2012 February 20 Monday
Heartiste: Repeal Griggs To Destroy Education Racket

Heartiste argues that repeal of the US Supreme Court decision Griggs v. Duke Power Company would destroy the education racket.

College degrees are very expensive and time-consuming proxies for intelligence measurement. If you are smart enough to get into Harvard (with really g-loaded SATs to help qualify) then you are smart enough to work at a company that needs high cognitive ability. Ditto the rest of the Ivy League and other schools with high entrance requirements. If you graduate at the top of your class at a less selective school again you have demonstrated higher cognitive ability. But we can't afford this increasingly expensive but politically correct way of measuring intelligence.

Some of the commenters argued that it wasn't the Griggs decision so much as US government subsidies of higher education (student loans and tuition grants) that caused the higher prices. Chuck Rudd of Gucci Little Piggy responded that Griggs created the conditions under which people would be motivated to use the government subsidies that further helped drive up the costs of college.

It’s all tied in together. Griggs set the table for college degrees to become worth so much to employers making hiring decisions. It became their only metric for sifting through piles of applications. We’re no longer choosing for IQ or mental ability per se; we’re now choosing for something that indicates IQ or mental ability (loosely) and universities can make money off of it.

Government enters the fray – distorting the market – and creating a bubble where colleges and unis have no natural curb to the prices they charge their customers. They know they can charge X amount and that the government will ratchet up student aid and subsidize enough loans to ensure that they get paid.

So Griggs doesn’t directly cause this, but it immediately distorts the market and everything else falls to shit from there.

The same (still existing and still very damaging) intellectual conditions that led to the foolish Griggs decision also led to an overestimation of the value of a college education. The ROI of college was exaggerated because the higher IQ of college grads (as compared to non-college grads) was ignored when college grads were observed to make more money over their careers. The overestimation of ROI from college education provided political support for wasteful levels of subsidy for higher education. So today students have wracked up massive amounts of college loan debt on the theory that college would make them smarter than they really are.

The worst outcome the education racket has brought about: a 50% increase in college graduates in the last 25% with a 0% increase in STEM (science, tech, engineering math) grads. Yes, the huge surge in college education has resulted in a zero percent increase in the supply of people who design, discover, and create new innovations.

What we need: separate the testing for competency and granting of credentials from the delivery of instruction and courseware. For a look at what is going on in educational innovation to free us from inflexible and costly bricks and mortar colleges check out this exchange between Kevin Carey, Reihan Salam, and Arnold Kling:

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 February 20 06:04 PM  Education Revolution

Mercer said at February 20, 2012 8:31 PM:

A lot of other countries have students spending years in college to get good jobs. I doubt they all have laws equivalent to Griggs.

Unlike other countries US students pay for most of the cost of college. US students should embrace cheaper education platforms like WGU faster then young people in countries where taxpayers pay most of the bill. This will only work if employers hire the product education innovators deliver.

Shawn said at February 21, 2012 6:41 AM:

During college I applied for a job taking care of mentally handicapped people living in a group home and as part of the testing I had to take an IQ test. Later after graduating from college I applied for a sales job and had to take an IQ test there too (year 2005). So it appears that at least some businesses utilize them in their hiring process.

Guy Gold said at February 21, 2012 3:50 PM:

In their report titled “Griggs vs. Duke Power-Implications for College Credentialing” Bryan O’Keefe and Richard Vedder (Distinguished Professor of Economics at Ohio University) conclude that the unintended consequence of the 1971 Supreme Court Ruling in Griggs vs. Duke Power that effectively made pre-employment IQ testing illegal-was that it forced employers to use a college degree to measure intelligence. This worked well when only 10% of the population obtained a degree (before 1950) but government efforts to increase college graduation rates to nearly 50% today by dramatically dumbing down the college curriculum means that today the government ASVAB would be a much more reliable indicator of intelligence than a degree obtained through a public college. The United States Military realizes this and prioritizes recruiting efforts with the ASVAB-by IQ testing all Americans in the 11th grade (ignoring the Supreme Court Ruling in Griggs vs. Duke Power). In written testimony before Congress the Department of Defense testified:

“Research has proved that cognitive ability or general intelligence, is the single greatest predictor of job success -- for any position. More effective than resumes, education, references or interviews, cognitive-ability testing gives objective information to aid hiring decisions.”

Since the military is the Government entity which most relies on intelligence testing in its Human Resources recruiting and promotion strategies-it should come then as no surprise that the government institution recognized for fulfilling its duties the best is the United States Military. Maybe the most astounding conclusion that O’Keefe and Vedder draw is that IQ testing was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court when evidence can’t be provided that it’s necessary to prove a person can do the job and this same argument should hold true with a college degree. They argue that college degree requirements themselves would be as discriminatory as IQ tests when an occupation can’t be proved to need it. I would say requiring a college credit in occupations where it isn’t needed is more discriminatory because a college degree is based more today on the ability to incur the cost of higher education whereas the ASVAB tests intelligence (having wealthy parents that will pay for a college education isn’t pertinent to how a prospective candidate will perform in the workforce while how intelligent the candidate is would be pertinent). If ever hired to run a Human Resources Office I’d improve recruiting efforts simply by requiring a prospective employee to contact the Department of Defense, acquire their ASVAB scores, and submit them with their application/resume. It would allow the employer to accurately determine the intelligence level by the applicant by simply reviewing their Academic Ability score on the ASVAB. If an applicant were unable to provide their ASVAB scores-if they had gone to college I would ask for their ACT or SAT scores. ACT and SAT scores today are far better indicators of intelligence than a college degree. Greg Mankiw-Professor of Economic at Havard University explain called this reality “The Least Surprising Correlation of All Time.” Dr. Mankiw was writing about a New York Times report that concluded that because children of wealthy parents did better on the SAT that the family wealth was the cause. He concluded “This is a good example of omitted variable bias, a statistical issue discussed in Chapter 2 of my favorite textbook. The key omitted variable here is parents' IQ. Smart parents make more money and pass those good genes on to their offspring.” Employers that want to identify which prospective applicants have top 10% intelligence can determine this from the ASVAB, ACT or SAT, but with 50% of the population graduating from college-a degree proves nothing more today than average intelligence."

In the 1970’s recession Dr. Garfield (Stanford PhD writing in an early MIS trade publication ) wrote an editorial titled “Degrees of Absurdity” where he explained to employers why they were making a business mistake to hire a college graduate over a high school graduate capable of doing the job. Dr. Garfield notes:
A. Over-hiring often lands an employer with employees who are disgruntled in their pay and are bored and restless.
B. As for employers that put “degree required” (or degree preferred) qualifications on jobs where they aren’t needed-Dr. Garfield concludes that its “a lazy, sloppy way or describing what we want in an employee. Perhaps ads should instead read, “Evidence of Potential Required.”
a. Employers should also realize the practice of putting education requirements occupations where they aren’t necessary effectively creates a practice of age discrimination in hiring. The EEOC has come to recognize this and warned employers that requiring a high school diploma when it can’t be proved necessary for an occupation may well violate The Americans with Disabilities Act. If unnecessarily requiring a high school diploma may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act then the implications for unnecessarily requiring college credit are obvious as well. Dr. Garfield writes “Perhaps it is used as a subtle, even unconscious method of discrimination. With discrimination by race, nationality, sex, and age now illegal (or otherwise hazardous), discrimination by certification may be a last resort. After all, the words Degree Required still rule out more women than men, more blacks than whites, more oldsters than youngsters.” Dr. Garfield here is making the same argument as Dr.s O’Keefe and Vedder make in their paper “Griggs vs. Duke Power-Implications for College Credentialing”-that unnecessary degree requirements on occupations is as at least as discriminatory as IQ testing. The practice of putting unnecessary education requirements began after World War II when teachers were required to obtain a degree to teach with the government promise being that it would improve student outcomes. Average ACT and SAT scores were higher before teachers had to obtain a degree to teach-with every raised teacher credentialing standard student performance declines further. I theorize that those who are working to an obtain an education degree to teach who don’t question why government would think it necessary for them to take college level math as a credentialing requirement to teach 4th graders to memorize multiplication tables-are future teachers that lack the innate ability to “think outside the box.” Those that are in education majors that fail to realize how bad the investment is tend to be students of average IQ (the high IQ quickly abandon that degree plan for one that will pay more). Therefore the educational requirement produces a government credentialed demographic of teachers that are of average intelligence and lack the ability to think outside the box. Some of the teachers in 1950 possessed those skills but the thing which probably made 1950 high school graduate teachers better than subsequent college educated teachers was simply that the primary characteristic of a 1950’s teacher wasn’t a government credential but both an innate love of children and an understanding of the subject matter being taught (both those things are readily available traits in high school graduates).

Government/employers requiring college credit in occupations where there isn’t any benefit to degree obtainment has another unintended consequence. Businesweek (College: Big Investment-Paltry Return), Forbes (The Great College Hoax), MSN Money (Is a College Degree Worthless?), Forbes (The Tyranny of the Diploma-where Forbes cites scientific evidence that the SAT and ACT has proven more reliable in predicting intelligence than a college degree) and other main stream money magazines are now telling Americans that government efforts to put unnecessary education requirements on occupations and accompanying efforts to glut the market with college graduates have now made college a bad investment decision for most high school graduates (I realized when graduating from high school in 1979 that government efforts to glut the market with dumbed down college curriculum in the end would decrease the wage advantages of degree obtainment and make college a worse investment as time progressed). Government has programs to increase diversity in the workforce but a government employer by requiring unnecessary college credit excludes minorities from employment. Government has laws against age discrimination but government employers that require unnecessary college credit exclude older workers. Government wants more people to go to college but when government requires unnecessary college credit for administrative occupations government proves by its action that college is a poor investment option (because if there weren’t a lot of college graduates with worthless college credit there would be no point in government employers putting in job postings that college credit was preferred or required). Employers who once could assume a person intelligent for obtaining a degree can now presume a person with a degree whose best outcome is an administrative occupation is a person on the wrong side of The Bell Curve.


Guy Gold said at February 21, 2012 3:55 PM:

Mercer a bad investment in higher education is bad whether it is by a student or a taxpayer (and a student subsequently is a taxpayer). Ewe Reinhardt, Phd of Economics at Pepperdine University correctly commented that the most subsidies you heap on higher education the more you are taxing the low IQ to provide the high IQ a cheap education. This is the worst form of income redistribution because the high IQ already have innate advantages in life relative to the low IQ and they certainly do not need to benefit from a program that is akin to taxing the poor (low IQ) to redistribute to the rich (high IQ).

Half Sigma said at February 22, 2012 10:26 AM:

Griggs is a moot case, because it was an interpretation of a statute and not the Constitution, and Congress codified the holding of Griggs during the Bush administration.


Mike said at February 22, 2012 5:37 PM:

Overturning Griggs could be a real benefit for companies that really don't need college educated employees, but do want seasonably smart ones who may have traits the prospective employer needs in his particular field. Some sort of alternate certification could really take off if companies were not forced to use college degrees as a screening mechanism.

Randall Parker said at February 22, 2012 7:40 PM:

Half Sigma,

Griggs and the codified holdings under the Bush Administration both amount to the same thing: a violation of the right to free association. That violation is only possible because the Supreme Court says it is possible. It was not always such.

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