08 – Education & Religion


We place a lot of faith in education to meet our needs both as individuals and as a society. Given all the time and money we invest, especially as students, we hope that the payoff will be worth it. One way to begin addressing that question for individuals is to check to see if there is a correlation between educational attainment and income level. The good news is that recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau demonstrates a strong positive correlation: as educational level goes up, median income also rises.

My past posts (here and here) on the relationship between education and income routinely receive among the most visits of any posts I have. The new numbers in this post are for 2010 and were released in 2011. They come from the Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement (PINC-03, Table 28). Graphically, the new numbers look like this:

In addition, the Census Bureau released a report, Education and Synthetic Work-Life Earnings Estimates (pdf), in September, 2011 providing projected lifetime earnings for males and females by both educational attainment and race/ethnicity. This represents an effort to show the long-term consequences of such education differences. As the graph below demonstrates, the overall trend for all groups is that income goes up as educational attainment increases, though the nature of the benefit varies by both gender and race/ethnicity.

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The rising cost of college and what families “should” be doing to save (Hint: $400+/month from birth to 18 per child for a private & $150+/month for a public): http://bit.ly/bjZhnY

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“I believe in education for action. I believe in telling children the truth about the history of the world, that it does not consist of the history of kings, or lords or cabinets. It consists of the history of the mass of the workers, a thing that is not taught in the schools. I believe in telling children how to measure value, a thing that is not taught in any school.”

- James Bryson McLachlan, Secretary-Treasurer, United Mine Workers Union, District 26, circa 1925.

[h/t Quotation of the Day]

“I believe in education for action. I believe in telling children the truth about the history of the world, that it does not consist of the history of kings, or lords or cabinets. It consists of the history of the mass of the workers, a thing that is not taught in the schools. I believe in telling children how to measure value, a thing that is not taught in any school.”

- James Bryson McLachlan, Secretary-Treasurer, United Mine Workers Union, District 26, circa 1925.

NYT columnist Kristof has a column up on gender & education: The Boys Have Fallen Behind. He cites statistics about the differences between boys and girls in schools:

  • 64% of National Honor Society members are girls
  • Grade point average for girls: 3.09
  • Grade point average for boys: 2.86
  • 62% of those who get a perfect SAT score (2400) are boys

Kristof briefly explores possible reasons for the why boy on average have lower scores yet there are more boys among top academic performers. One possibility he doesn’t seem to explore is whether or not boys have calculated that they do not need to do as well in school to still get jobs that pay  better on average than will women due to discrimination and the gender wage gap.

The primary source for his data is Richard Whitmire‘s book Why Boys Fail. Richard Whitmire was interviewed on ABC’s Good Morning America:

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InsideHigherEd has a story up about the resurgence of the sociology of religion: Sociologists Get Religion. It provides details of a recent study analyzing sociology journal articles on religion published from 1978-2007. They report that:

there has been a significant increase over the last 25 or so years not only in the quantity of work done by sociologists on religion, but also in how religion is treated in those studies. No longer is it assumed to be only a reflection of some other socioeconomic trend, but increasingly it is treated as the factor that may be central to understanding a given group of people.

The story also includes reactions from several sociologists of religion including Fred Kniss, Darren Sherkat, and David Yamane.

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The Institute for College Access & Success has released its annual report, “Student Debt and the Class of 2008,” [pdf] on student debt levels for 2008 grads as part of its Project on Student Debt.

They found that the average student loan debt for a 2008 graduate was $23,200. There was significant variation by state, school type, and individual schools. The District of Columbia had the highest average at $$29,793 followed by Iowa (where I live) at $28,174. The lowest was Utah at $13,041. Average debt also varied by school type: Public 4-year: $20,200; Private non-profit 4-year: $27,650; & Private for-profit 4-year: $33,050.  Individual schools varied from $5,000 to $106,000 in average debt.

An interactive map to see state-level variation is available here. Clicking on a state or on the drop-down menu on that page and selecting a state provides a pop-up box with data about individual schools in the state you select (unless you have pop-ups blocked in your browser). There is also an Excel file available on that page that provides averages for public, private, and overall debt load for each state.

Full report: Student Debt and the Class of 2008 [pdf]

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The New York Times has an article up about classes to help prepare pre-K kids for kindergarten admission exams: “Tips for the Admissions Test … to Kindergarten.” According to the article:

Test preparation has long been a big business catering to students taking SATs and admissions exams for law, medical and other graduate schools. But the new clientele is quite a bit younger: 3- and 4-year-olds whose parents hope that a little assistance — costing upward of $1,000 for several sessions — will help them win coveted spots in the city’s gifted and talented public kindergarten classes.

The focus of the article is on how such preparation is most appealing to parents who cannot afford private school but have enough resources to try to get their children an edge into the gifted & talented track in public schools. This raises questions about the degree to which social class is reproduced within a system that is, in principle, committed to mertiocracy.

Tips for the Admissions Test … to Kindergarten

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Sociologist Mark Regnerus explored the topic of conflicting values in an opinion piece for the Washington Post titled, “Say Yes. What Are You Waiting For?” Based on sociological research he had conducted on young evangelical Christians, he discovered a tension between the sub-cultural expectation of no sex before marriage versus the normative practice of delayed marriage. He writes:

Sara, a 19-year-old college student from Dallas, equated thinking about marrying her boyfriend with staging a rebellion. Her parents “want my full attention on grades and school because they want me to get a good job,” she told me. Understandable. But our children now sense that marrying young may be not simply foolish but also wrong and socially harmful. And yet today, as ever, marriage wisely entered into remains good for the economy and the community, good for one’s personal well-being, good for wealth creation and, yes, good for the environment, too. We are sending mixed messages.

According to this article on Regnerus, the argument has generated more than a little controversy. Regnerus is a sociologist at the University of Texas and is the author of Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers.

Though this particular conflict is more specific to this group of religious believers, it might make for an interesting class discussion about how values can conflict, especially values that come out of different institutional spheres of our lives. In this case it sounds like there might be tension between basic economic expectations (e.g. get an education, establish yourself in a career, then get married) versus the religious expectations for this group of believers (e.g. abstinence only).

In other words, this conflict might be distantly related to tensions people feel due to the normative expectations between work and home. For example, I feel a constant struggle between my desire to be a good father (e.g. to be involved in my daughter’s lives, to attend school events, to know what’s happening in their classes, to drive them to and fro, simply to talk with them, etc.) and at the same time to be a responsible professor (e.g. to prepare for class, to grade exams, to provide useful feedback on papers, to be on top of committee work, to continue to write and research, to post on my blog, etc.). Part of the beauty of sociology is that it can help us to open our eyes to possible conflicting patterns and practices.

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NPR has a report up about a new study that takes a look at the cost of college: “Fewer Students Borrow For College. Those Who Do Spend More.” The study was conducted by Gallup and sponsored by student-loan provider Sallie Mae. That study, titled “How America Pays for College” [pdf], is a rich source of data providing numerous statistics, tables, and graphs. It includes, for example, an overall break down the sources of money students use to pay for college:

Fig._1_How_the_Average_Family_Pays_for_CollegeThe report then goes on to analyze each of these pieces of the pie to provide additional information about where each comes from. For example, when looking at student borrowing, 7% of  the overall total comes from federal loans while 5% of the overall total comes from private education loans.

The report also looks at how paying for college varies by income level. They break income into three categories and report the following:

Fig._6_How_the_Average_Family_Pays_for_College,_by_Income_Level

They then breakdown each of these categories as well. For example, they report that students in the lowest income category receive more money in the form of grants compared to the top category (Low: $4338; High: $516), this is reversed when it comes to scholarships (Low: $2812; High: $4126).

There are many other pieces of information in the study that make it well worth a look (for example, it includes some data on race/ethnicity, it breaks down numbers based on type of school, etc.), and it could provide for some interesting discussion.

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Pew has the results of a survey up that show the likelihood of marrying someone from the same religious faith. The percent varies for people of different faith traditions: “Brides, Grooms Often Have Different Faiths.” They find that Buddhists and Mainline Protestants are least likely to marry within their faith and Mormons and Hindus are most likely. The data come from Pews U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.

Pew Religious Homogamy - 1244-1

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