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Link: Why are Education and Health Care Outcomes So Bad in the United States?

FrameBenignly          3 January 2016 09:23 AM


I'm not so sure of the implicit claim that conservatives blame bad health care on poverty. My impression is that conservatives tend to avoid discussing poverty as a cause of anything. I also wish he had discussed mobility between neighborhoods as a possibility as in Raj Chetty's research, but the article makes good points.



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melian 4 January 2016 05:47 AM
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ďConservatives tend to blame poor education results on the fact that it almost fully government controlled, while liberals tend to blame poor healthcare results on the fact that it isnít fully government controlled.Ē

This is the precisely root of the problem. The US healthcare system is the result of a complex political compromise that splits control over the medical costs between the government, insurance companies and patients. Efficient healthcare system requires some entity to be fully in charge of the costs. This entity can be the government or private individuals but it canít be both.


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ChristianKl 4 January 2016 07:51 AM
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While part of the US healthcare system is the result of a complex political compromise I think that's to easy as an explanation. It ignores that various companies have lobbyists that lobby for a system with high prices.

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VoiceOfRa 3 January 2016 05:30 PM
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One explanation I've heard about education outcomes is demographics. Specifically, each individual ethnic group does better in the United States than in their ancestral homeland.


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melian 4 January 2016 05:58 AM
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Do you happen to know the data source by any chance? Iím sure this is true for some ethnicities (such as Indian and Chinese Americans) but is it also true for descendants of Swedish or Finn emigrants?

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FrameBenignly 4 January 2016 07:25 PM
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I believe you're referring to this. In the article, Adam Ozimek doesn't specifically mention race, probably because it's not PC, but he does argue that demographic adjustments only partially account for the disparity.

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knb 25 January 2016 05:17 PM
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Here is a take on the education aspect. The thrust of it is that adjusting for race, the US education system does rather well, though admittedly we spend large amounts to get these results. My view is that the focus of the US education reform at this point should be on cutting costs, as I suspect there is a lot of waste.

As for healthcare, the problem is similar. Health outcomes are the product of many inputs, and medical care is only one (and not the most important.) Again, I would focus on cost-cutting in reforming healthcare, as there is evidence that access to medical care doesn't do much to improve healthy lifespan.


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is4junk 8 January 2016 07:21 AM
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The outcomes aren't bad at all. But there are very well funded political groups that want to spend more money on these fields and they make these claims to further the goals. Once a government has a single payer system, the same groups have an opposite incentive (look at the efforts England makes to salvage the NHS record).

Education outcomes - easily explained by demographics but the blank slate myth prevents it from being considered.

Healthcare outcomes - usually an exercise in goal moving. Here is a detailed explaination


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ChristianKl 4 January 2016 08:13 AM
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I think the article is more important for the issues that it doesn't address then for the one's it addresses. VoiceOfRa already said demographics, so I won't repeat it.

It takes the metrics for education for granted where the person who's successfully drilled for standardized tests is more educated then the person who isn't. The Asian system spends more effort on drilling students and thus has higher scoring students.

Japan produces a lot of students who successfully answer question about the English language in tests but who aren't fluent English speakers. I think we have no Chinese or Japanese people on LW.

There a lot of innovation produced in the US by people educated to be able to be innovative.


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aliad 14 February 2016 09:39 PM
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I agree that it is important to look at what we are measuring when we talk about having "poor" educational results nationally. Because in national contexts we are usually talking about average the statistics of standardized test scores. But when it comes to making educational reform in individual schools and districts there is a lot of put-back on anything that looks like teaching to the test. We don't want to put extra pressure on students who test poorly nor sacrifice emphases on thinks it is not easy to test for.

I would guess a big reason we "do poorly" on international comparisons of standardized test scores is that the US has a general de-facto policy on not optimizing for test score maximization.


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melian 4 January 2016 10:10 AM
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Japan produces a lot of students who successfully answer question about the English language in tests but who aren't fluent English speakers.

Do you mean oral or written tests? A person may learn a language to point when he reads books pretty easily (and so does very well on the written tests) without becoming a fluent speaker of it.
I think we have no Chinese or Japanese people on LW.

I suspect this is mainly due to a cultural rather than a linguistic barrier. Based on this survey, LW has more members from Finland than from the English speaking India.


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ChristianKl 4 January 2016 02:34 PM
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It's culture in the sense, that Western people are more interested in discussing rationlity because of the way they were raised while Indian people likely focus on getting formal qualifications and passing standardized tests.

To the extend that the debate about rationality leads to new approaches of looking at problems it's valuable for society. I find it unlikely that Indian's would come up with founding MealSquares due to their narrow-minded focus on playing by the official rules.

A lot of the ideas coming out of the LW sphere won't produce commercially successful products but society doesn't need all ideas to be successful.
YCombinator makes the bulk of it's profits with the top 10 company of it's portfolio and would be okay if the other companies would make no money.

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ChristianKl 4 January 2016 10:35 AM
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I think it's mostly written tests. Tests about vocubulary and tests about grammer. You can make a lot of grammar mistakes and still be understood. As far as I understood the Japanese train the correct grammar rules in school and the students don't really use the language. Then they forget everything a few years after they left school because they don't use it.

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melian 5 January 2016 05:30 AM
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You mat find this data interesting. Assuming that the number of patents is a good proxy for innovativeness, there is a strong correlation between innovativeness and the test scores at the age of 13.

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ChristianKl 5 January 2016 05:53 AM
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I'm not denying that a correlation between test scores and innovation exists. Goodhart's law. I'm saying that the person who spends 500 hours with SAT prep is going to be less innovative than the person who spends those 500 hours on LW or another intellectual pursuit.

Asian students optimize for test scores while people on LW don't. The Asian student wants that his parents are proud because he scores highly on a test while the average person on LW doesn't care that much. That results in Western college students spending time on LW while Asian students don't.

Apart from that optimizing for numbers of patents is a bad idea. It results in a lot of bogus patents getting granted.


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