Benefits of Job Mobility Depend on Tenure

I have to thank Lisa Takeuchi Cullen for writing in her blog Work In Progress about a study done by American Sociological Association in its journal, the American Sociological Review.

Here is a link to the brief they have on their website.

Some of the findings I thought were important are:

  • The value of job mobility adds up faster in the early stages of a worker’s career. Women tend to move less than men, but still pretty close.
  • Mobility early in careers is considered a wage asset as long as it isn’t based on layoffs, discharges, or leaves. A positive wage compared with job stability can result based on these moves.
  • A plateau effect can take place eventually because the lack of a five year tenure at any job.
  • Each year of tenure is related to approximately 2.4% wage increase for men and 2.9% increase for women. These increases compound each other for up to five years.
  • After five years wage growth starts to either plateau or erode.

Other facts I thought were important:

  • Men are laid off more frequently than women.
  • Married men experienced greater wage outcomes when switching jobs than single men and those without children.

February 2008 Stats for Spending and Personal Income

February 2008 Stats for spending and personal income:

The US consumer increased their spending by 0.1% – That is the slowest increase since September 2006

The US consumer decreased their spending by 0.1% in December

Spending by US consumers equates roughly to two-thirds of the GDP (see yesterdays report regarding the 4th quarter GDP reading).


Core P.C.E. inflation rose at 2% in February. That is within the Federal Reserve’s tolerance.

January’s Core P.C.E. was revised to 2% as well.

Total inflation rose to 3.4% last month. Slightly better than the 3.5% for January.


Personal income grew at a rate of 0.5%. Analysts were expecting a raise of 0.3%.

Some Recent GDP Stats

0.6% Estimated annualized 2007 4th Quarter (revised to a contraction of 0.2%)
0.6% Commerce Department reported annualized 2007 4th Quarter

Builder spending in the 4th Quarter of 2007 shrank by 25.2% – largest cut in 26 years

Consumer spending increased at a rate of 2.3% – a healthy number is 2.8% but still better than analysts who guessed 1.9%

Business buying of equipment and software resources increased at a rate of 3.1% for the 4th Quarter of 2008. The 3rd Quarter saw businesses add resources at a rate of 6.2%

Core inflation was 2.5%, slightly better than the analysts expected (2.7%)

Foreign trade has had a positive economic contribution over the last quarter. Exports rose at a rate of 6.5%, up from 4.8%

Interview Question: How much sleep a night do you get? Part 2

During Part 1 of my three part series on asking about sleep, I looked at the question of “How much sleep a night do you get?” mostly from the view point of the interviewee. In this part I will try to look at it from a general perspective.

I was driving the other day running some errands. A couple of blocks from my house is a new library. I see cars going that direction often and usually pay it no mind. Except the other day I noticed a bumper sticker. I find bumper stickers more impactful these days because they are applied less frequently than they were in the past. Anyway, the bumper sticker said “Read your kids a bedtime story.”

This person feels it is important for parents to read to their kids before their kids fell asleep. I haven’t seen any studies but no one refutes the value of routine reading to kids before bedtime. There are several positives from this activity. To name a few: it is good bonding time, it inspires the creativity of the child, it helps develop the social and cultural norms of the society, and it is educational.

These elements, as well as others I omitted, also help with memory retention. Matthew Walker (Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California at Berkley) recently ran a study that found that memory is improved because of a good night sleep. More information can be found in this clip from 60 Minutes.

So not only is it important to get a good night sleep for physical reasons but it is important for educational reasons as well. Suppose I worked for a team that needed salient thought for problem solving. This team doesn’t benefit from brute force work (quality time over quantity time). I would work all day with the team to draw out all the complexity of the situation. I mean I would put it all on the table – show it for what it is. I then would have each team member absorb it. We would then take a dinner break and come back an hour before bed time. Prior to bedtime, I would ask the team again to review the problem. I would then tell the team that I would see them back around 11:00 the next day – assuming this would provide the opportunity for everyone to sleep at least eight hours.

Would I expect miracles the next day? Nope, not at all. I expect the process to begin though, the process of idea fortification. Now the team gets to benefit from each individual’s ability to soak in the problem and the parameters. Some of the advantages is that it is good bonding time, it inspires creativity, it helps develop social and cultural positioning, and it improves the education of the team. Sound familiar? Sleep on it.

Interview Question: How much sleep a night do you get? Part 1

How much sleep a night do you get?

Seems like an innocent enough question. What would you answer if a friend of yours asked? Or your mother? What would you answer if it was your boss? Are you honest with each of these people? Do you exaggerate up or down with any of these people? I guess that you do.

What would you answer if you were asked this question by someone interviewing you for the job you really need to get to the next level of your career?

Lets first review it as a fair interview question – I think it is a personal question. To me it isn’t as intrusive as asking if someone smokes, but drug tests are a normal procedure for some jobs. I also think it is outside the scope of the usual set of interview questions regarding goals, success, and working as a team. So lets accept it as a borderline question where it would only be asked of someone that is doing really well with the other more normal set of questions.

But why would an interviewer ask this question – what is the point?

If I am the person getting interviewed and my interviewer asked me how much sleep I get a night I start to ask myself two questions – does this person consider someone who gets lots of sleep to be lazy? and/or does this person think that someone who does get enough sleep knows how to prioritize? In addition to those two questions, you might want to think what the magic number is? Is it seven, seven and half, six, eight, or what? Finally, I would think what my real average a night would be – six to six and half. After spinning through those questions I would probably say seven. Is it a lie? Yep. It is a combination of what I think the interviewer wants to hear and what I think I can rationalize as fair in my own head? Yep.

A brief answer as to “yes” and “no”

Tuesday (3/18/08) could be the first day in a series of many toward a recovering US economic situation.

So what is the problem in the first place? It is mostly tied to the banking system. Too many people used packaged mortgages as assets to back mortgage loans that turned out to be worth less than thought. Some are still worth quite a bit and others aren’t. But if the job report continues to decline then more will switch to the less valuable kind (because people will lose the ability to pay their debts).

So was Tuesday the first day toward a recovery in the US economy?

A brief answer as to “yes”

The fed slashed the lending rate 0.75 points. This makes it more enticing to borrow money from bank to bank because you are getting an interest “deal.” Basically it is cheap money. Usually the banks pass this savings on to other people asking for loans (so far that isn’t the case, but it is expected to happen).
Two Wall St banks surprised investors by beating expectations for earnings. Lehman Bros and Goldman Sachs each performed better than analysts thought in the first quarter of 2008.
Visa’s IPO netted several banks millions of dollars. All told Visa raised 17.9 Billion. With banks having more income coming in they are more likely to benefit from firms that aren’t surviving as well as they are and buying them at a discount.
The stimulus checks are a little more than a month away.
Investors want to get out in front of the wave back up. Most investments are cheap right now so buying now doesn’t hurt the investor. Maybe it isn’t the lowest point, but it is probably close.

A brief answer as to “no”

Jobs! If the job report for March comes in as dismal as February then this slide will continue. Not because of the current credit problems but rather because the balance between Wall St and Main St finally tilted to affecting those that buy and sell goods and services day in and day out.
Energy costs are not dropping.

Interpersonal Skills and the Brain – a study

I’ve noted before that one of the most difficult parts of any job is the interpersonal side of it. Researchers are looking into which other animal groups develop interpersonal skills and at what levels.

A group of researchers from Michigan St. have been studying hyenas. They’ve found that spotted hyenas in Kenya can identify and “know” up to 60 to 80 different hyenas. In the study the researchers took a look at the shape of the brain of the hyenas. They found that the larger the frontal cortex the more socially aware the animal is.

For more information on this study it is available here: Hyneas – Social and Smart by Carl Zimmer

Testing Your Ability is Better Than Experience

Here is something I pulled from the Sports Guy’s page (2006) where he interviews Malcolm Gladwell. It is mostly Gladwell that I hit on though:

Gladwell: This is actually a question I’m obsessed with: Why don’t people work hard when it’s in their best interest to do so? Why does Eddy Curry come to camp every year overweight?

The (short) answer is that it’s really risky to work hard, because then if you fail you can no longer say that you failed because you didn’t work hard. It’s a form of self-protection. I swear that’s why Mickelson has that almost absurdly calm demeanor. If he loses, he can always say: Well, I could have practiced more, and maybe next year I will and I’ll win then. When Tiger loses, what does he tell himself? He worked as hard as he possibly could. He prepared like no one else in the game and he still lost. That has to be devastating, and dealing with that kind of conclusion takes a very special and rare kind of resilience. Most of the psychological research on this is focused on why some kids don’t study for tests — which is a much more serious version of the same problem. If you get drunk the night before an exam instead of studying and you fail, then the problem is that you got drunk. If you do study and you fail, the problem is that you’re stupid — and stupid, for a student, is a death sentence. The point is that it is far more psychologically dangerous and difficult to prepare for a task than not to prepare. People think that Tiger is tougher than Mickelson because he works harder. Wrong: Tiger is tougher than Mickelson and because of that he works harder.

Now here is something from by John Cloud called The Science of Experience that echoes the sentiment:

Ericsson’s primary finding is that rather than mere experience or even raw talent, it is dedicated, slogging, generally solitary exertion — repeatedly practicing the most difficult physical tasks for an athlete, repeatedly performing new and highly intricate computations for a mathematician — that leads to first-rate performance. And it should never get easier; if it does, you are coasting, not improving. Ericsson calls this exertion “deliberate practice,” by which he means the kind of practice we hate, the kind that leads to failure and hair-pulling and fist-pounding. You like the Tuesday New York Times crossword? You have to tackle the Saturday one to be really good.

Take figure-skating. For the 2003 book Expert Performance in Sports, researchers Janice Deakin and Stephen Cobley observed 24 figure skaters as they practiced. Deakin and Cobley asked the skaters to complete diaries about their practice habits. The researchers found that élite skaters spent 68% of their sessions practicing jumps — one of the riskiest and most demanding parts of figure-skating routines. Skaters in a second tier, who were just as experienced in terms of years, spent only 48% of their time on jumps, and they rested more often. As Deakin and her colleagues write in the Cambridge Handbook, “All skaters spent considerably more time practicing jumps that already existed in their repertoire and less time on jumps they were attempting to learn.” In other words, we like to practice what we know, stretching out in the warm bath of familiarity rather than stretching our skills. Those who overcome that tendency are the real high performers.

In summary, experience is overrated if it isn’t coupled with ever increasingly difficult training and increasingly difficult training is mentally demanding. To separate themselves, people like Tiger Woods in practice test their abilities and often fail. Being willing to fail makes them great.

College Tuition Changes

 Academic Year  Private Four-Year 5-yr
% Chg
% Chg
 1976-77  $2534    $617  
 1981-82  $4113  62%  $909  47%
 1986-87  $6658  62%  $1414  56%
 1991-92  $9812  47%  $2107  49%
 1996-97  $12994  32%  $2975  41%
 2001-02  $17377 34%  $3766  27%
 2006-07  $22218 28%  $5836  55%

I pulled these stats from a College Board report called Trends in College Pricing. There is another list that shows the 2006 current dollars for these figures, but I think this gives a good idea about how the growth in cost for college is increasing at a pretty high rate. Another chart shows from 1996-97 until 2006 the cost increase ranges from 4% to 8% for private college and from 4% to 13% for public colleges. Given that inflation is usually around 3% that means that the cost of college is increasing beyond normal adjustments. But why?

As college enrollment has increased steadily since the 1950s it seems like an economies of scale situation would take place and lower the overall cost. That might still be happening, but then something else is making the cost increase even more.

Why do I think this is important? Because of recent article in the NY Times called Math Suggests College Frenzy Will Soon Ease. This report states that those at the age of normal enrollment are a smaller population than the years that preceded them. So as competition for the best schools has increased over the years, it is now getting to the point where the student has more leverage. But if there are less students attending (there is an assumption that those seats won’t be filled by foreign students who can attend an America university on the cheap) then what happens to the cost structure? Will students pay less because the educational consumables will be more abundant? Or will students pay more because there are less of them to finance the school bills?

Finally, students will definitely benefit from the financial aid packages since there are less people in the pool for them. And after these students complete their term what type of demand will their be for their skills? You can assume there will be high demand, but it is an assumption.

The Different Classes in the US

I recently ran across an interesting interactive piece from the NY Times. Who ever over there created it did a great job. It is called How Class Works and it depicts the different levels of class in the US. It shows Components, How Class Breaks Down, Income, and Wealth.

Why I think it is important is as we embark on a recession we must consider the effects of the last one. Wages didn’t really increase when inflation is considered. Here is the stat:

2006 median household earned $48,201
1999 median household earned $49,244