Via dougj, I looked at this David Brooks column and was struck by this:

It is very hard for policy makers to use money to directly alter these viewpoints. In her book, “What Money Can’t Buy,” Susan E. Mayer of the University of Chicago calculated what would happen if you could double the income of the poorest Americans. The results would be disappointingly small. Doubling parental income would barely reduce dropout rates of the children. It would have a small effect on reducing teen pregnancy. It would barely improve child outcomes overall.

(Emphasis supplied.) Not having read the book, I am curious as to how these "calculations" were done. Obviously the scientific method of observation was not employed - we haven't doubled the income of poorest Americans. So how exactly were these "calculations" done?

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    Found this review (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Cream City on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:04:55 AM EST
    excerpt from The Economist that a tells a bit more, so your question is about the model:

    [In What Money Can't Buy, Susan Mayer] developed a statistical model that predicted what would happen to children's prospects if poor families' incomes were increased from $15,000 to $30,000 a year. The surprising answer is: not much. Ms Mayer found that although doubling the income of poor families would lift most children above the poverty line, it would have virtually no effect on their test scores and only a slight effect on social behaviour...There are two reasons for this. First, Ms Mayer notes that the extra money tends to be spent on such things as restaurant meals, clothes, dishwashers, roomier houses or second cars, none of which matters much in helping children succeed in school or life.... Second, good parenting has much in common with being a good worker. In both roles, the reward goes to diligence, determination, good health, willingness to co-operate, and so on. Children with parents who possess these qualities tend to do well in life, even if mother and father do not make much money.

    Hmmm.  Note: That the review is in The Economist does not mean that she is an economist . . . although she seems to have picked up at least some of the U of Chicago's school of economics' school of thought.  She's a sociologist.

    On Google Books (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:08:46 AM EST
    I saw excerpts of the book that struck me as utterly unconvincing as support for her methodology.

    Yes. I'm a bit bemused (none / 0) (#4)
    by Cream City on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:11:00 AM EST
    when the argument appears to be that such success -- or not -- cannot be reduced to numbers . . . based on a statistical model.

    It is all very strange (5.00 / 3) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:14:18 AM EST
    I can certainly accept that money is not the whole story.

    But some people seem to want turn that into money means nothing.

    An obviously absurd proposition imo.


    and the values (5.00 / 3) (#13)
    by robotalk on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:31:26 AM EST
    implicit in the characterization of what the money was spent on and in what personal characteristics lead to success--loaded with values assumptions and anything but scientific imho.

    Curious how this all fits in so well with the coded racism of our day.


    And it runs counter to ... (none / 0) (#7)
    by Robot Porter on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:16:26 AM EST
    studies such as this one which show a pretty clear correlation between income and SAT scores.

    correlation is different from causation (none / 0) (#11)
    by bocajeff on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:25:54 AM EST
    This cuts both ways (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:28:30 AM EST
    That's why I said ... (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Robot Porter on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:49:48 AM EST

    Well, everyone knows that poor (5.00 / 3) (#39)
    by Anne on Tue May 04, 2010 at 01:52:59 PM EST
    people are terrible parents, right?  So, why take the risk that terrible parents with more money will infiltrate communities where they can inflict their terribly-parented children on other people's kids?

    Does this person understand the change in stress level that could come from having more money, and the effect lower stress levels have on one's ability to be a better parent - to be a better human being?

    Oh, shoot, let's not waste our time on poor people - because the more money you give them, the less the chance that they will just die out altogether.

    How a family can function even on $30,000/year is beyond me.

    The conclusion has a distinctly "Let Them Eat Cat Food" feel to it - at least that's how it strikes me.


    Let's reduce David Brook's income ... (5.00 / 8) (#3)
    by Robot Porter on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:09:12 AM EST
    to $15,000 a year and see if it has any effect on the quality of his column.

    ha ha (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Emma on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:12:57 AM EST
    It'll just be $15,000 worth of crap.  It's akin to that old riddle:  what weighs more, a ton of lead or a ton of feathers?

    Jeebus (5.00 / 3) (#8)
    by DancingOpossum on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:16:53 AM EST
    It's because these people do not live in reality that they can come up with this happy horse puckey.

    The reason is that $30K a year for a family is NOT ThAT MUCH and will barely lift that family into the lower rungs of the lower-middle class in most areas of the country. It's not like all of a sudden, those families are going to suddenly be able to hire tutors or send their kids to private school or let Mom reduce her work hours so she can spend more time with the kids. It's because it is still not enough money, you officious, smug, condescending, know-nothing, elitist jackass.

    And don't you love the conservative Money Morality Patrol? The lecturing to the poor about where and how they should spend their dough?

    the extra money tends to be spent on such things as restaurant meals, clothes, dishwashers, roomier houses or second cars,

    Right. How DARE they want to move out of what is probably a crime-ridden, roach-infested public housing unit or crammed in with various in-laws and friends 10 people in a two-bedroom apartment (because there is nothing else you could afford on $15K for a family), how dare they go out once in a while or buy a new pair of shoes? Oh the horror!!

    These people have NO f***ing clue about the lives of real people. Just yesterday I was talking to my neighbor and she was telling me how she saw a houseplant in the store that she really wants to buy but she has to wait until her next paycheck because it costs $10 and she doesn't have that. Do you get that, David Brooks and Susan E. Mayer, you slackjawed scumbags??? She works full time (at a job she had to get schooling and certification to get, what many would call a "good job"), she has two kids who get state health insurance, and she doesn't have $10 to buy herself a g.d. houseplant. I have half a mind to go buy it for her myself because I am so fuming about these condescending jerks and their absolute inability to realize that know flat zero about the people they so smugly condescend to.

    So, (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by bocajeff on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:35:21 AM EST
    Go buy the plant. It's $10 and you'll make a families life better. That's one small way we can change things as a society - helping each other...Ranting on a web site doesn't really help your friend much...

    Imagine (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by robotalk on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:23:22 AM EST
    she looked at rates at two poverty levels, let's say 100% and 200% of the FPL and dropout rates, eg, were the same.  

    I finding the study suspect, because the values it suggests lead to success ("diligence, determination, good health, willingness to co-operate") amount to so much common coded name calling--the poor are lazy, fat and antisocial. I would not accept the findings anyway, as they suggest we should accept that the poor are helpless and hopeless.

    This does not mitigate against focused assistance in any case.  

    I can't imagine... (5.00 / 4) (#17)
    by kdog on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:40:32 AM EST
    how a single hermit who sleeps 20 hours a day could live on 15k a year, much less a person or couple with a kid to support.

    Seems to me a jump to 30k is going from hopelessly broke to plain old regular broke...of course you wouldn't see a big change in circumstances, 30k ain't sh*t.

    Exactly kdog (none / 0) (#46)
    by Militarytracy on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:43:01 PM EST
    you get it!  As a woman who survived single parenthood and a father who was not financially responsible and refused to be even though he wanted all the "privileges of being a father", it is nothing greater than different shades of hopelessness.  The stress is incredible.  I remember being terrified about becoming ill or if my daughter became ill, I didn't know how I could make any of it work if that happened.  We barely squeaked by each month.  $30,000 a year will not make the nightly terrors go anyplace, you lay there in the dark and stare at the ceiling and sweat.

    WOW! (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by MO Blue on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:51:53 AM EST
    A whopping $30,000 a year in family income.

    Something tells me that this study will have the greatest positive response from the same people who opine that a family can barely survive on $250,000 in a large city.

    Why double the money? (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by observed on Tue May 04, 2010 at 11:04:00 AM EST
    What would the statistical models show if you tripled the income?
    $45,000 for a family of 4 is liveable in most of the country.
    Does she think that quadrupling the income would have no income?

    would have no *effect* , I meant. (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by observed on Tue May 04, 2010 at 11:16:41 AM EST
    The results would be disappointingly small.... (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by ruffian on Tue May 04, 2010 at 11:06:07 AM EST
    For who? I suspect that the family involved would not be disappointed at all.

    Seems to be an attitude that giving other people a better chance at success is not worth it if it does not directly improve society in the ways society chooses to measure.

    Ruff, you don't understand ... (5.00 / 2) (#25)
    by Robot Porter on Tue May 04, 2010 at 11:21:46 AM EST
    poor people are craven beasts who, if given money, will only spend it on Big Macs, wide-screen TVs, and video game consoles.

    So there is no need to help them.

    And, anyway, they don't feel pain the way we do.



    Hey, you hit on a societal value (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by ruffian on Tue May 04, 2010 at 12:03:11 PM EST
    she did not take into account in her statistics - consumer spending! What could be more important?

    Yeah... (5.00 / 2) (#26)
    by mike in dc on Tue May 04, 2010 at 11:41:35 AM EST
    Why not look at tripling or quadrupling the money?  That would push the household up into middle middle class territory--better neighborhoods, better schools, etc.  I don't know a lot of people who live in lower income neighborhoods who wouldn't readily relocate for the benefit of their kids, if you increased their income by that amount.

    I can see some sort of sociological argument for learned helplessness/dependency or somesuch having an effect on households in poverty, but the notion that money won't have much impact is a bit hard to take at face value.

    The trouble is to not (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by andgarden on Tue May 04, 2010 at 11:45:44 AM EST
    devalue the currency at the same time. I wonder how much income support you could give to the poor by taxing wall street bankers. . .?

    All that matters is to show that more money (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by observed on Tue May 04, 2010 at 11:48:06 AM EST
    does matter---nobody is suggesting actually carrying out the experiment.

    It so obvious that it seems (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by andgarden on Tue May 04, 2010 at 11:49:41 AM EST
    almost axiomatic.

    There's an underlying "Bell Curve" (5.00 / 2) (#31)
    by observed on Tue May 04, 2010 at 11:50:59 AM EST
    type assumption about the fundamental nature of the poor here.

    Indeed (5.00 / 2) (#32)
    by andgarden on Tue May 04, 2010 at 11:54:48 AM EST
    And the claim that the unemployed are choosing not to work.

    bocajeff (5.00 / 2) (#41)
    by DancingOpossum on Tue May 04, 2010 at 03:15:44 PM EST
    Buying the plant tonight :)

    Sorry (none / 0) (#9)
    by DancingOpossum on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:18:21 AM EST
    My anger made my rant get all garbled at the end.

    These people make me ashamed to be human.

    Well, (none / 0) (#14)
    by bocajeff on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:33:48 AM EST
    While I may not agree with everything in the study (though I haven't read it), I can say that if we don't look at ALL the causes of certain problems then nothing will fix it. To put our heads in the sand and not look at some of the pathologies that plague certain communities is harmful. Yes, money helps - but how much is the question...

    "Yes, money helps" (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:35:14 AM EST
    This is the concession that Brooks will not make.

    That is the point of my post.


    Yes -- even $30,000 a year for a family (none / 0) (#18)
    by Cream City on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:42:25 AM EST
    (that is her model, doubling a family income of $15,000) hardly is a definitive test of the failure of money to help at all.

    After all, the review states that she states that it did help somewhat.  Apparently, a great big doubling of income to $30,000 for an entire family is supposed to double results in no time at all.


    Sounds Like (none / 0) (#19)
    by squeaky on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:46:41 AM EST
    Another attempt at circulating the bell curve theory, this time camouflaged in a suit purchased at Walmart.

    Didn't Milton Friedman (none / 0) (#27)
    by andgarden on Tue May 04, 2010 at 11:44:18 AM EST
    support a guaranteed minimum income?

    EITC (none / 0) (#33)
    by me only on Tue May 04, 2010 at 11:56:03 AM EST
    That's along those lines, yeah (none / 0) (#34)
    by andgarden on Tue May 04, 2010 at 11:57:31 AM EST
    I meant (none / 0) (#37)
    by me only on Tue May 04, 2010 at 12:29:42 PM EST
    that is my understanding (and recollection from years ago) of what Milton Friedman proposed in Capitalism and Freedom.

    I think a maximum income would be (none / 0) (#35)
    by observed on Tue May 04, 2010 at 11:58:11 AM EST
    extremely useful too.

    What is a maximum income? (none / 0) (#38)
    by me only on Tue May 04, 2010 at 12:31:15 PM EST
    Bill Gates is paid $1 million/year (or was).  You don't get a net worth of $40 billion off of income.

    Bill Gates is irrelevant. (none / 0) (#40)
    by observed on Tue May 04, 2010 at 02:54:50 PM EST
    What matters is that the management salary to employee salary ratio is obscene. I'm not saying that we actually should cap maximum income, but I'm sure that such a policy would have a big social effect, compared with raising poverty income.

    Here's a calculation (none / 0) (#42)
    by NealB on Tue May 04, 2010 at 03:17:50 PM EST
    There are about 120 million households in the US.

    About 20% of those have annual income at or less than $15,000 a year.

    About 50% of those are families with children.

    120 million * 20% * 50% = 12 million family households with income at or less than $15,000 per year.

    Add $15,000 per year to each of those households:

    12 million * $15,000 = $180 billion of additional annual economic activity.

    It wouldn't hurt.

    None of which are correct (5.00 / 1) (#43)
    by me only on Tue May 04, 2010 at 03:54:20 PM EST
    All data is from 2006.

    There are 9.3 million households with children in the lowest quintile in the US.

    The average income for this group is $23,500.


    "Average" income? What's the range? (none / 0) (#53)
    by NealB on Wed May 05, 2010 at 11:12:17 AM EST
    If the average income is $23,500 for those 9.3 million families, what's the upper limit?

    My data was from 2004, US Census, when the upper limit was $18,500 for the group. (So the "average" must have been lower than $18,500 then.)

    Now, you say, that "average" income is up to $23,500 a year? That would make the upper limit somewhat higher. Are you sure that's correct? Please provide your source data. Thanks.


    CBO (none / 0) (#54)
    by me only on Wed May 05, 2010 at 03:05:48 PM EST
    Carefully read the wording of minimum adjusted income.  It does not represent what most people think it means.

    "not having read the book" (none / 0) (#44)
    by diogenes on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:17:30 PM EST
    So read the book before being a critic.  You might learn something.

    The University of Chicago (none / 0) (#45)
    by Militarytracy on Tue May 04, 2010 at 10:33:02 PM EST
    is always immediately suspect with me.  They seem to want to rewrite the rules governing civil society in many areas.  Since hard work will not reward you these days and you must know the right people and be born to the right people, where is the "hope" or the reward for those not born elite?  I don't even know if this book could be accurate.......and I doubt it, but there may be a point in just throwing an extra 15,000 at someone who has been living on the bottom of American society's shoe might and not "inspiring" everyone right now because we live in an oligarchy at this time.  But my family are better citizens, more deserving than others, because a Roman soldier....erm....I mean, a U.S. soldier is a member of this family.  One way to work your way out of the slave class (but its risky) is to become a Roman soldier now.