Re: Didn't need no welfare state (Was: Re: news...)

From: James Wetterau (
Date: Wed Apr 19 2000 - 14:38:47 MDT

"Michael S. Lorrey" says:
> James Wetterau wrote: ...
> > "Michael S. Lorrey" says: ...
> > > > The United States Senator from New York Daniel Patrick Moynihan
> > > > famously observed some years back that he had learned from the Federal
> > > > government's own statistics people upon comissioning a review that the
> > > > distance from a state capital to Canada had several times the
> > > > statistical correlation with results on standardized tests in that
> > > > state than did the amount of money spent per pupil. (Specifically,
> > > > the closer to Canada, the better the scores.) He joked that the thing
> > > > to do was move the state capitals to the northern border of each
> > > > state. ...
> > > Thats probably about as close to a racist remark as a liberal feels
> > > comfortable with.
> >
> > I assume you're talking about Moynihan and not me, because I'm no
> > liberal. In any event, in what way is that at all racist? (Unless
> > you're assuming the problem is poor performance by white people.) The
> > northeast and California are probably more ethnically diverse than the
> > rest of the country at large, and with California's capital at
> > Sacramento, almost as far north as Trenton, the capital of New Jersey,
> > California and the northeast states would all be contributing to the
> > performance on standardized tests that would get correlated to
> > closeness to Canada.
> I was referring to Moynihan. Actually his comment makes a direct
> implication that the sliding scale of test scores as you move south is
> directly related to the percent of the population that is black or
> hispanic, which, no, the Northeast does not have a higher percentage of
> black people or hispanics than southern states.

Wow, you must be a mindreader! I see no such implication in
Moynihan's statement.

Moynihan was responding to calls for greater Federal funding. It has
long been noted that on standardized test scores many southern states
do less well than many northern states. He had some statistical
bureau compare the possibility that state performance on tests
correlates to dollars (in rejecting the "throw money at the problem
approach" Moynihan was actually taking a typically conservative
position here), or correlates to distance from the capital to Canada.
These would presumably be compared with a "null hypothesis" that the
differences can be set down to chance, in a statistical analysis of
the hypothesis. The results showed a much stronger statistical
correlation to northern capital latitude than to bucks. The point he
was making was that dollars are not the whole answer.

If you want to call such a correlation racist, you can go ahead, but I
don't see it. I do see that it draws attention to regional
differences. I am by no means convinced that the numbers can be
attributed mostly to race, as I do not know about racial distribution
by state, and would welcome any pointers to such demographic results,
if only because I hate navigating such discussions without hard data.
Your answer certainly does not deal with the case of California.

> While New York City does
> have the largest puerto rican community in the US,

New York City can be seen as having an all minority population at this
point, if you accept Latino as a primary racial grouping. Whites,
Blacks, Asians and Latinos are all minority groups. Even more
interesting, foreign born is almost as common a status as U.S. born.

BTW, since Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, the demographics there can
easily shift over time. Any Puerto Rican who moves to the U.S. can
immediately participate in the U.S. as a full citizen, including
voting in local elections and everything else, and any U.S. citizen
who moves to Puerto Rico can immediately partcipate as a Puerto Rican
in the political life of Puerto Rico, voting in local elections and
having no voting representation in the U.S. Congress, just like any
other Puerto Rican. So what it means to be "Puerto Rican" can rapidly
change in the manner that what it means to be a "New Yorker" or a
"Coloradan" can change, due to internal migration of groups within the
U.S. and its territories.

> northern New York
> state dilutes the actual percent of state population that is hispanic
> down to a small percentage.

Yes, but overall the state is still pretty ethnically diverse; seven
or eight million of its 18 million residents live in the City, and
over 50% of those seven or eight million are non-white.

> Beyond that, his statement is actually false in at least one respect.
> Montpelier VT is I think the clostest state capital to Canada (I'm not
> sure of the distance of Lansing from Ontario), at least closer than NH,
> and NH has always maintained slightly better test scores than Vermont.

The test was an aggregate statistical analysis of all 50 states. If
it held perfectly true, than the statistical correlation would be one.
If it were absolutely untrue, the statistical correlation would be
negative one. If the results showed no greater correlation than the
null hypothesis, the correlation would be at 0. The correlation was
somewhere between 0 and 1, but significantly larger than the
correlation to dollars spent. This means that you can find cases
where it will not hold true.

The accuracy of Moynihan's statement of a correlation is based
entirely on the accuracy of the figures, and the analysis performed.

> > I personally think the difference may well be attributable to the
> > northern states going more industrial earlier, and later becoming
> > richer, as well as the likelihood that kids stay in and study during
> > the long, cold, darker winters. North Dakota produces a
> > disproportionate number of high school math prodigies and I don't
> > think it's some racial superiority of the North Dakotans :-). I
> > hypothesize, off the top of my head that maybe being way out in the
> > middle of nowhere, plus in a place where it's too cold to hang out
> > outside much of the year, helps some kids focus on their studies.
> Possibly, or maybe they are raised, in fact, to obey and respect their
> parents more than city kids who rarely spend time at home or obey their
> parents.

Whatever. I was raised in New York City and knew plenty of kids whom
this sweeping generalization inaccurately describes. Moreover many of
the students at the nation's top colleges and universities come from
New York City, as do a great many desperately uneducated people. I
find it hard to imagine you could have any kind of reasonable dataset
for drawing your sweeping conclusion, though I am always prepared to
be pleasantly surprised. And some of the most prodigious intellects
it is my pleasure to know largely defined themselves in important
personal acts of rebellion, in some cases against tyrannical parents.
All I know is growing up in the big city served me and my family well.

All the best!
James Wetterau

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