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January 23, 2006

Where have I been?

Michael Mandel

I apologize for the lack of entries here--I've been working on a big story that has taken all of my attention. I've been reading the comments though--so if there are any topics which are on your mind, let me know.

07:43 AM

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Mike,

What is your take on the demographics affecting a nations economy. Europe and USA are getting older whereas Asia is relatively young.

Is that going to make a big difference ?

Posted by: Anon at January 23, 2006 01:59 PM

Hi...

Actually, the aging situation may be worse in Japan, China, and Europe than in the U.S. According to the United Nations, here's the median age in 2050:

Europe 47.1

Japan 52.3

China 44.8

U.S. 41.1

Posted by: Mike Mandel at January 23, 2006 02:42 PM

The US can always open the spigot of more immigration and bring in more Asians and Hispanics, both of which produce children.

Europe does not have this choice. They can only bring in Arabs, which, despite producing children, cause all sorts of other problems...

Posted by: Kartik at January 23, 2006 02:56 PM

Thanks Mike and Karthik.

My actual question is .. are these demographic stats a matter of worry ? Suppose if EU has median age of 48 against USA's 42 by 2050, is it a worry for EU ?

Has there been a quatifiable research that is carried out on demographics vs productivity or economic growth ?

Posted by: Anon at January 23, 2006 06:19 PM

The median age of our population (or that of any other nation) is really irrelevant at this time. America's real problem is our complete failure of education. Recent statistics show that Europe is graduating 2.25x as many science and math majors as the United States from their colleges; Asia is graduating over 3x as many as us. Even among college students, 20% are graduating without the ability to read a magazine article and understand what is being said.

In the meantime, the Republican Congress has cut $13 billion from higher education funding in the latest budget and cut billions from the national foundations established to support scientific research in the United States. Apparently, Republicans like the idea of uneducated masses; those are the people that get them elected. But more than that, they are driving us toward a greater and greater income divide. The notion of nobility owning the nation and peasants "working the fields" really isn't too far-fetched. But then... who am I to complain? These are the people the uneducated masses have elected and we are, after all, a democratic nation. Being peasants is the will of the people (assuming, of course, they actually understand what they're doing with their vote).

Having completed my rant, I'll wrap up. If we are going to compete in a global "free market" then we have to double the number of math and science majors we are graduating (at least), increase the quality of education we're providing at both the secondary and tertiary levels, find a way to ensure that anyone and everyone can attain a college education, and increase science funding nationally. If we don't, we soon will not have much of a middle class, we won't have high incomes, and the United States will no longer be a place of opportunity. In the meantime, my advice to everyone I meet is this: If you're not an engineer, you had better own some desirable intellectual property or become a member of the "noble" investment class. Own Mickey Mouse or or own a business asset that generates income so you can own the peasants.

Posted by: Brandon at January 24, 2006 09:06 AM

Brandon: Nice rant, I agree. :)

Anon: Well, I imagine that younger people are quicker to adapt structural change in the economy, they're probably also more willing to re-train than an older population.

I think what Anon is asking is if there are studies that would confirm/deny this...

Posted by: Andrey at January 24, 2006 10:10 AM

Is education really failing? I ask that seriously. Japan and Europe have always graduated a lot more engineers than the U.S. The question is whether these countries have an organizational structure which encourages and supports creativity and innovation.

Moreover, if I look at the international reading scores (http://nces.ed.gov/programs/youthindicators/Indicators.asp?PubPageNumber=14) the U.S. does pretty well.

It may be time for an item on education.

Posted by: Mike Mandel at January 25, 2006 04:02 PM

Brandon:

It's a shame that you ruin a good argument with baseless, pointless attacks on the Republican party.

You can lead a horse to water but cannot force it to drink. For anyone who really wants an education, there are numerous loans, grants, and scholarships available. I paid for my college 100% with student loans (Sub & Unsub). I could have been happy working for Mega-Lo-Mart and based on the college graduation rates (~30%), it appears that many are.

It's also a taboo subject but if everyone was college educated there would be few to fill the lower end service sector jobs. I believe that there is an unspoken caste system that starts early in grade school. Top performers are rewarded and steered into colleges and professional careers while others are groomed for jobs as auto mechanics and hotel workers. Vo-Tech programs in high schools are a prime example. I spent my senior year in H.S. in a votech program. It was a complete waste of time but I was burned out and wanted to get out of school early. I'm pretty sure I was the only one in the class to end up at college. I also wasted a year when I should have been taking classes in Economics or Math.

It's really a lesson in personal restraint and delayed gratification. Buy the new car now (at 18) and work to pay for it at the expense of college or go to school and buy 10 new cars in 10 years. You choose. We all have a choice.

Posted by: Wes at January 26, 2006 03:21 PM

Wes...

Don't worry, I think the Democrats have their heads up their rear-ends too. It's just that the Republicans are the ones running the entire government right now. When you're in charge you have to take responsibility for the stupidity.

Posted by: Brandon at January 26, 2006 04:19 PM


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