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Expletive Millennials

After starting the semester with my usual Innumeracy article I had them read, A Millennial’s Field Guide to Mastering Your Career,  which seemed like it would catch their interest.  I especially enjoyed it because the more things change the more they stay the same.  The authors have quotes about workers that you think are describing millennials but actually come from a previous generation: “We’re dealing with tender little egos.  They have to be told they’re loved quite frequently.”  This one was from 1969 talking about baby boomers!  Also the authors give the key to economic security for this generation of millennials: “Develop talents that cannot be automated away: timeless talents like critical thinking, playing nice, and effective writing.”  Who wouldn’t want to plug these virtues?  Plus it’s a nice affirmation of a liberal arts and sciences education :O)

As a bonus there are some graphics that provided perfect quiz questions for me.  Only a couple of my students were able to correctly interpret the 27% in question #4 below.  I won’t spoil the surprise so will debrief after you have had a chance to try these out.

Q2 Millennials
Please remember the link to the article is:  http://fortune.com/millennial-generation-career-accelerator/

  1. Joel Best (Damned Lies and Statistics) says that social statistics have two purposes, one public and one hidden.  What is the hidden purpose?
  1. Joel Best talks about the social construction of social problems.
    1. I know many of you read the article, Why Students with Smallest Debts Have the Larger Problem, and our Millennial article also mentions that graduates today face student loan debt likely to be 56% higher than that of a graduate a decade ago. In what sense has the problem of student loan debt been socially “constructed”?
    2. Assume the average student loan debt a decade ago was $10,000. If the average debt today is 56% higher, compute the debt today.
  1. The Millennial Field Guide article mentions the median take home annual earnings for millennials with a bachelor’s degree. Do you think the mean would be higher or lower?  Explain!
  1. The graphics below are from the article.
    1. This one is confusing. There are two age groups above the year 1983, giving us two statistics.  Interpret these two statistics in a sentence or two.
      Mill_1
    2. In the freelance graphic interpret the 27% in a sentence.
      Mill_2
    3. In the median earnings graphic, the trend from 1980 to 1990 to 2000 was a nice straight line. If this trend had continued from 2000 to 2010 estimate what the median earnings would have been.
      Mill_3
  1. Compute the ratio of the life expectancy of the average S&P 500 company in 1958 to today, and scale the 2nd quantity to 1. Use the ratio in a meaningful sentence.
  2. Finally what 3 abilities do they say are the key to economic security that cannot be automated away? Good news for anyone getting a degree from a top Liberal Arts and Sciences college!

Quiz debrief:  A big hint for the 27% is recognizing the graphic is a histogram and that all the percentages add to 100%.  This tells us that they are percentages of the same group, and not of the age categories (which most of my students thought).  Also none of them thought to compare the 27% to the 22% of all U.S. workers, which was the point of the graphic.  Comparisons matter!  I thought the first graphic would cause the most trouble but at least half were OK with it.  The others often failed to use the statistics of 2 years and 3 years associated to 1983, they just talked in generalities: “Younger workers spent much less time with employer.”  This allowed me to discuss weasel words in class and the importance of using statistics effectively and avoiding phrases like “much less time” that are too vague.

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