Return on Investment

One post I find myself linking fairly frequently is on the ever-controversial site Return of Kings (quoted liberally, shorted to the points relevant here):

Society Can’t Afford The Educated Woman

Women are making great strides academically, so much so that I think it fair to claim at this point that they have overcome just about all of the road blocks to higher education previously placed in front of them….

That’s all good and well, but a recent perusal of a New York Times article got me thinking about a crucial aspect of this growing academic “fempire” that seems overlooked: the utility of the educated woman.

I’M a doctor and a mother of four, and I’ve always practiced medicine full time. When I took my board exams in 1987, female doctors were still uncommon, and we were determined to work as hard as any of the men.

Today, however, increasing numbers of doctors — mostly women — decide to work part time or leave the profession. Since 2005 the part-time physician workforce has expanded by 62 percent, according to recent survey data from the American Medical Group Association, with nearly 4 in 10 female doctors between the ages of 35 and 44 reporting in 2010 that they worked part time.

This may seem like a personal decision, but it has serious consequences for patients and the public.

Medical education is supported by federal and state tax money both at the university level — student tuition doesn’t come close to covering the schools’ costs — and at the teaching hospitals where residents are trained. So if doctors aren’t making full use of their training, taxpayers are losing their investment. With a growing shortage of doctors in America, we can no longer afford to continue training doctors who don’t spend their careers in the full-time practice of medicine.

Tremendous amounts of economic and social effort have gone into the promotion of the educated woman and the more gender-diverse workforce. Tremendous amounts of real capital have gone into the promotion and education of women, the goal being to bring them fully up to par with men in both ability and opportunity.

Are we getting a good return on that investment? This is a question feminists do not want to hear about, but how long can it be avoided?

When it comes to educational costs, women are by all means equal to men. It does not cost less to educate a woman at Harvard Law or [insert prestigious and preposterously expensive medical/law/business school here] than it does to educate a male. It does not cost less to send a woman to an elite liberal arts school than it does to send a male. These costs, I don’t need to tell you, are massive.

Society is, collectively, making a gargantuan investment in educating college students with the hope that there will be some return on that investment. That return doesn’t have to come in the form of capital, but rather in productivity: those receiving these extravagantly expensive educations are expected use them in order to enhance their performance in professional fields. Said enhancement leads to better performance of professional fields as a whole (ex: a larger number of competent doctors, lawyers, investors and the like available to a larger share of the population), and that in turn leads to a better society.

The problem here is that men are offering a greater return on that investment than their equally well educated female counterparts.

The maddening reality for feminists is that this can’t be blamed on the patriarchy. There are many more women capable of holding elite white-collar positions than there are women actually holding them. That differential is, as the article above mentioned, due to female choice, not to male oppression. Women not only self-select out of many demanding, prestigious and high paying fields (even if they’ve not shown any lack of mental capacity to do the work), they also seem to very strongly favor the birthing and raising of children (and the professional sacrifice that comes with it) to the maintenance of a life on the hard-charging career track…

The problem, however, is not one of principle but one of practical matters, particularly those relating to finance. Western nations are running out of money and, as the aforementioned New York Times article notes, running out of educated professionals in many crucial fields:

The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that, 15 years from now, with the ranks of insured patients expanding, we will face a shortage of up to 150,000 doctors. As many doctors near retirement and aging baby boomers need more and more medical care, the shortage gets worse each year…

Despite this:

But their productivity doesn’t match that of men. In a 2006 survey by the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges, even full-time female doctors reported working on average 4.5 fewer hours each week and seeing fewer patients than their male colleagues. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that 71 percent of female pediatricians take extended leave at some point — five times higher than the percentage for male pediatricians.

This gap is especially problematic because women are more likely to go into primary care fields — where the doctor shortage is most pronounced — than men are. Today 53 percent of family practice residents, 63 percent of pediatric residents and nearly 80 percent of obstetrics and gynecology residents are female.

How long can this go on? I’m sure the pie in the sky ideas promoting absolute gender equality and the costs associated with it were more bearable in an age when economic growth seemed endless, an age in which the generation that largely began this whole gender revolution (hi boomers) grew up in.

Today, however, we’ve got a harsh reality staring us in the face: we’ve decided to take a massive portion of society’s investment in education and focus it on women and we’re seeing less of that investment returned to society. We’re paying more and, essentially, getting less. We’re committed to maintaining equality in our investment, but totally unconcerned with the equality of the return. This isn’t sustainable in world of finite money/resources.

The answer, surely, is not to stop educating women. Rather, it is to find a way to improve the return on the investment that said education symbolizes...

While RoK gets all sorts of accusations of misogyny, the author clearly states that he isn’t interested in any sort of moralizing about who’s getting educated, or even who is better suited for the job.  His concern is a pragmatic, financial one: are we getting adequate return on our investment?  Statistics clearly indicate that we are not, and it is already having serious consequences which are further worsened by recent healthcare reform.

But, Athlone McGinnis’s point is bound to be lost among the shrieking hysterical feminist crowd, so another perspective is in order.  Furthermore, I like to make connections between things, and this is my blog, so it makes me happy to connect similar events even if none of them are in danger of being “discredited.”

An article from last fall recently made its way through my Facebook feed pertaining to the Air Force’s struggle to retain pilots.  The author points out that the Air Force tries to retain pilots with financial incentives, and is struggling to understand why the pilots aren’t taking the retention bonus.  While the article is very long and worth a read in-full, I’d like to focus on the relevant connection:

The Fighter Pilot Bonus

A few years ago, the general in command of United States Air Forces Europe (USAFE)…asked the fighter pilots in his command to explain why they think this is happening and included this very telling statement: “My concern is not that you’ve made the choice to pursue a new path, but that we don’t really understand why you made the choice.”

We’ll get to the why in a bit.

This summer, the Air Force Times reported that the USAF decided to offer fighter pilots an financial bonus to try and improve retention…follow-up article from the Air Force Times reports that pilots aren’t taking the bonus….

We’re going to take a look at some of the factors that detract from pilots doing the job they thought they signed up for. First, though let’s look at the costs of training a USAF pilot:

  1. CollegeSomewhere around 35-50% of USAF pilots each year come from the USAF Academy at a taxpayer cost of $300,000+. Beyond that, many of them received some level of ROTC scholarship. Let’s average things out to a cost of $150,000 taxpayer dollars paid per pilot for college.
  2. Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT)UPT has been quoted for years as costing $1,000,000. That number is old and the costs are probably much higher in today’s dollars. Let’s leave it there and just say that UPT is an order of magnitude more expensive to the taxpayers than college was.
  3. Aircraft QualificationAfter UPT, each pilot has to attend a program to get qualified in his or her aircraft. We don’t have hard numbers for these programs. The cost of the flight hours for UPT isn’t more than $500,000, so there are a lot of other costs for academics, simulators, airfield management and operation, etc. Knowing that, let’s look at the hourly cost of flying USAF aircraft. We can get rough numbers from comptroller.defense.gov (PDF).Let’s say that on average it takes 100 hours for a pilot to get qualified and reasonably competent in an aircraft. This includes Mission Qualification Training (MQT) after the pilot gets to an operational squadron. For an F-16, C-130 or KC-135 pilot those 100 hours cost somewhere in the range of $1M to $1.5M. For an F-15 or F-22 pilot those costs double. For a B-52 or B-1 pilot you’re looking at $3.6M to almost $5M. This is just the bare minimum cost for just the flight hours to get a pilot qualified.

We can summarize that to say that it costs the US taxpayers anywhere from $2.1M to $6.1M (low end estimates) to get a USAF pilot operationally qualified in an aircraft.

You’d think that after an investment like that the USAF would want to keep that pilot focused on flying that for several years to recoup their investment. Supposedly, that’s why we make pilots sign a 10-year contract when they finish pilot training. The pilots would love for that to be true.

Taxpayers and lawmakers of the United States, make no mistake: you are not getting that return on your investment! Listed below are some of the things that detract from your ROI. These are the same factors that are frustrating the hell out of fighter pilots and causing the retention problems mentioned in the articles and post above.

  1. Alpha ToursYou’d think that when the Air Force spends all that time and money getting someone qualified in an aircraft they’d want to keep them in the cockpit as long as possible. No such luck. The first operational assignment for a fighter (and other) pilots is only 2 years, 3 at best…
  2. AAD/PME…Since the USAF lacks the leadership ability to differentiate between the best and worst officers using job performance as the primary factor, it sets some benchmarks that it requires all officers to meet. Two of these are that they require all officers to earn a Master’s degree (Advanced Academic Degree or ADD) and they require officers to complete Professional Military Education (PME.) Every officer can do PME in correspondence, but they compete to do it in residence at a variety of programs. The AAD is generally done at online schools in an officer’s spare time because busy work and deployment schedules make attending classes in person impossible. The US taxpayers cover up to $9000 of Tuition Assistance to help pay for this degree and each officer has to pay any extra out of pocket.The AAD can be in any subject and need not apply in any way to the officer’s job. Several for-profit, online-only schools have popped into existence in the last few years. They charge exactly the amount of money covered by the taxpayer-funded Tuition Assistance program. They are notoriously easy degrees that would not get a shred of respect from anyone who graduated from residence graduate program at a “real” college. Military officers love these schools because they are essentially free to them and the degrees are easy to earn with minimal effort. That’s what your taxpayer dollars are getting.

    A quick look at promotion statistics shows that ADD and PME are easy cop-outs for promotion boards. Officers who complete both are almost guaranteed promotion. Officers who are too busy deploying, flying and studying the employment of their aircraft to get one or both of the ADD/PME finished have much lower promotion rates. The contrast is significant. The statistics show that promotion boards haven’t really needed to focus on job performance…the ADD/PME cutoffs take care of their quotas for them.

    This sends a clear message to fighter pilots (and officers in any specialty): If you focus your time and energy on your primary duties you won’t get promoted. If you focus instead on an AAD and PME that may or may not apply to your job, you will get promoted….

  3. DeploymentsFighter pilots don’t deploy as much as many other people…
  4. Staff Tours…Part of forcing all officers onto that track is requiring officers to complete a staff tour. This is generally a non-flying assignment of 1-3 years in length…For taxpayers, it’s another 3 years that an officer spends out of the aircraft that they spent millions of dollars training him or her to fly…

Taxpayers and Lawmakers: I hope you see some of the reasons that your USAF is having trouble retaining fighter pilots. I hope you see that fighter pilot retention is tied to problems that are wasting your tax dollars. You’re spending millions of dollars per pilot to train people who will only get a few years at best in their aircraft. If you could get the USAF to let fighter pilots focus on doing their mission you would simultaneously get more for your money and solve a lot of your retention problems.

One might think that women going to college and fighter pilots leaving the Air Force would have little to do with one another.  One is about women’s rights, the other is about…military discipline?  Motivation?  The problem is that these are third-order effects of what I believe the root problem is: wealth!

It is my belief that the material cause of most significant problems in our culture is that we have grown up in a society so wealthy we have no appreciation for cost or opportunity cost.  We don’t know how to invest for the future because we’ve been getting by pretty handily while spending for today.

I link these two concepts together not only to provide myself some “not-a-he-man-woman-hater” cover, but also to show how widespread the problem is, and to bring it into focus in an organization that is undeniably suffering the consequences of its mistakes.  (Something harder to “prove” with society at-large.)  What got me into blogging and later brought me into the Dark Enlightenment/Neoreactionary circles were my own observations on systems ignoring feedback mechanisms, business practices, and financial basics.  My desire isn’t to moralize on women in college or the motivation of our armed forces, but rather to continue to explore facts and ways in which our systems can be brought back to an interface with reality.  This post will serve as Exhibit A in my Human Relations tribunal on charges of being a miso-whatever-I’m-accused-of-hating should I ever need it!

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