Like GM Executives Buying Toyotas

I am not sure this chart from Mark Perry requires much comment, except to say the contrast on the same metric for the children of members of Congress would be even more stark.


  • My mother became a public school teacher after my brother and I had graduated from public high school. Sometime after that she made the whole family promise that none of the grand-children would ever go to a public school.

  • Will

    I find it interesting that people believe a chart like this requires no comment or interpretation. Charts, after all, are put together to make a point and one wonders what point the creator of the chart was trying to make. Since we tend not to be skeptical about matters we have not thought about to any great degree our tendency is to rely on whatever biases or notions are invited by the chart we are looking at. We assume, in other words, that in every city and place across the country public school teachers would opt for private school over public school. But what if this effect is only evident in certain cities or certain parts of the country. The chart only shows two cities, one of which (Washington D.C.) is known by reputation to be one of the worst in the country. The presumption of the chart is that those who know the most about the school system are the ones who avoid it. But that may or may not generalize beyond these two cities (who knows and who would know from looking at the chart). What is interesting to me is that the question hasn't occurred to the author of this blog. And this is someone who spends copious amounts of time dissecting climate and economic data to help improve people's understanding of these matters. But when it comes to education the author of this blog believes that ""the chart doesn't require much comment". Would you say the same thing about the data charts that show a discrepancy between wages and corporate earnings or the charts that purport to show man made influences on climate warning? If the other posts on your blog are to be believed, I suspect not. It is interesting to see the choices that are made about what is and what is not worth analyzing in greater depth. It seems that skepticism only applies to those things that we tend to be skeptical about. But if a chart or data fits our existing understanding of an issue or problem (our bias???) then we don't feel compelled to question it. I find this fascinating. I also find it fascinating that people will then rely on anecdotal stories as further evidence that their interpretation is compelling and correct.

    Having said all of that I do not want to defend the public schools. They certainly could improve. But I am not certain that comparisons between schools that serve a wide range of students from all socioeconomic backgrounds are comparable to schools that do not. This is why voucher experiments and charter schools that serve a wider range of students are worth our attention. And I am not certain that schools which cost money, have lower per pupil student ratios and other advantages would not be preferred by many people if they had the option. Bill Gates went to an amazing private school in the Seattle area that almost any parent would prefer if they could afford the $15,000-$20,000 a year tuition. But here's my question, if all schools were private would we end up with lots of Bill Gates schools or would we end up with the majority of schools being chains comparable to McDonald's in the restaurant business. You can get an education, it doesn't cost too much and while it might not be as nutritious or good for you as other schools, it meets the minimum requirements and is a very successful business for generating profits. These are the kinds of things I wonder about when I see this type of chart.