Arts Chemistry*):
Another study by the same center paints a similar picture with respect to unemployment. In this study, the average unemployment rate for recent B.A. holders (ages 22-26) over the years 2009-10 was 8.9 percent; for English it was 9.2 percent. Both rates are higher than we would wish, but their marginal difference is dwarfed by that between the average for holders of the B.A. and that of high school graduates, whose unemployment rate during the same period was 22.9 percent (also too high). 
Perhaps I am dense, but I don't understand why professors are so intent on relying on the "well, ya gotta degree" excuse. It just seems like comparing apples to oranges.

Professor Matz is so determined to rely on that excuse that he does not find the 0.3% higher difference between English majors and all majors to be worthy of comment. I would think that the question for him to answer is "which degree should I get?" and "why should I get an English degree?"

[Incidentally, I agree with the commenter who suggests that we suggest that Mr. Keillor refrain from singing. As a longtime on-and-off listener of A Prairie Home Companion, I could not agree more.] 

*UPDATE: I am completely remiss in not noting yesterday that it was Liberal Arts Chemist who posted on this first, and that inspired my post. 


  1. Trying to think up a chemistry equivalent as clever as "Professional Organization of English Majors".

    I don';t know that it's possible.

  2. I have an English degree actually. The main courses were full of coasters, but the honors classes and seminars were really good and the students there were all pretty sharp. The English degree teaches you ultimately how to think better and about the motivations of people around you, as well as giving you an appreciation for other modes of thinking. It could conceivably serve you very well, without you even being aware of it.

    Of course, I decided to go into chemistry instead because I thought it was a useless at the time.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20