Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Selections from Evaluations

A friend (to remain unnamed) recently pointed me to the evaluations of a to-be-left-unnamed professor in a to-be-left-unnamed department at a to-be-left-unnamed university. These things are on the internet, so they are public, and you can probably find the source without too much trouble, if you really want to. Here are some choice excerpts:

I hereby vehemently request the department of sociology to desist from any further acts of depicting McDonald's Corp. as synonymous with the apocryphal concept of "corporate evil", for the just and no less practical reason that they merit your gratitude rather than enmity for their magnanimous nature, for they are the principal employer of those unfortunate, nonetheless utterly useless individuals who possess a degree in sociology.
[This professor, along with three others mentioned by name] taught me what sociology is all about: It's about investing fortunes in a degree that tells others that you are useless to society.
I don't understand where comes all these criticisms of Professor [X, who] gave me a 95% for SOC 143 and an 87% for SOC 239. These marks allowed me to obtain my Sociology degree with an A overall average. I CAN NOW BE A MANAGER.....AT McDONALD'S!
I have several observations about these comments.

  1. I note with approval that none of these students has mentioned becoming an associate at my favourite store. I assume that means being a Wal-Mart associate has higher status than working at McDonalds.
  2. According to this study, which uses data from, it is likely this professor is neither sexy nor easy. [thanks to Newmark's Door for the pointer; link to the original also provided by The Emirates Economist].
  3. If, as the study mentioned above indicates, professors who are sexy or easy get higher evaluations, I must be an outlier. Of course there are reasonable concerns about omitted variables and simultaneity bias.
  4. As I mentioned in an earlier posting, I am skeptical about the usefulness of student evaluations.
  5. The evaluations on are the result of biased, voluntary sampling; I have no idea how serious the bias is or what direction it takes.

Possible Exam Question:
Suppose that higher teaching evaluations, at the margin, can be expected to generate a somewhat (perhaps very small) increase in expected income for professors. Then, in the production function,
Evaluation = f(leniency, sexiness),
which is it better for an instructor to focus on at the margin? Which, input, at the margin, has the lowest marginal cost of production? [hint: what if you assume zero economies of scope with other activities, such as research or dating].

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