Hell in a Handbasket

My mood is black. It could be because the contractor is still working on my kitchen. We’re living in clouds of sanded spackle. Right now, it feels like this situation is permanent, and Rich the Contractor will be living here permanently, like that guy from Murphy Brown.

Or it could because we have an insane clown in the White House.

Recent research about the changes in middle America isn’t making things better.

Teachers’ salaries in places like Oklahoma is horrific, while in my town in New Jersey, the median pay is in the six figures.

MIT economics say that parts of America are comparable to a Third-World Nation.

Middle America is having a hard time adjusting to rapid demographic changes.

African-American boys from wealthy families are less likely to stay wealthy compared to white boys or black girls. My guess is that the careers of the wealthy African American families is a variable that was missed in the analysis. Structural racism can’t explain those stats entirely, because it doesn’t seem to impact girls.

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36 thoughts on “Hell in a Handbasket

  1. “..Teachers’ salaries in places like Oklahoma is horrific, while in my town in New Jersey, the median pay is in the six figures…” For reasons to complicated to discuss at the moment, I was looking at online house listings for Anniston, Alabama the other day and they run under $20,000. Here’s an Oklahoma City house for 114. It’s a snout house, okay, but it’s not the 750 I am used to here.

  2. “Structural racism can’t explain those stats entirely, because it doesn’t seem to impact girls.”

    Not true, because the institutional racism faced by african-american men is different from that faced by african-american women. Most notably, the stereotype is that the men are a threat, by their very existence. They get shot, arrested, and feared facing challenges that are different from women.

    The data set underlying the report is rich.

    http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/

    Another paper that caught my eye was “The fading american dream: trends in absolute mobility since 1940”. The main analysis point: fewer children earn more than their parents did now, than any time since 1940 and, the main reason is not a relative decrease in productivity, but the increased inequality of distribution. The technical summary:

    http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/assets/documents/abs_mobility_summary.pdf

    Yes, all of those things in your list are putting me in a black mood as well (I don’t have a contractor living at the house, but I have lots of things that need to be fixed).

  3. Teachers’ salaries in places like Oklahoma is horrific, while in my town in New Jersey, the median pay is in the six figures.

    The median pay in New Jersey overall, though, is $60,000.

    http://www.teachingdegree.org/new-jersey/salary/

    From the same website, the mean teacher wages in Oklahoma are around $41,000, slightly over the mean wage in selected Oklahoma cities.

    The cost of living in New Jersey is much higher.

    https://www.bestplaces.net/cost-of-living/tulsa-ok/jersey-city-nj/45000

    A salary of $45,000 in Tulsa, Oklahoma should increase to $70,737 in Jersey City, New Jersey.

    So the teacher in Oklahoma making $45,000 is in a better financial situation than the teacher making the median wage in New Jersey.

    Oklahoma has a state pension system funded to 71%. New Jersey has funded its state pension system to 30.9%. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2017-state-pension-funding-ratios/

    Do you think the state of New Jersey will be able to close that funding gap? Or do you think they will either renegotiate obligations or go broke?

    I understand that it may be hard to hold on to teachers who get stars in their eyes from higher salaries in other states. On the other hand, those teachers may not have taken the cost of living, nor the state of the state’s pension fund into consideration.

  4. Some of the discussion of the race/income research I read said that Black women are more likely to be working than white women, and more likely to be working two jobs. So they look like they’re doing ok, but it’s because they are more likely to be breadwinners for their families.

    1. Madeleine said,

      “Some of the discussion of the race/income research I read said that Black women are more likely to be working than white women, and more likely to be working two jobs. So they look like they’re doing ok, but it’s because they are more likely to be breadwinners for their families.”

      I haven’t caught up with the thread yet, so apologies for any duplication, but that could also be contributing to differences between future economic performance between girls and boys from well-off black families, as well as between white and black boys–the boys from wealthy white families are likelier to have a male breadwinner role model, while black girls are also likelier to have a female breadwinner role model in front of them.

  5. I would love it if Laura were willing to elucidate a little more what she means by the careers of wealthy white and black families as a variable. I’m not sure what she is driving at.

    (I realize that Laura doesn’t work for us, so this is only a polite suggestion.)

  6. y81 said,

    “I would love it if Laura were willing to elucidate a little more what she means by the careers of wealthy white and black families as a variable.”

    Well, to give an obvious example, let’s say that dad is a wealthy professional athlete, musician or actor. Would it actually be surprising if his kids weren’t able to replicate that kind of success and income as well as, say, the children of a successful dentist? Success in some fields is just more flukish and unpredictable than in others. Also, success in certain fields may correlate with the presence of mental health issues such as impulsivity or hyperactivity or even hypomania that (given a slight twist of the genetic kaleidoscope) may contribute to downward mobility in adult children.

    With regard to the male/female difference, ADHD is much more prevalent in boys than in girls. Also, there may be more problems with finding a solid peer group for African-American boys than African-American girls. It might not matter how wealthy a black family is if they can’t provide suitable peers for their sons–because that depends on other families. They can’t singlehandedly generate a peer group for their boys.

    Then throw in the fact that males are less average than females and more averse to donkey work and yes–some racism–and VOILA!–you wind up with boys underperforming girls.

    I expect Charles Murray has one or two thoughts on this.

    1. I also wonder if we aren’t comparing geographic apples and oranges.

      Are we comparing a $150k a year black family in Prince George’s County to a $150k a year white family in a much lower cost of living area? The PG family might be much more average than their income suggests, while the white family might be much more exceptional.

      1. From the study “The black-white gap in upward mobility is driven entirely by differences in men’s, not women’s, outcomes. Black and white men have very different outcomes even if they grow up in two-parent families with comparable incomes, education, and wealth; live on the same city block; and attend the same school.”

        And if you click through to the non-technical description “One of the most prominent theories for why black and white children have different outcomes is that black children grow up in different neighborhoods than whites. But, we find large gaps even between black and white men who grow up in families with comparable income in the same Census tract (small geographic areas that contain about 4,250 people on average). Indeed, the disparities persist even among children who grow up on the same block. These results reveal that differences in neighborhood-level resources, such as the quality of schools, cannot explain the intergenerational gaps between black and white boys by themselves.”

      2. What about lifestyle choices, such as what sport to play? Football and basketball are more dangerous than tennis. I can’t find a statistical breakdown for player demographics, but a greater risk of concussions in male contact sports might show up years later: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/29/health/sports-injuries-football-yale.html

        And football is the most popular high school sport. Add in basketball and lacrosse, and that’s about 1.5 million players. http://www.nfhs.org/ParticipationStatics/PDF/2014-15_Participation_Survey_Results.pdf

    2. Is is true that a significantly higher percentage of black UMC families than white are headed by athletes and musicians? That could be true, but I don’t know it. And if that were true, why would the non-heritability of those talents cause sons but not daughters to fail? Anyway, it’s easy to check this hypothesis: do the sons of black doctors and lawyers do as well as the sons of white doctors and lawyers, with the black shortfall due primarily to the children of those with unique talents?

      The preceding considerations, whatever the answers, certainly don’t explain why it would be easier to find suitable peers for female children. And males being less average than females might produce more regression among males, but it should affect all races equally.

      All in all, I see no obvious explanations for these results. I was hoping Laura had a thought that I don’t.

      1. y81 said,

        “The preceding considerations, whatever the answers, certainly don’t explain why it would be easier to find suitable peers for female children. And males being less average than females might produce more regression among males, but it should affect all races equally.”

        I think it is easier to find peers for girls.

        Both my son and daughter have one (1.00) African-American boy in their grade at our very small school. One kid is one-of-a-kind (he wanted to play a fairy queen in a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream) and seems to have found his place among his 6-8 female BFFs, but the younger one has been looking out of sorts for years now. I hope he pulls through (he has an extremely hard-working moderate income mom and just got a new step-dad–which could be good or bad) and he does have friends, but he definitely doesn’t have any peers of the same sex/age/race/socioeconomic group, and not even any of the same sex, age and race. The only other kid of his sex and race is the Fairy Queen kid, which is presumably not the younger kid’s cup of tea. (It’s a 200 kid junior/senior high school.)

        I suspect that while any particular factor obviously doesn’t explain it, throw together several, and you start getting closer to an explanation.

        Also, girls find it easier to deal with authority figures.

        I also have to throw in that black couples have a very high divorce rate compared to other races. I haven’t been able to locate the impact of income on the divorce rate (which should be important), but I’m just putting that out there and I’m starting to wonder if step-parent/blended family situations may be depressing parenting outcomes even for higher income families.

      2. I should have mentioned that I was telling the school stories in order to demonstrate how scarce male African American peers might be in an upper middle class environment.

      3. AmyP, I am not convinced that ADHD is a long-run disadvantage. It is not a benefit in the classroom, certainly–but school is (thank God!) not the whole of life. The traits of:

        impulsiveness
        hyperactivity
        inattention
        hyperfocus (but not on schoolwork)

        Become, in the adult world,

        decisiveness
        energy
        creativity
        hyperfocus

        https://www.fastcompany.com/40431610/this-scientist-is-studying-how-adhd-helps-drive-some-entrepreneurs

        I’m starting to see peers of my kids reach adulthood. Despite the marketing by drug companies that “your child is doomed without drugs,” some of the ADHD boys are doing better than their “normal” peers. I’ve also met some very successful people who credit their ADHD for their success. Finding the right field (one you like!) and harnessing its advantages are key, of course.

        But no one inflicts the terror of the classroom (sit still, don’t talk, do busywork, no choice in topics, ritual, public ranking of results, everything is totally structured) on adults. Even if adults do continue education by taking courses, it’s not mandatory, and usually not the whole day.

      4. Cranberry said,

        “AmyP, I am not convinced that ADHD is a long-run disadvantage.”

        It may contribute to different outcomes for black and white men if school behaviors are seen differently because of race, or if ADHD kids of different races get different support from families.

        https://www.additudemag.com/race-and-adhd-how-people-of-color-get-left-behind/

        “Evidence shows that people of color — black and Latino in particular — are much less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, even though they show symptoms at the same rate as white people. And if they are diagnosed, they aren’t as likely to receive treatment — even though many studies show that it can dramatically help kids and adults manage symptoms.”

        “CDC data from 2011 to 2013 puts the rate of ADHD in childhood at 9.5 percent — a number that is sustained by white children, who are diagnosed at a rate (11.5 percent) that is significantly higher than that of their African American and Latino counterparts (8.9 and 6.3 percent, respectively).”

        “Morgan conducted a well-regarded 2013 study that looked at more than 17,000 U.S. children. By the time the study’s subjects reached eighth grade, African American children were 69 percent less likely — and Latino children 50 percent less likely — to receive an ADHD diagnosis than their white counterparts. A follow-up study, in 2014, found that the disparity actually started earlier: Before they even entered kindergarten, African American children were 70 percent less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than white children.”

        “Published in September 2016 in Pediatrics, it found that black children in the sample population showed symptoms of ADHD at a significantly higher rate than white children, but were diagnosed much less often.”

        ” The 2016 study found that, once diagnosed, children of color were much less likely to take medication. Just 36 percent of black kids and 30 percent of Latino kids who had been diagnosed with ADHD were taking medication, compared to 65 percent of white children. The 2013 study found similar results.”

        !!!

        Cort said, ““Mental health professionals’ misdiagnosis of minorities directly and indirectly contributes to racial and ethnic minorities being disproportionately represented in the criminal and juvenile justice system,” she said. She calls it the “misdiagnosis-to-prison pipeline.””

        “When teachers see ADHD behaviors — particularly those involving impulse control — without attributing them to a neurological cause, they often interpret them as defiance. Kids who are viewed as defiant or violent are labeled, said Cort — even if they’re not accurately labeled with ADHD.”

        ““He’s going to be labeled as a ‘bad kid’ who is going to get suspended, and probably going to get expelled,” she said. “And being suspended once or twice is highly associated with becoming involved in the juvenile justice system.” Studies have estimated that up to 40 percent of inmates in the U.S. have ADHD — a rate that dwarfs that of the general population.”

  7. I wonder if incarceration rates play a role in the data/conclusions? (at least as part of the gender difference?) https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/rates.html

    Also, in my observation, black women are likely to be working multiple jobs and being the “head of household” by necessity. (But I can’t point to data to back that up.)

    The whole thing is very depressing. There are so many structural obstacles – from housing to education to racial profiling (by police and everyone else in charge.)

  8. On a lighter note, Laura’s kitchen tale of woe is why I have left a hole in my kitchen ceiling (after some plumbing work) for the last three years. I got a bid, and it turned out my century-old house has a dreadful kind of wire mesh ceiling that it will take a while to root out and replace. Every time I think about fixing it, I think of the two-turns-into-four-turns-into-eight-week loss of kitchen and massive dust everywhere, and decide a big hole isn’t so bad.

    1. Doing plaster right takes that kind of work, but a good sheetrock guy should be able to put in a patch which is not obvious, can be painted, and will be good for decades. And for maybe couple hundred dollars.

    2. Me too! although I think our hole is only a year old. Our house isn’t that old, so I think it wouldn’t be that hard to fix. But, we are so terrible at this kind of thing.

      A friend is involved with a startup that promises to be your “personal assistant” supervising the fixing of such things. I’m thinking of looking into it. Because, I’ve thought, why can’t I get the kind of help that you get when you are selling your house, but before you sell the house so you can actually enjoy it?

  9. “sit still, don’t talk, do busywork, no choice in topics, ritual, public ranking of results, everything is totally structured”

    You know, my kids’ K-8 does none of those things. They let the kids move, let them talk, don’t take them do busy work, alter classwork to follow the interests of the class, don’t have grades, and everything is pretty unstructured. I don’t know what ritual means. Makes me think I have a worthwhile role to play in the world in helping it stay vibrant and strong (and remain what it is).

    But, I’m against romanticizing ADHD — a notable aspect of the medication, if it is used right, is to let the kids do what they want to do. I remember that dramatically, in the first presentation I saw about ADHD & stimulant medication, that the kids were able to focus better in every class, including the ones that required movement. There might be kids who are being medicated into compliance, but there are others who want to participate, but can’t without the benefit of the medications.

    1. I’m not romanticizing it. It is wrong, however, to see it as an automatic burden. The same holds true for dyslexia, which has a noted connection with entrepreneurship.

    2. I agree with bj’s point. Little Miss Y81 was much happier once she started taking ADHD medication. First of all, her grades improved, which enhanced her social standing. (She went to a very academically competitive all girls school, so that consideration might not apply to everyone.) More personally and internally, it helped her learn and do the things she wanted to learn and do. Before, she often regretted not being able to control her behavior; after, she felt like she was more in control of herself.

      1. Our number two had been sent to the principal for fighting three times in the month before he started taking ADHD meds, and several times before that. In the two years following, he was sent up once. It was like night and day for him. A far happier kid – and far happier parents!

      2. dave s. said,

        “Our number two had been sent to the principal for fighting three times in the month before he started taking ADHD meds, and several times before that. In the two years following, he was sent up once. It was like night and day for him. A far happier kid – and far happier parents!”

        YAY!

      3. dave s.,

        Come to think of it, what happens when an ADHD kid like your kid who is in trouble for getting into fights is a) male b) a racial minority and c) not appropriately medicated.

        Combine those four elements, and downward mobility is very, very likely.

      4. Come to think of it, I talked to the mom of my daughter’s one black male classmate a few years back. He has ADHD and was previously (up until 5th or 6th grade?) in public school, but he was falling through the cracks academically and nobody at school seemed to notice or care. His parents (dad with very good job and SAHM mom) pulled him out of public school and he’s been at our kids’ small private school since then.

      5. ADHD is somewhere from 5-9% of the population. I haven’t found any reliable breakdown of the relative incidence of ADHD in different groups. Even so, around 10% of the male population isn’t a large enough group to explain the different adult outcomes across entire groups.

        The non-technical summary is worth reading. It notes: Black men who move to better areas such as those with low poverty rates, low racial bias, and higher father presence earlier in their childhood have higher incomes and lower rates of incarceration as adults.
        .
        These findings show that environmental conditions during childhood have causal effects on racial disparities, demonstrating that the black white income gap is not immutable.

        http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/assets/documents/race_summary.pdf

  10. Both of my kids are on ADHD medicine. Ian has been on it for years. He takes half the dose that the doctor prescribes, which seems to do the trick. He does well in school with his classwork. When we take him off the medicine on weekends, vacation breaks, summertime, at first he is grouchy, because there’s a withdrawal effect and then he grows like crazy. It must inhibit growth.

    Jonah demanded that I take him to the doctor for ADHD when he was a junior in high school and she gave him some low dose medicine. I’m on the fence about it. He’s a borderline case. He says that he has gotten ADHD from technology usage (thank you, AP Psychology), and the medicine helps him. I would prefer that he didn’t drug himself up, but didn’t want to discount his feelings on this one.

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