Simons, brain gap, & Crane operators

Read two articles today, one about a strike by crane and other heavy equipment operators that has stopped all major construction projects in NYC – including the WTC rebuilding, and another about a billionair hedge fund manager complaining about the lack of US-born and educated Ph.D’s to use in his quantitative funds…

Obviously lack of Americans getting graduate degrees in science and math has been a topic beaten to death by every pundit out there. Examples of payscales for medical practitioners and laywers vs. scientists have often been used to explain the disparity. How about payscale for unionized workers?

The Post aritcle about the strike contained a table, missing in the online edition, listing the average salary for a “nuclear scientist” (however defined) at $32/hour or so. That’s around $65,000 a year. Nice, but that’s nothing compared to $80/hour for crane operators. Why would anyone want to get a math Ph.D when they could make twice as much money operating a backhoe or a construction crane?

I do not see why MIT math Ph.D is not going to be good enough for Simons’ office, but it is easy to imagine that there just are not enough MIT, Cal.Tech. and similar Ph.D’s awarded to feed the US Market. By contrast, someone like Pavel Volfbeyn or Alexander Belopolsky (discussed in the Simons article) with degrees from a Russian MFTI (MIT equivalent) cannot possibly make as much money in Russia as here (requesting 3-4 miliion per year), at least legally.

As any other self-respecting blog-head, I have a proposition. If indeed the demand for mathematicians and scientists is so great, their prospects so bright, then why does not Simons and other people who hire them give every US-born or -eduated Ph.D a 2 or 5-year contract to work in their firms. Let them make enough money to go back to being professors or high-school teachers. In fact, you could make it a condition. I do not know if it is going to change the reality of how many people can graduate from MIT and the like, and that other countries will have bright graduates from their countries’ top schools who will come to US to make their millions because they cannot do so in India or Russia or China. I do know that you are not going to get more people to study math when one can make twice as much money working for a union that would go on strike when offered a contract like this:

The workers, who run cranes, backhoes, compressors and other pieces of heavy equipment, earn $73 to $82 an hour, including benefits.

They’re among the highest paid blue-collar workers in the city.

They rejected an offer that would have given them 6 percent raises annually over five years, with a guarantee of no layoffs.

signing off…

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