Two years in the past, I reviewed Anne Case and Angus Deaton’s 2020 e-book, Deaths of Despair. My overview was crucial within the unique that means of that time period: I identified its strengths and weaknesses.  On Thursday, I had an opportunity to look at a Zoom discuss he gave that was sponsored by a gaggle at Stanford College. So I requested him about two of the objects within the e-book on which I had challenged him and his co-author. On one, we didn’t come to any type of outcome.

On the opposite, we did, or not less than I assumed we did.

Right here’s what I had written on this latter difficulty in my overview:

I want they’d addressed this academic “rat race” in additional element. My Econlog running a blog colleague Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason College, argues in his 2018 e-book The Case In opposition to Training {that a} big quantity of the worth of upper schooling is for folks to sign to potential employers that they will end a main challenge and be appropriately docile. To the extent he’s proper, authorities subsidies to increased schooling make many roles much more off‐​limits to highschool graduates. But, Case and Deaton don’t cite Caplan’s work. Furthermore, of their ultimate chapter on what to do, they go the precise incorrect method, writing, “Maybe it’s time to up our recreation to make faculty the norm?” That coverage would additional slender the vary of jobs out there to nongraduates, making them even worse off.

Wanting to maintain my query quick, I requested an abbreviated model of the above. He answered and we went forwards and backwards.

Right here’s our correspondence that adopted, beginning Thursday evening and going via Friday morning.

My e mail to Angus:

Pricey Angus (if I could),

I’m the one who requested the primary questions immediately. The one I’m desirous about inspecting additional is in regards to the quote on p. 257 the place you and Anne Case write, “maybe it’s time to up our recreation to make faculty the norm?”

In your response, you mentioned that you just agreed with my critique that this might elevate the bar for jobs that basically don’t depend upon college-acquired abilities. You additionally mentioned that you just had talked to CEOs and are happy that they’re now rethinking the  requirement for an undergraduate diploma. I used to be happy by that too.

One of many guidelines that Ivan has set for these talks is the Chatham Home rule. So consistent with that, I’m asking your permission to cite your assertion that you just agree that making faculty the norm might make issues worse and that it’s good for corporations to maneuver in the wrong way. Do I’ve your permission to write down that in a weblog put up?


David R. Henderson
Analysis Fellow
Hoover Establishment


Angus replied:

Thanks, David

I appeared once more at what we mentioned which is as you quote. Although I might emphasize the query mark which is necessary right here. We’re elevating the query, not advocating it.

I don’t know what would occur. We bought common major and (virtually) common secondary schooling with out elevating the bar (a lot), so perhaps that may occur with faculty too. However I agree that it’s totally attainable that the bar could be raised. As the remainder of the part of the e-book explains, there are various prospects. So please don’t quote me as saying that I believe that’s the solely risk.



Professor Sir Angus Deaton, FBA HonFRSE


I promised to cite his complete e mail above and he authorised.

I do worry that almost all readers will, as I did, take the assertion I quoted as advocacy. The “maybe” and the query mark is not going to, I believe, persuade many readers that he and Case don’t favor upping “our recreation to make faculty the norm.”

However I’m happy that he doesn’t need readers to take from this quote the concept that faculty needs to be the norm.

Right here’s my bio of Angus in David R. Henderson, ed. The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.

Supply hyperlink