Lion of the Blogosphere

College, part 3

While the rest of the world is convinced that college helps people make more money, strangely I have to convince certain blog commenters, because there’s a belief among some in the HBD-sphere that IQ is everything, and therefore someone with a high IQ would make just as much money without a college degree.

There’s also an idea, which is more mainstream, that it doesn’t matter what school you go to, any school is the same. That’s also absurdly false, I don’t know how anyone can believe it. I know from personal experience that if you want to get hired as a lawyer, you had better have the most elite degree possible, because if your degree is outside of the Top 14, you’ll never get hired by a big firm and it’s a lot harder to even get hired by small firms. It’s unlikely you’ll have Michael Cohen’s luck to get hired by Donald Trump, and if anything Michael Cohen disproves that IQ matters above all else, because that guy doesn’t seem all that bright to me.

There is indeed a correlation between high IQ and having a higher income, but my own research into this matter is that people with higher IQ are able to obtain better educational credentials, and then the better educational credentials (if they are lucky and have other necessary things going for them) enable people to get into a higher-paying career track. Without the degree, no one will want to hire you into any good career tracks.

People like to say that employers only care about your experience at prior jobs and not your education, but the problem is that without education you can only get hired for crappy jobs like retail or working at call centers, which only gives you experience to work at other crappy jobs.

Even if you are lucky enough to get hired (for example some people with hot in-demand computer skills have been known to get good jobs without a college degree), you’ll eventually hit a glass ceiling for people without college degrees.

None of this is to say that there is anything intrinsic in years of formal education that makes people better employers or better at making money, but because our society is set up so that only formal learning with a degree is valued, and self-learning is not valued, that’s the way it is. And it’s why I called education a positional good in my recent Lionomics post. The benefit of a degree is that it gives you a positional advantage over people without a degree, and a prestigious degree gives you a positional advantage over people with a degree from a directional state school.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 11, 2019 at 11:53 AM

32 Responses

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  1. Thanks to MIT Open Courseware, you could basically give yourself the equivalent of an MIT engineering degree online for free. But good luck marketing yourself to employers as an MIT-trained engineer on the basis of having done so.


    January 11, 2019 at 12:01 PM

  2. I know from personal experience that if you want to get hired as a lawyer, you had better have the most elite degree possible, because if your degree is outside of the Top 14, you’ll never get hired by a big firm and it’s a lot harder to even get hired by small firms.

    That’s because lawyers are the most status conscience insecure people on the planet. For most Jobs, it does not matter. The big 4 accounting firms recruit at every state university. Get an engineering degree from a state school and you’ll get a decent job. If you want to be a corporate lawyer or a finance guy in NYC, it matters. Most of us would be absolutely miserable in NYC.


    January 11, 2019 at 12:24 PM

    • It does matter for other jobs, guy. Yes, you can get hired a lot of places if you are demonstrably competent, but you will get through the door more easily if you went to a prestige school. A lot more easily.


      January 11, 2019 at 12:34 PM

    • Let’s say you want to catch a big fish. Will you go to the lake that is known to be full of big fish or to the lake that has small fish and some big fish too?

      My 2¢

      January 11, 2019 at 1:07 PM

      • You’re putting the cart before the horse. Before choosing the lake, ask yourself:

        – Do I have a strong enough pole?
        – Do I have enough reel?
        – Do I know how to tie a knot in the reel properly?
        – Do I have the right lures and bait?
        – Am I trying to catch a bottom feeder? If so, do I have a sinker?
        – Do I have a hat to keep my head cool while waiting for a bite?
        – And most of all, do I have the discipline to wait for a bite?


        January 11, 2019 at 8:49 PM

    • >Get an engineering degree from a state school and you’ll get a decent job.

      They’ll pay you like an entry-level employee until you die unless you’re really something else.

      Monsieur le Baron

      January 11, 2019 at 1:51 PM

      • That’s true in really any professional setting. By your mid-thirties you have done something entrepreneurial to bring in money or save big costs, or you are a hanger on. This is just how careers work and schools really don’t have much to do with it. The better schools are just pretty good at identifying people with the capital to realize that showing up for a wage is not how jobs work.

        You get the sense from Lion’s posts that if you get the right credentials somebody holds your hand to the promised land. That’s not how it works. Look at wage stats for the Ivy league. Totally unimpressive.

        Before 40 you have either taken on serious risk and won, or you are an aging nobody. That’s the reality. Not credentialism. Yes, yes, some get hand-holding into a highly profitable family business a la Trump and Kushner Jr, but that’s a rounding error. I suppose also a credentialed elite like the google CEO get parachuted into high roles, but again, this stuff is statistically insignificant.


        January 12, 2019 at 3:20 PM

      • The median midcareer for a Harvard Law grad is $234,000 while an average lawyer makes $115,820. In the grand scheme of things, both are grunts. But you’re a better kind of grunt.

        Corporates have lists of target schools. I would say it’s indisputably better to be a BigCorp engineer pulling down 130k or 250k in a major metro than it is to be average Joe stuck at grade I levels of pay at a bigger company or stuck in small business. Sure, neither is a CEO. But it matters.

        Monsieur le Baron

        January 12, 2019 at 4:46 PM

      • I’m sure there are a bunch of elite educated doctors working at Kaiser Permanente making a relatively unimpressive wage, all things considered. It’s really only the ones who know how to make a go at an upcoming practice that wind up interestingly rich.


        January 12, 2019 at 3:26 PM

    • I recently met another prole who graduated from a toilet law school (the infamous NY Law School, not to be confused with NYU Law) and got hired by a Whitey Shoe firm. He was in the school’s law review and graduated with magna cum laude.

      Ok, what, who's this again?

      January 11, 2019 at 2:04 PM

    • Biglaw lawyers make more money than engineers.


      January 11, 2019 at 11:47 PM

      • Biglaw associates make lot more money than engineers, usually.

        Possible exceptions inclue if the engineer is on the management track at a tech company, have equity in a successful startup in a major metro, or work in tech/analysis for a hedge fund or trading firm. Engineering is a mixed bag, but if you are smart, hardworking, and lucky, there are opportunities to become wealthy.

        It’s folly to advise someone to become a lawyer to enter biglaw. Even if they are smart enough to get into a top school, and graduate with decent grades, the path to senior associate and partner is steep. Clearly almost nobody makes it. Someone should consider this only if they have reason to think they love the law.

        Medicine is even more fraught than law. You work intensely for years, but can only guarantee that you get an upper middle class income, on the lower end of that category, really. There is job security, but none of the immense potential upside of biglaw or finance, or even software engineering.

        If my children show no knack for any one subject, I will encourage them to study either accounting, computer science, or electrical engineering. Those are areas where you can basically guarantee a minimum income, and there is a lot of upside in the right areas.


        January 12, 2019 at 3:01 PM

  3. I think I have the best anecdote in support of your thesis. I’ve mentioned it before, though noone seemed interested. In ’96 an old neighborhood acquaintance told me of his law firm’s new hiring policy. It wasn’t a big or prestigious firm, just a long-established, 125-lawyer SF insurance firm heavily into asbesos defense. He said they only hired grads from Harvard, Stanford and Columbia. I thought he had to be jiving me and that Harvard Stanford types wouldn”t want or need to do insurance work, but what do I know.


    January 11, 2019 at 12:46 PM

    • Your story about the aesbestos firm was commonplace as far back as the 80s.


      January 12, 2019 at 9:35 AM

  4. Lion, Michael Cohen is not smart? Does it matter?

    Owning several apts in Manhattan puts you on the top of the heap.

    According to Wikipedia:

    “Before joining the Trump Organization, Cohen had purchased several homes in Trump’s buildings.[11] A 2017 New York Times article reported that Cohen is known for having “a penchant for luxury”; he was married at The Pierre, drove a Porsche while attending college, and once owned a Bentley”

    Ok, what, who's this again?

    January 11, 2019 at 2:10 PM

    • I think this is a really important point that the HBDsphere has mostly missed. Taleb generalizes it here to argue that once we’re talking IQ above 100, we aren’t actually measuring intelligence or anything else, if we define intelligence as the ability to survive or succeed in the world (in particular using income/net worth as a proxy):

      View at

      I can’t argue with his math… can you?

      I’m not saying I have a hardcore viewpoint on this. I’m not saying this invalidates HBD. But it is ironic that HBD people who mostly (rightly) mistrust the modern academic machine are so willing to base their science on a test that was invented by the same eggheads decades ago to study a completely different question (which kids need special ed) from the ones that HBD is asking.


      January 12, 2019 at 8:56 AM

      • The real “pseudoscience” are those people like Taleb pretending to “prove” that there’s no such thing as intelligence.

        Read Arthur Jensen if you want to read real science.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        January 12, 2019 at 10:32 AM

      • Taleb answers any kind and constructive argument by blocking the people.

        Even if some points may have been interesting like the real shape of « g » : normal like height or weigh or vocabulary size, log-normal like vision’ audition, and many physiological traits – or exponential like wealth


        January 12, 2019 at 3:22 PM

      • He’s not claiming he proved that there’s no such thing as intelligence. He’s claiming that IQ does not measure intelligence.


        January 13, 2019 at 7:03 PM

  5. Interesting article by Audacious Epigone on the declining IQ of graduates at all degree levels, from high school diploma to bachelor’s to graduate degree. The whole thing is definitely worth reading, but the take-home message is that today’s bachelor’s degree graduate has about the same IQ as a high school graduate from fifty years ago, and today’s graduate degree holder has a significantly lower IQ than a new college grad from the 1960’s. The reasons are multiple, but one thing we clearly don’t need is more people going to college.

    Black Death

    January 11, 2019 at 2:22 PM

    • That really belongs in the College 3.1 comments section. As the college degree becomes more necessary, it also becomes more worthless and less meaningful. Pretty sick.


      January 11, 2019 at 2:49 PM

    • The two problems with wordsum from GSS (a 10 word vocabulary test) is that the ceiling is low (125) and it’s only verbal even if it correlates with « g ». Students who are from lesser average background could be better at spatial skills and even verbal reasoning while having a bit less vocabulary . And the correlation wouldn’t protect the result because it’s only 0.7 with a low ceiling.


      January 12, 2019 at 3:26 PM

  6. Ivy Leagues are absurdly generous with financial aid, if you make the cut.

    And while some people are happy with 50-60k, I think that a person’s happiness depends a lot on their surroundings. Making 50-60k and being surrounded by McDonald’s workers making 20k is significantly different from making 50-60k while surrounded by people pulling down double or triple with the big boss making ten or twenty times that. You’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of envy.

    Monsieur le Baron

    January 11, 2019 at 3:17 PM

    • True, and the cut off for 100% financial aid at every Ivy is more than most households in the U.S. make. My philosophy is you either make the cut at a school with need blind admissions, or you go to the state school. If you can’t make the cut at a state school, you go to trade school.

      And yes, it’s funny to hear people on hear people complaining about how bad IT jobs are because they only pay 100k a year.


      January 11, 2019 at 4:10 PM

      • My personal aim is to join the value transferrers above me, but I can understand the bitterness of people who can’t do that because of their social background.

        I admit to tasting some bile when a superior told me I’d never be C-suite because I wasn’t from the right family. But I still feel there’s lots of opportunity.

        And you always gotta remind yourself you’re in the top 1% or top couple percent.

        Monsieur le Baron

        January 11, 2019 at 4:35 PM

    • It all depends on the context of the social setting. School is all about competition between students on the same playing field.

      I know a guy who grew up in the NYCHA housing complexes and had the opportunity to attend both Harvard and Yale and was not happy with the outcome.

      Ok, what, who's this again?

      January 11, 2019 at 4:32 PM

  7. Yep, education is a good at the individual level but a public bad. Therefore, a smart federal government would have a policy of reducing overall education levels. Instead of the Department of Education, we should have a Department of Destroying Education.

    Blue Tribe Dissident

    January 11, 2019 at 5:04 PM

  8. There are three possible justifications for attending college:

    1. Human capital: In this view, the education (or training) received at college increases the human capital of students, making them more productive at a larger number of jobs, which results in college graduates earning more over the course of their careers.

    2. Signaling: In this view, college degrees enable employers to distinguish between possible hires, with those who have degrees already having been more capable prior to attending college, and therefore results in college graduates earning more over the course of their careers.

    3. Consumption: In this view, college does not increase the earnings of those graduating, who are already more capable prior to attending college, but college does increase the utility of those receiving a college education not only during college but over their lifetimes due to the learning imparted.

    Lion seems to be of the opinion that the signaling effect explains the entirety of why people attend college.


    January 11, 2019 at 7:47 PM

    • I don’t think the Lion would discount #1 entirely. He mentioned engineering and hard science majors as areas where people learn real skills. I have to agree.


      January 12, 2019 at 3:11 PM

  9. The college I graduated from, an elite one, sends me an alumni magazine. 80% of its contents boast of nonwhite/antiwhite stuff they’re doing, LGBTQ… stuff, nonintellectual stuff. An alumnus from two years before me, whose name I remembered, had a letter published in the magazine recently calling for the college to not admit conservatives or Republicans. The tragedy is that this same magazine is always filled with contemporary photos of the campus looking as beautiful and classical as it did when I matriculated those many years ago. Only for that reason would I not want it to be abolished and its buildings burned to the ground. “Higher education” should not be instituted. All good-looking campuses should have their buildings repurposed. Ugly campuses should be razed. The 20% of the good/interesting things covered in my alumni magazine can and should be explored and done elsewhere and in a different fashion. Home schooling is the only worthwhile schooling.


    January 12, 2019 at 2:14 PM

    • My college alumni magazine is also filled with anti-white, anti-Republican garbage, including “people who hate you who recently spoke on campus”. I often wonder – do they know they are insulting many of their alumni, but they don’t care? Do the donations they get from rich Democrats and cuck GOP graduates make up for getting nothing from conservative alumni?


      January 13, 2019 at 4:38 PM

  10. While I pretty much agree with everything you wrote, a little-mentioned factoid about college relates tot he dating market. A lot of people meet their spouse at college. And just as it is rare for women to date a man that makes less than them, it is also rare for them to date men with less education (although not as rare as women being interested in men with less money).

    I think that if I did not have a college degree, I could get a job in low-level administration, but I would, more likely, become a realtor.

    January 21, 2019 at 9:40 AM

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