Friday, February 24, 2012

My Contribution to the High Education Bubble: Two Free Thesis or Dissertation Topics

Most rational observers agree that there is a serious higher education bubble going on, and way more theses and dissertations are produced that is optimal (although there's been a strong move towards non-thesis option Masters degrees).  But we're in the habit of encouragement here at the Chariot---it seems to be our area of comparative advantage, so today I'm offering two suitable topics, absolutely free.  You don't even have to cite me or credit me in any way.

Topic 1:  Do a study of the ending outcomes of children who are homeschooled of the various main flavors (traditional or unschooling) vs the various flavors of private schools vs public schooling.  Control by the IQ of the parents (you can get this from military records or the longitudinal studies that Murray used back in the Bell Curve, another alternative would use SAT/ACT scores).  This beats the hell out of just controlling by race/SES/education, and controlling by the parent's IQ gives you an indication on whether any of the modes of schooling might actually increase IQ, which after all isn't 100% nature although most of it is in the context of a high surplus modern society.  Some interesting questions you could answer this way, besides the obvious, might be which modes of schooling work best as a function of IQ ranges.  Do homeschool kids overperform their IQ?  Do homeschool parents tend to be smarter than their SES/education/race would tend to imply?
I imagine you could walk this topic in any of a number of departments, and it'd probably be worth several journal articles.

Topic 2:  It has been observed that the homicide rate presently would be a lot higher if we still had the medical capability of, say, the 1980s (this is to say a lot of people treated today and who make full recovery from aggravated assaults and the like would've been remanded to a pine box 20-30 years ago).  Put meat on this skeleton.  Using hospital and other medical aggregated records, compute a normalized homicide rate, normalized to 1900 medical technology or thereabouts, or the earliest date where your records of homicide and medicine are of good quality.  Consider also likely criticisms:  is there any evidence that people murdered today receive more injuries prior to actually expiring?  Do those intend on murder automatically adjust the lethality of their attacks to compensate?  Is the trauma medicine capability significantly unevenly distributed throughout the country?  Enough to make county-level rate significantly impacted by this effect?  Has the particular means of murder significantly shifted?  Like the first topic, you could walk this in several different departments, although I'd say Criminology is less likely to make a hash of it than medicine, although you'll probably want someone with relevant medical expertise (preferably a very long history of such, like a guy nearing retirement age in a major hospital in a big city who has worked trauma medicine most of his career) as a co author on several of your papers.

10 comments:

RS said...

> compute a normalized homicide rate, normalized to 1900 medical technology

Throw in a 1900 incarceration rate. Should be pretty interesting between the two.

Jehu said...

RS,
Yes, but you can argue that incarceration rates are something that a government can plausibly claim credit for. Back in 1900, for instance, I bet a lot of criminals got let off, at the scene, with a beating and a stern warning---something the media today would have a massive tantrum regarding. The meta-point on this thesis is the claim: Improvements in technology have masked to a great extent the incredible collapse in governmental competence in maintaining order.

Hail said...

Topic 2: Very intriguing. Doesn't it go directly against the recent "Better Angels" book's claim, that violence has declined across the board?

Another solid criticism of that book is here:
Blacks With Bullets Embedded in the Bones.

Jehu said...

Hail,
It'd be interesting to see what the normalized curve would look like. Medical technology in trauma has advanced a LOT---look at the wound to kill ratios in our military conflicts as time passes. But that's the whole point of honest research, to actually answer questions that admit to one.

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Medical Dissertations

Steve Nicoloso said...

Cited here

Jehu said...

Steve,
Thanks, with any luck one or both of these topics will get picked up by a doctoral student somewhere.

Hail said...

Jehu,
I see the following comment at Steve Sailer:

"Compared to 1960, the year our analysis begins, we estimate that without these developments in medical technology there would have been between 45,000 and 70,000 homicides annually the past 5 years instead of an actual 15,000 to 20,000."

I am too lazy to run the numbers. Does this mean all the longterm decline in the homicide rate has been artificial?

Jehu said...

Hail,
I've seen that comment before in other contexts, and it is in fact the spark behind this dissertation topic.
As to your question, yes, I think a lot, maybe even most, of the long term decline has been the result of medical technology. Technology improvements have masked a tremendous amount of ruin in our society.

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Medical Dissertations