Monday, August 08, 2005


Scholar's Notebook shows how liars sure can figure.
...per capita spending is a fallacious way to measure education spending, unless you're desperate to spin an increase into a decrease.
Which of course the Borg is, with assistance from the StarTribune. As Matt notes, when divided by the number of students to be educated, the amount of spending in real dollars per student has gone up.

Fudging with denominators is pretty darn common with reporters and particularly editorial boards. For another example, take this offering from the New York Times.
Because the demand for workers has been subpar for some four years now, wages have suffered. Average hourly wages rose a surprising 0.4 percent in July, the strongest monthly surge in a year. But they're up only 2.7 percent over the past year, hardly keeping up with inflation. Asked about that yesterday, Secretary Chao replied that overall compensation - which includes employer-provided health care and other benefits - was rising faster than the cost of living. That's correct, but somewhat disingenuous. The fact that workers' raises are, in effect, being diverted to cover the exploding cost of benefits is hardly a positive development.
"Hardly keeping up with inflation?" That depends on how you measure it. Is it CPI? The GDP deflator? The deflator on personal consumption expenditures? Which denominator you use to get to real wage increases matters. David Altig has a nice review of newer data on how to measure inflation. And as Captain Ed points out, you're not comparing apples to apples:
Twenty years ago, health insurance didn't come as an expectation. Now, most employers not only offer that as a given, but also provide dental, vision, and in some cases legal insurance. Many offer mental-health services for employees and their families. If the cost of these health-care premiums concerns the Times, perhaps they would care to support capping malpractice awards and legal fees in order to help keep the cost of providing these services down.
Fat chance of that.