Towards A Good Samaritan World

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


I'm afraid that the combination of my new World Bank job and my emerging relationship with Tech Central Station magazine is going to take the wind out of my blogging sails. I've published five articles there now, most recently these two:

"American Hajj: Toward an Open Society."

"Genuine Welfare Queens."

I love Tech Central Station. Ever since I discovered it, I've considered it the brainiest of all online magazine. So as long as I manage to keep getting published at TCS, that will suck my energies away from blogging. And I was particularly exhilarated to publish "American Hajj", the topic of which was immigration. I picked a provocative way to frame the issue and drew a lot of heat, but that's okay. Immigration generates visceral resistance, like immigration reform in the 1990s. I plunged into the debate in the feedback forum as well. Most of the commentary there was negative, but I got some more favorable links from Timothy Goddard and Steve MacMullen.

I took the GREs last week. Verbal 800 Math 780. That sounds good, but actually grad schools in economics are so competitive that my math score may be a handicap. Five years ago, I got a 750 on the Verbal and an 800 on the Math. So apparently, I've gotten better with words but worse with numbers.

Come to think of it, this job involves some travel too. So maybe that will be a stimulus to a different kind of blogging... travel-blogging...


  • 800 Verbal. Wow. That is truly stunning - there are probably only a handful of people who take the test all year who get an 800 on verbal - count on in being in the 99.9999th percentile! What's kinda crazy, though, is that your 780 in math will put you in about the 85th percentile, which will probably get you screened out by most top programs in econ (the 800 verbal may raise some eyebrows to compensate, although from what I hear the score on that is usually ignored). Retake the test until you get an 800 on math, but recognize that is an necessary but not sufficient condition for keeping your application out of the trash bin ( is a good reality check in this regard). On a more general note, something very strange has happened to GRE scores in recent years. Back in '99, a 780 would have put you in about the 95th percentile, today it's the 85th. Have the kids really got that better in math in just five years? Have the prep materials got more efficient? Has the test got easier? (Not according to ETS, it hasn't). What the hell is going on? I don't know, but for the hundreds of dollars one shells out to ETS for a single test, one would think they would have the resources to find out (which brings up one of my bugbears - ETS is an unregulated, unsupervised monopoly that is charging profit-maximizing profits and imposing artificial restrictions on entry to graduate study, which is a public good; they're ripping off the public and should be brought down [if only Congress cared about things like higher education])!!! Anyway, I was asking a colleague of mine who used to be an associate prof of econ at Stanford about how admissions committees work. He was telling me that they receive a significant number of applicants from China (and perhaps India too, I dunno) with perfect GRE scores (perfect math, perfect verbal), but with incongruously poorly written essays. He said that the committee usually just throws most of these applications out. Of course, I have no true evidence to indicate whether or not cheating in China explains why, on average, applicants are doing so much better on the GRE now than they were doing five years ago (it's also equally plausible that everybody who takes the GRE in China is a mathematical genius who naturally score 800 - thereby legitimately pushing up the mean score as more Chinese kids take the test), but I would like ETS (or preferably somebody independent) to look into this. For all the money they make keeping poor kids away from graduate school, I would think that they have the resources to do so.

    By Anonymous Andrew, at 9:49 PM  

  • "In 2001, foreign workers sent an estimated $28.4 billion a year in remittances to their home countries from the United States. This amount was about 0.3% of US GDP. Foreign workers sent about $15.1 billion of remittances home from Saudi Arabia. This amount was about 6% of Saudi GDP. Saudi Arabia 3, US 0."

    How are remittances related to openness? This linkage is totally unrelated, and undermines your whole arguement.
    You mention that most travellers to Mecca are Muslims. How many Christians would be welcome to visit the Holy Lands in Saudi Arabia?
    Why not compare Openness on the basis of clothing choices, women's driving rights, religious freedom, etc..

    I agree that America's immigration policy is abysmal, but your comparison to Saudi Arabia is absurd.

    American immigration is tied to their welfare policy. As long as America provides that welfare, there will be massive resistance to open immigration. Fix the welfare problem, and the citizens of America will welcome new hard-working, tax-paying immigrants. As long as Americans know that many immigrants end up sucking at the government's teat at their expense, those doors will remain closed.

    By Blogger EarlW, at 10:29 AM  

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