Work for free?

by Sara

When does it make sense to work for free? I have a 24 year old daughter starting out in digital marketing and a friend at a start up asked her if she would create and manage their social media program for free. I told her that she should go for it – great experience, resume builder, and opportunity for good references. Plus, if it’s not a great experience – or you get a paid job offer – you can just resign (they’re not paying you!)

I wonder what group’s advice would be – I know several senior finance execs who got laid off in tough market and were out for several years. Coming back and working for free at a small financial boutique is a way to get back in the game, prove yourself and demonstrate your value. Several ended up impressing the CEO to such a degree that they ended up getting hired by the firm.

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190 thoughts on “Work for free?

  1. What are her other options? Will she still have time to continue to seek paid work? How will she support herself while working for free? If she can live comfortably at home while doing volunteer work, will she have sufficient incentive to find a paying gig?
    It might be a great opportunity, or her friend might be taking advantage of her skills without giving her much in return.

  2. I have a 24 year old daughter starting out in digital marketing and a friend at a start up asked her if she would create and manage their social media program for free.

    I’m willing to bet if she asked, they’d pay her in equity. Not a lot certainly but also not nothing.

  3. My sister has done this twice in a creative field (film). When she first graduated from college she moved to NYC, lived in some sort of boarding house, worked at Barnes & Noble and interned at a documentary film company. She got a permanent job offer about three months into it and moved to a real apartment. Then when she moved to Missouri a few years ago for her husband’s job a she worked from home for the film company but started interning in a marketing job which then led to a real job offer (which she ended up declining because the pay was low). She now works in marketing for a university. I think it can make sense when you’re trying to transition or learn new skills but only for a short duration.

  4. My SIL did this after law school – interned for free with the state govt. She worked retail on the side for about 15 months, maybe? She finally did get hired in a paid position, but it was a LONG time of working for free/working retail for pay before then.

  5. At a young age it now seems to be a UMC norm to do stuff like this. But some end up doing this serially for years, which is not a good life plan.

    DD who has said she is moving back to Boston found that working for free or equity gets old quick, even when you can stay fed clothed and housed in the interim and you have some paid gigs. I think Lauren posted something similar about leaving a high end finance start up after a while. Also, at my daughter’s level there is useful experience to acquire or broadening into a related field, but only up to a point. You eventually have to get paid to be respected, or move on. For one friend whose start up was in a creative field and asked for her business advice, she said – yes, but I don’t want equity, I want barter – she had something that needed a final creative review/edit. I think he declined. Either he just wanted something for nothing, or the work she asked him to do was beneath him (as if the work he was asking her to do was not “beneath” her).

  6. My nephew worked for free after college for a film production company. My FIL paid the bills, and he did live at home. The connections he made at that company have been worth so much more than he ever could have imagined.

    I think she has to have her own internal plan about what she hopes to gain, and how long she is willing/afford to work for free.

  7. Interesting question. I’d work for free, but limit the hours so that the volunteer position can be paired with a paying job of some sort. This strategy should be coupled with aggressive networking and a job search for a permanent position.

    I support Rhett’s suggestion to ask for equity. Pretty soon, your DD should either find a paying job, or the digital marketing company will get tired of getting her only part time and pay her a real salary for her full time attention.

  8. Working for free or for a small stipend is apparently common for young people starting out in media and creative fields. Sometimes there is an end point, and the time is considered a probationary period.

    I agree with previous comments about asking for equity and determining what you aim to achieve. I think working for free can sometimes be the best way to network and get something on your resume. As a parent I would be wiling to help out financially to an extent.

  9. Also, make sure that the start up company and the project are cool enough to be worth her free time.

  10. I support the equity ask too.

    Without knowing the specifics, I would also say that the Digital Marketing space is really hot and growing, and that my thought would be that a 24 year old with a college degree should be able to get a paying job without too much trouble – either on the agency side OR with a company building an internal social media capability. And if she is willing to do grunt work for a little while that there is serious growth opportunity for a motivated and talented person to quickly move up the ladder into more strategic or creative roles. This is not an industry where I would generally see a need to work for free. On the other hand, it could also definitely build her portfolio if it is a small time commitment and doesn’t preclude her looking for other jobs and give her something to talk about in interviews.

  11. My university has a culture of encouraging academic internships, the kind where students don’t get paid but get credit instead. In computer science, though, desirable internships are PAID. My university has a lot of trouble understanding that – they give departments kudos if lots of students are in academic internships but they ignore the paid internships – so we always get dinged on that measure.

    Given that CS internships pay, it disturbs me to see how few students do them. Our students don’t come from families that encourage things like internships, and they typically have no role models – no Uncle Bub the IT Guy. They don’t understand the importance.

  12. “Grunt work” in this context is things like moderating comments/photos for company websites, facebook pages against guidelines, etc. Responding to comments. Physically posting planned content on company social media. Providing social listening reporting – cutting & pasting twitter replies and stuff like that.

  13. In my day, the accounting internships were always paid, the marketing ones were never for pay.

    I can see how it would make sense to do an unpaid internship for a semester or over the summer for the experience

  14. In this case, I would recommend asking for equity, or agreeing to do the work at a reduced rate, or perhaps a flat fee. There ought to be some formality to the arrangement, so that she can use it as a reference point for other jobs. And these are ordinary business expenses – even start ups need to be prepared to pay – start ups aren’t charity cases.

  15. Hijack alert…

    I went to a meeting of 10th grade parents with the guidance counselors this morning, on the topic of planning for the college process. Most of it was pretty much what I know. However, the guidance counselor did make one comment that I wanted to run by you guys for accuracy. She said that most kids either take the ACT or the SAT, not both. She said that every school will accept either, so the kids choose which test to take based on their score on the PSAT compared to the practice ACT. Is that true? In my day, there was a strong regional split between the ACT and the SAT, so people chose which to take based on region, or took both (which is what I did).

    I also learned that the official practice ACT was administered last Saturday, and there won’t be any more chances before the real thing, and my kid was blissfully unaware of this. Practice ACTs did not exist in my day, so I did not know to look for this, and the school notified the students but not the parents. Given that strong test scores are going to be the key to getting into a good school for my kid, I am more than a tad PO’ed at him. My DS1 may be very smart at math but he is still a moron.

  16. Even the lowly internships I worked at paid normal public transportation cost at the minimum. I am wary of a situation where the company views unpaid interns in he same light as employees and demands killer hours, which prevents one from looking for other jobs.

  17. Mooshi, my older dd took both act and sat. I expect the younger two will as well. I took both DH only took act. He aced it and didn’t need to take another test.

  18. “start ups aren’t charity cases.”

    My thoughts, exactly.

    For better or worse (and I mean that genuinely) I would never have gone for this. I was very much of the mindset that I wanted to be grown up, including financially independent, as early as possible.

    But that’s not to say one is better than the other.

  19. Mooshi, you can likely find an ACT prep place nearby that will administer and score its own practice test. Often it’s free – they hope you’ll hire them after you see the results. My DD took a free test, got the score and never signed on for the services – in fact, they didn’t even call to try talking us into it.

    I think most schools take both these days no matter be region but a check of admissions info on the school sites your DS wants will answer the question for him.

  20. MM – my kids are taking / have taken only the SAT. Even when applying to places where the ACT is more the norm (Ohio, Michigan, perhaps parts of PA), that has never seemed to be an issue since they both got in to all the schools they applied to there.

  21. So my first thought is to be a lawyer and think, wtf is this company doing? The Department of Labor is very, very big on free/underpaid work right now, and it has a HUGE list of strict requirements for someone to be exempt from minimum wage laws. #1 of which is that it must be for the direct benefit of the *worker*, not the company — i.e., college-sanctioned internships for credit, yes; “hey we’d like to try you out for free for 6 months to see if you’re a good fit for the job,” no. And the penalties are all on the company, not the kid — the kid can take the gig, work for free, feel like she got shafted, file a complaint, and then the company is fined plus has to pay her back pay for the hours actually worked. So if I were advising any of these companies, I’d tell them they were being penny-wise, pound-foolish, and they either need to fork over minimum wage or figure out some other option that involves actual money, like equity or commissions or whatever (note that I don’t know the ins and outs of what those alternate forms of payment must do to be legal).

    Personally, I didn’t have this option — I was of the “need to pay my bills” socioeconomic stratum when I was in school, so I had regular paying jobs. But if my kid were offered that, I’d have to talk to her and figure out the industry. If it’s something artsy/hugely popular where these sorts of scut jobs are a necessary evil to break in, then sure, if it would offer useful experience, contacts, etc., or even just check the requisite box on the resume. I would fund living expenses for a defined period of time to accommodate that.

    OTOH, something like this offer here I would look askance at. On her end, I think you teach people how to treat you; on the business’ end, I think any for-profit enterprise should have a good business plan, which by definition should provide for sufficient profit *after* paying all expenses — which, in turn, include employee salaries. So unless this is really at the “two guys in a garage” phase, or are in a very short-term cash crunch because they are going from 0 to 100,000,000 in 3 months, then their unwillingness to pay her means that they either have crappy business planning/cash managment skills, or the business isn’t as profitable as it needs to be, or they just want something for free and think she’s a likely mark. I like the “ask for equity” option — if there is a legitimate reason they can’t pay her in the short-term, giving her a longer-term interest shows their good faith; and on her end, asking for it shows that she’s not going to undervalue herself or be taken advantage of.

  22. MM — The important thing is to ascertain which test is likely to yield a higher score for your son. Since he missed the ACT practice test, he can do as Risley suggests or you can administer both tests if you feel confident doing that. Or he can just take both tests. Be sure any testing center you select uses a REAL ACT test, not just their faux version.

    Our school did not used to administer the practice ACT, so the recommendation was to take both tests to see which worked better better.

  23. Start-ups can be unprofitable for many years. What matters is if they have sufficient funding from Venture Capitalists to cover the cash burn until they hit profitability or the next funding round/IPO. I agree as a minimum ask for equity and I would internally set my own time/hours limit until they need to turn it into a paid position or I move on. The VC funding environment has turned, as has the technology IPO market, so there is more of a risk now than there was 12 months ago.

  24. Mooshi–second the advice to have kid take a free practice ACT. Then decide which test he is better at, and have him take it for real. If his scores are good enough, stop. If not, repeat.
    If his scores are similar on both tests, pick whichever one has a testing date that fits best into your schedule.
    Also, if your kid may be NMSF, they have to take the SAT to be a finalist. So that may tip the balance in favor of the SAT.

  25. I read several hundred applications. Most students reported one or the other test, but more than a few had scores for both. Most of my files were from the “bottom” of the pile, with less competitive scores, and my very unscientific conclusion was that very poor (in both meanings) students take one test, many students in the middle take both, and students at the tippy top take one. Which makes sense — if you get a 1550 on the SAT, your ACT score isn’t going to add any meaningful information to your application.
    Here in the midwest, however, the ACT was far more common than the SAT overall.

  26. This has made the rounds in the advertising world. I think it’s relevant here.

    http://shouldiworkforfree.com/

    I did a quick search on indeed.com for Social Media Manager/Coordinator, Content Manager, and Community Manager and a bunch of entry level jobs came up – agency side jobs and jobs handling social media grunt work for a law firm, a local restaurant group, a CPG company, a large non-profit, etc. All types of industries. There are tons of jobs. They don’t pay well at the entry level, but they pay money.

  27. At my university, the vast majority of students report SAT scores. I almost never see ACT scores, in fact. Which makes me suspect there is still a lot of regionalism in deciding which to take.

  28. Mooshi: DS1 took the SAT and did well enough that he didn’t try for the ACT. Some of his friends did both. He focused on the SAT because of the PSAT/NMSF issue.

  29. Mooshi, my DD (not a good test taker) did much better on the ACT than the SAT (looking at percentiles) so she was happy she had the option of which to report. Maybe that won’t be an issue for your DS though.

  30. Mooshi, I’m not aware of any college that won’t take either the SAT or ACT. Where there is variation is the essay requirement, so you and your DS should take a look at the schools that make sense for him and see if they require the essay. If you’re not sure, then I suggest he do the essay(s).

    I haven’t heard about the essay scores on the new SAT, but I’ve heard a lot about the ACT essay scores being quite low, so that might push him toward the SAT.

    I’m thinking that your DS is likely to be NMSF material, in which case he’d need to take the SAT to move from NMSF to NMF.

    Did your DS take the PSAT this past October? If he did well, i.e., above 209 (commended cutoff for c/o 2017) or so, he’s NMSF material, and I suggest he focus on the PSAT and SAT. Given what you’ve posted here about him, I think becoming NMF could be more important to him than the average NMF, given is grade issues.

    If he hasn’t taken the PSAT, then I suggest he start by taking a practice SAT or, better yet, a practice PSAT, but I’m not sure about the availability of practice PSATs (my DS was able to get practice SATs from his college counseling office). If that suggests he’s NMSF material, I suggest he focus on the PSAT/SAT.

  31. @ Milo: do you think it’s worth calling USAA to complain about the changes? Sometimes I can’t decide if it’s just a waste of time, or if calling and giving feedback can help move the needle.

  32. FWIW, I know the owners of a similar company and they do not allow unpaid work except for college credit for the legal reasons LfB described. The fact that this business suggested it indicates they do not consult even minimally competent lawyers.

    That said, it won’t hurt her, except for the lost time for job hunting and the money she could earn doing something else.

  33. “DS1 took the SAT and did well enough that he didn’t try for the ACT.”

    Ditto for my DS.

    BTW, if your DS decides to take the SAT, I suggest he take it for the first time no later than January of his junior year, but preferably even earlier. This will give him time to get his results, and retake the test if he thinks that makes sense. My suggestion is November. He can prep over the summer for both the PSAT and SAT. He probably won’t get PSAT results soon enough to do targeted prep for the SAT based on that, but he can target the parts about which he felt the most unsure.

    I’m not sure if it will get better, but the College Board has recently been taking a long time in reporting scores. Taking it in January might only leave March for a second test (he may want to set aside May and June for AP and subject tests), and slow result reporting from a January test might mean having to decide on the March test without those results.

  34. I think she absolutely should not work for free for the reasons already mentioned. If she does work out an equity stake for compensation, she needs to be very clear on how many hours she is willing to work.

  35. I don’t know, Lark. I’ve since had a conversation with someone about dealing with their own homeowner’s insurance provider, and the experience was similar (it took forever just to get an appraiser out). It makes me question the validity of my previous complaint.

    Would the rest of you be annoyed about not getting replacement credit cards for a week, or is that par for the course?

    I feel like my complaint is that they’re not bad per se, they’re just no longer exceptional like they once were.

  36. Would the rest of you be annoyed about not getting replacement credit cards for a week, or is that par for the course?

    I’ve never gotten one in anything less than 5-7 business days. Then again I’ve never asked to have it expedited.

  37. LfB set out exactly my thoughts on the OP so I can just say hear, hear!

    Finn, I think the slow scoring was specific to the March test date because it was the first one using the new test and I supposed they needed more time to come up with reasonably accurate percentiles. They said from the beginning that those scores wouldn’t be out till May. There’s not supposed to be an unusual delay in scoring the May and subsequent tests afaik.

  38. I had to have a replacement Visa card for my business account due to fraud reasons, and it took a week for it to arrive.

  39. Finn, yes he took the PSAT last October. I don’t remember the exact score but I think it was around that 209 cutoff. He also had a perfect score on his Bio SATII so we know he tests well. Yeah, he will aim at the SAT. My concern is more that he missed something that might have been important. When I talked to him just now, he was completely unaware of it, though he vaguely remember that the guidance counselor *might* have mentioned the name of the test. I know that the college application process is filled with make-or-break deadlines, so if he is that unaware, I think it is going to be a bad process filled with mistakes.

  40. Now that I think about it did ask to have it expedited and they said, “Not possible.”

  41. Finn, my son took the SAT Apr 12 and they received the scores online yesterday. I found it interesting that they scan the essay and it is available along with the scores.

  42. I always get my replacement cards in one business day. They usually ask if I would prefer expedited service. No extra charge. And I am NOT a superpremium client. It’s like accepting a bad room in a hotel, unless it is filled up, or a bad table in a restaurant.

  43. MM, you can most likely find ACT prep books at the library, and probably also in ebook form (our library ebook service has several). They typically include practice tests, though mostly not real tests (there’s one that’s the ‘official’ book and that’s the only one with real tests, I think).

    My oldest is the same age as yours, and for years things have been more and more going straight to the students with no automatic cc or notice to the parents. And non-automatic testing opportunities and similar opportunities and deadlines are just announced in class, or maybe on the daily announcements, or maybe you have to drop by the college and career center to find out. It can be frustrating at times, and my son has definitely missed some stuff, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the wrong way to do it. Basically, if we expect them to be going away from home and handling everything in a couple years’ time, it’s not inappropriate to expect them to pay attention to announcements and so on now. It’s frustrating when you have a boy who tunes stuff out. But I fear that without getting burned now and then by missing something that was in the announcements, they don’t have a motivation to start listening. And if he doesn’t feel like missing the ACT practice test is a big problem, it’s possible that his goals for himself aren’t aligning with your goals for him, which could mean that he just doesn’t understand the significance or it could mean something more fundamental. Either way, if he himself doesn’t see testing success as a priority, that’s going to show up in more ways than just missing a practice test opportunity.

  44. “I know that the college application process is filled with make-or-break deadlines, so if he is that unaware, I think it is going to be a bad process filled with mistakes.”

    The testing process is fairly forgiving. There are multiple test prep options, and multiple test dates. The only thing that’s unforgiving is the application deadline.

  45. Even the application deadline is not really a deadline, at least at our school. But it’s supposed to be a Big Secret. Apparently a surprising number of students hit “send” a few minutes before midnight, with the predictable results.

  46. Honolulumom – no, he does care and now he is a bit upset. He is in such a fog that he honestly does not hear this stuff. He missed the spring orchestra concert 2 weeks ago, even though he attends the afterschool practices (he can’t take orchestra as a subject due to lack of time). Again, he just didn’t hear the announcements. He was REALLY upset when he realized, because he loves performing. It isn’t lack of interest.

  47. Mooshi, is your DS1 a loner? My DS and his friends talk about this sort of thing, so even if he were to have missed the practice test announcement in class, it’s likely that it would’ve come up while chatting with friends.

    Does your DS1 keep any sort of calendar, e.g., on his phone? If he’s a typical teenager, on his phone or similar device a lot, that would seem the logical place to keep a calendar to remind himself of that sort of thing.

  48. Would the rest of you be annoyed about not getting replacement credit cards for a week, or is that par for the course?

    That’s been par for the course for me.

  49. MM, for what it’s worth, there are three main things that seem to improve or affect my oldest’s attention and memory for to-dos: getting older (can’t speed it along though), getting adequate sleep / exercise / regular meals (if he’s skipping breakfast or lunch he’s missing stuff in class), and giving a rip about the stuff he needs to listen to / remember (and maybe missing that orchestra concert will give your son the incentive to figure out when in class announcements happen and try to form the habit of tuning in at that time).

    He still struggles with a class where homework goes on the board at some point during the class, not always the same time, always by the end of the period. He doesn’t think to check five minutes before the end of the period, and then he’s zipping off to the next class and doesn’t think to check it and write it down first. But he’s improved a lot and he should have several years’ worth of prefrontal cortex growth still to go.

  50. HM, same question about being a loner. DS has been on both ends of queries between friends about homework assignments.

  51. I offer this only in the spirit of “I can’t quite believe it’s really happening,” but the latest Rasmussen poll has Trump opening his lead over Hillary to 5 points: 42 to 37. And his long-discussed and previously insurmountable deficit with women voters is less than the deficit that Clinton suffers with men voters.

    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/elections/election_2016/white_house_watch

    In the back of my head for the past few days I’ve kept pondering meme’s comment that every recent Presidential election has gone to the candidate most people would prefer to have a beer with.

  52. @Mooshi — I’m sorry, that’s frustrating. I was just like your DS, generic messages like announcements would just float into one ear and stay right on that highway through my head, not passing go, not collecting $200, until they floated out the other side and off into the ether. I found oral reminders/messages almost impossible to stay focused on, no matter how hard I tried — it’s really not “want to” or “incentives.” To this day, if it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist.

    The problem is that, even though he can’t help it, he is still going to have to learn to deal with it. Do you have a therapist or someone you can talk to about options for managing those sorts of things? I know there are a lot of apps that help with tracking and time-management (although those appear to work on the assumption that the information actually lodges in the brain in the first place and is just forgotten later). Maybe if he made a habit of taking notes on everything they said (i.e., all the announcements, not just waiting around for something he cared about), that might help him train himself to listen instead of just hear; and then he could review the notes with you at night and add anything relevant to his calendar or task list or whatever.

    The key (for me) is making things a habit — I am very good at getting into a routine and executing that; it’s when the routine changes, and extra stuff gets added, that I lose track and start feeling overwhelmed. So I had to develop a “habit” for dealing with non-routine stuff, given my propensities to tune out oral details and forget logistics. E.g., every single new thing that comes in — business trips, softball schedules, test dates, concerts, etc. — goes into my Outlook immediately; if someone tells me in conversation to check out a website or book or something, I whip out my phone right then to email the information to myself or add it to my notes section. And then every morning I work my way through the emails chronologically and transfer all of those notes to my larger “to do” list that I keep at work.

    And, btw, I agree that at this point, you’re going to have to be more involved than you’d ideally like to be — he needs someone as a backstop on the things that really matter, like application deadlines, while he is still figuring out what will work for him.

  53. Mooshi –

    My kids took both the SAT and ACT, and did better on the ACT, so they submitted that score.
    I believe the ACT has a science component, so that may be good for your son – at least worth a practice test.

    One thing I did read/hear about the two tests is that while colleges will look at the best of your subscores (take your top verbal and math scores into consideration even if they are from different test dates) for the SAT, they don’t necessarily do it with the ACT. Not sure if that is still true.

    One thing to remember is that you don’t want him (or you) to send the scores to the colleges until he is sure that they are the best scores he is going to get.

    On the subject of missing things he wants to do – is there no online calendar where they have those types of events or deadlines?

  54. I’ve always gotten replacement cards from Amex in one business day. Our Amex is the only one we’ve needed replacement cards for due to fraud (and it has happened a few times unfortunately).

  55. Milo. Lot of water yet to.flow under the bridge. I am a Clinton supporter, not just a settler, and still I couldn’t resist buying some of the chthlu campaign buttons as gifts for some of youthful sanders friends who live in mass and will write him in no matter what.

    TSA update. No wait in either line at logan but TSA pre came up for me today.

  56. Romney is a Mormon and thus doesn’t drink.

    Never understood religions that ban alcohol, the first miracle of Jesus was water to wine at the wedding

  57. ” Lot of water yet to.flow under the bridge.”

    Oh absolutely. We still have to hear from the FBI. I think that’s the main reason Sanders is still hanging around.

    I’ll cry uncle. Can someone explain this bumper sticker thing?

  58. Never understood religions that ban alcohol, the first miracle of Jesus was water to wine at the wedding

    WCE said when she young she was told the miracle was turning water into grape juice.

  59. I recall Mooshi (and HM) mentioning that test scores are not likely to be what keeps her DS1 from getting admitted to his college of choice. Based on that, I’m thinking that spending bandwidth on two tests is not his best course; he’d be better off spending bandwidth on developing organizational skills rather than on the ACT, which would help his likely admissions limitation, his grades.

    Perhaps he could get into the habit of taking a photo of the board at the end of class every day.

  60. Oh absolutely. We still have to hear from the FBI.

    And whatever Trump’s got hiding in his yuge closet. My understanding is he hasn’t been fully vetted by the media because they always though the chance of him clinching the nomination was so remote.

  61. I think I know the true identity of Anon 3:24, but I will respect the anonymity of a Clinton supporter.

    “Romney is a Mormon and thus doesn’t drink.”

    Not even alcohol-free beer? But either way, that would explain his loss.

    “Can someone explain this bumper sticker thing?”

    I googled it. It still seems like a pretty obscure reference to me.

  62. “Never understood religions that ban alcohol, the first miracle of Jesus was water to wine at the wedding”

    I’m not personally concerned about it, but couldn’t that be viewed more for purposes of sanitation rather than partying?

  63. Somewhat of a drift from a drift…

    DS has identified Boston U and a college that fits most of his preferences. Any thoughts on that, especially from those in the area? Not just as an an educational institution, but practical things like the sort of neighborhood it’s in, relationship of its students with locals, public transportation or bicycle or foot access, etc.

    I thought if he’s looking at BU, he should take a look at Drexel too. Any other similar schools come to mind?

  64. I’m wondering how many Dems who gave Hillary a pass are kicking themselves.

  65. I think Biden is the one who’s kicking himself.

    I don’t think the Dems at large have quite come to terms with what they’re facing. Or maybe the strategists in the back rooms are.

  66. It’s horror not dystopian fantasy. And not particularly obscure in my version of geek culture. The point is to make fun of the dire predictions attached to the election of any one of the three lesser evils still standing.

  67. public transportation

    The Green Line makes three stops there BU East, BU Central and BU West so that’s covered. The neighborhood is perfectly safe, it’s just full of students (obviously) but that’s not a bad thing in his case. As for academics I’ll defer to MM.

  68. Finn – BU is quite urban – no real “campus” feel like some of the other schools- but also spread out, so some students will take the T to/from class (the T is planning to phase out some of the stops along the B line, so keep that in mind). They provide housing all 4 years so you don’t have to go off-campus, which is a big deal around here since housing is so expensive.

  69. @Milo: from the Magic of the Wikipedia:

    H. P. Lovecraft’s initial short story, “The Call of Cthulhu”, was published in Weird Tales in 1928 and established the character as a malevolent entity, hibernating within an underwater city in the South Pacific called R’lyeh. The imprisoned Cthulhu is apparently the source of constant anxiety for mankind at a subconscious level, . . .

    August Derleth, a correspondent of Lovecraft . . . wrote the short story “The Return of Hastur”, and proposed two groups of opposed cosmic entities:

    … the Old or Ancient Ones, the Elder Gods, of cosmic good, and those of cosmic evil, bearing many names, and themselves of different groups, as if associated with the elements and yet transcending them: for there are the Water Beings, hidden in the depths; those of Air that are the primal lurkers beyond time; those of Earth, horrible animate survivors of distant eons.

    A/k/a the greater evil.

    DH totally wants one of those bumper stickers, btw.

  70. Finn,

    The other thing is there is a wide variation in quality when you go from worst to best. The best is a brand new skyscraper with stunning views of the city:

    The worst is Warren Towers which is a warren of tiny grim rooms:

  71. Rhett – that awesome BU building is AWESOME. I always look at it in envy when I go by on the Pike.

  72. I didn’t mind working for free at the start up because I was happy to work on something that I was passionate about. Also, I was willing to take the financial risk to invest a small amount in the company because I believed that the business model would eventually produce profits. I’m just too old to work with people that I don’t like if there is no money involved. I did this for years because I was paid enough to deal with it. I found it frustrating to work with people you don’t like for free even if you’re loving the actual work. They’ve received some positive press this month, and I am proud that I was a part of helping them get off the ground.

    Mooshi, a lot more kids in my district are taking the ACT. The reason is that the ACT was a better fit, and they figured that out when their kids hit a ceiling with their scores on certain portions of the SAT.

    My friends are obsessed with Naviance. Does your family have a password that you can use so that you can start to look at grades and test scores for kids from your HS?

  73. I have heard that BU has a very high number of students from other countries, particularly wealthy ones – they want to go to college in Boston but cannot get into a more competitive school (not that BU isn’t, just compared to Harvard or MIT). This may just be hearsay, though.

    I know of several kids from SF who went there – I think they liked it!

  74. And totally off-topic, but to wrap up my earlier comments on DS’s “how to spend $1MM” assignment: I never could convince the boy to buy a rental property. He did, however, elect to use his leftover money to buy a beach condo in Rehoboth — immediately next door to my mom’s, so he could visit his grandma. I figure he could rent it anyway when he’s not there, plus he’s gotta get bonus points for the “awwwww” factor, so probably better than my idea anyway. :-)

  75. “Mooshi, a lot more kids in my district are taking the ACT.”

    Are they from c/o 2017?

    Nationwide, I think a lot of c/o 2017 kids have decided to take the ACT over the SAT because of the uncertainty associated with the change from the old SAT to the new SAT and the possible need to prep for two different tests.

    For kids in later classes who haven’t taken it yet, that’s no longer a factor.

  76. My DIL did her first year at BU, but it was too far from DSS so she transferred back in state. Also, she had a weird roommate. And I think she felt somehow that she just wasn’t fitting in socially, though she’s a sweet girl with good social skills.

  77. “The worst is Warren Towers which is a warren of tiny grim rooms”

    Truth in advertising?

  78. That depends on if your goals are short term, focusing on getting her ahead I her career, or longer term, helping our country to become one where skills and talent, not money and connections, are what get people into influential positions. I don’t know whether your daughter has skills and talent, but there are certainly plenty of people who do, but who would not be able to afford not to bring home a paycheck in their mid-20s (or much earlier). But of course, if you’ve got a thick enough moat to keep the peasants out, then pull up the drawbridge and have her play at work.

  79. Finn, I loved BU but my experience is dated. I could tell you more offlist

  80. Warren Towers was called The Zoo in my day. It was a reference to its street address of 800

  81. I’d rather have a beer with Hillary since, among other things, she drinks beer. Trump doesn’t. I’m always discomforted (which probably I should be!) when I am having a beer with a non-drinker. Plus, in the one tiny dealing I had with Trump many years ago, I did not like him.

    Bur the results of the poll don’t surprise me. While I’ll vote for Hillary, you know my theory that women won’t. They simply don’t want the glass ceiling broken. Our millennials seem to have lost out on relationships with cranky old grandfathers as children and won’t vote at all because they are pissed.

    I fear it, but I don’t see a way that Trump is not elected.

  82. Rhett, that bland skyscraper is Warren Tower? Looks like a university to avoid!

    Milo, read your Bible. The wine was for getting drunk on. Why else would people say that the good wine should’ve been first and the cheaper stuff last, but the better stuff (that Jesus made out of water) was being served at the end?

    MM, your kid would have been better on the old SAT, which was like an IQ test, than the ACT, which consists of subject tests. The new SAT claims to be more like the ACT, but who knows. If he does unprepared dry runs (which is not much of a commitment), make sure the SAT is the new one, or the data will be useless.

  83. Never understood religions that ban alcohol, the first miracle of Jesus was water to wine at the wedding

    I like to focus on the part where the first miracle involves the Son of God running errands for his mom.

  84. Cordelia, I always thought his first miracle was knowing more than the smart guys at the temple.

  85. At least as I learned it, the first miracle was the wedding at Canna. Being smarter than everyone was else was just a consequence of his genetics.

  86. Finn–DS visited BU and did not like it. No real campus and the admissions people in the info session had an elitist attitude–a lot of “most of you can’t get in here” and “we get more apps than we can deal with.” Apparently his tour guide was awful as well.
    He got into several schools he liked better in the EA round and did not apply.

  87. That depends on if your goals are short term, focusing on getting her ahead I her career, or longer term, helping our country to become one where skills and talent, not money and connections, are what get people into influential positions.

    Or if your goal is to make it harder for entry-level workers to get decent jobs because you’re helping set an expectation that recent grads will work for free.

  88. Rhett: A lot of legal immigrants think that Trump is right to deport illegal immigrants. They (legally here) jumped through a lot of hoops and value the rules. They think that you shouldn’t get to be here if you don’t follow the rules. It’s not a case of pulling up the drawbridge once you’ve crossed–it’s the question of people circumventing the rules and getting away with it.

  89. Finn, no. They all took the old version of the SAT. Some of the buzz is that you can score higher on the ACT without as much prep based on the curriculum in my district.

    It seems to be true because there were a number of perfect, or almost perfect ACT scores with no test prep. These kids are all juniors that received their ACT scores in April.

    I personally think it is s combination of things. Most of them took private and classroom prep classes for the SAT. Most took the old SAT at least two times. Finally, they had almost a full year of calculus or pre calculus so their knowledge of math should have been higher than it was when they say for the SAT.

  90. “they had almost a full year of calculus or pre calculus so their knowledge of math should have been higher than it was when they say for the SAT.”

    That level of math is not necessary to get a high score on the SAT.

  91. Finn, I’m talking about the ACT.

    I mentioned in an old post that my district strayed from a common math curriculum. They teach common core math, but in their own sequence. It’s as if they took all of HS math except Algebra and re-ordered it in a sequence that is unique to my district. This harmed the kids that took the old version of the SAT unless they had private prep. Most kids take private classes here, and some added private tutors.

    They didn’t take prep classes for the ACT. I’m just guessing that they had more knowledge, were experienced test takers and it may have been less pressure for them.

  92. I was talking to my mom the other day and she said that she took a prep class for the SAT back in the 1950’s – it was what kids did if they were applying to Ivy League schools. I was quite surprised by that.

  93. Immigration anecdota – a recent Au Pair from a South American country would like to legally immigrate to the US. I was helping her navigate through the US state department website to see how she would go about obtaining a visa. Turns out there is no way she can come here legally except by marriage or as a student. As a student, she would pay 30k/year for a community college education to study alongside high school students paying $200/semester. She doesn’t have 30k or a boyfriend, so there are zero visas that she can apply for.

    I often hear people state that immigrants should take the legal path, but for many countries there is no legal path. As a country, we prioritize family reunification (current legal immigrants bringing over adult children, brothers and sisters) over almost all other types of visas. If you do not have a family member who has immigrated, there is no path open.

  94. Ada, are you suggesting that everyone outside the US should have a legal immigration path to the US?

  95. It’s too bad Mooshi (and HM) didn’t ask the SAT question earlier. Her DS1 sounds like someone for whom the first crack at the new SAT might’ve been ideal.

    There were no previous tests for the prep and cheating industries, and thus there was no advantage to those with the time, money, and desire to do a lot of test prep and/or cheating, so it put native test-taking ability at a premium, which apparently is a strength of her DS1 (and HM’s).

    Now that the new SAT has been given twice, that advantage has been diluted, and will be increasingly diluted each time it’s given.

  96. Ada – only parents and (I think children) of legal immigrants is a relatively quick process. However, there is tons of paperwork and the process is by no means easy. Siblings may have to wait for 10 years plus depending on country of origin. Legal immigration is a very daunting process and if your case gets stuck for whatever reason it is worse.

  97. Finn, I didn’t have an SAT question so I’m not sure what you’re referring to. As far as test timing, I would expect my kids to be looking at spring of their junior year or over the summer for SAT, and the school itself has the juniors take the ACT in the spring, which for my oldest would mean next year.

  98. HM, I meant that had Mooshi asked the SAT/ACT question earlier, I’d have suggested taking the new SAT the first time it was offered, and since your DS1 seems to have a lot in common with her DS1 (e.g., good test taker), it would’ve made sense for him too.

    I’ve said it before, but I think spring of junior year is too late to take the SAT for the first time. I suggest Oct, Nov, or December, with January at the absolute latest. My DS took it for the first time November of sophomore year, and DD will probably take it about that time too.

    I think by the end of the summer after junior year, kids need to know what schools they will apply to early (typical deadline is Nov 1). To know that, you need to know your SAT scores (assuming they’re going the SAT route). The May and June test dates should, IMO, be set aside for subject tests, and the May date is right in the middle of AP exams, so not a good time anyway. So the latest date before summer is March. But experience with DS suggests that the first time is a learning experience and can definitely be improved upon, so January as the first test date would allow March as the second. However, typical totebag kids are heavily scheduled, so there could be conflicts; taking the first test earlier gives flexibility to avoid conflicts.

  99. Rhett – of all the promises of recent candidates that shaved seemed far-fetched, I can’t understand why the Wall raises so much disbelief. So Trump says it will cost $10 NYT finds a wall expert at a university to estimate $26 billion. Compared to typical political promises, Trum’s is remarkably realistic. So then we need a whole article talking about how difficult it will be from a civil engineering and logistical standpoint: “I mean, jeez, oh boy, that’s a lot of concrete. Someone’s got to mix all that concrete. Oh, and you’ve got to mix it with water. And the workers will need some temporary shelter, most likely. We’re gonna need tents. Big tents.”

    Good grief! Imagine the article they would have written if Trump promised in 1960 to put a man on the moon!

  100. “There were no previous tests for the prep and cheating industries, and thus there was no advantage to those with the time, money, and desire to do a lot of test prep and/or cheating, so it put native test-taking ability at a premium, which apparently is a strength of her DS1 (and HM’s).”

    Meta-analysis has shown that test prep on average offers very little increase in test scores. So “native test taking ability” still figures prominently in SAT achievement levels.

    As a way to counter the college admissions frenzy our school used to advise students to wait until spring of junior year to take their first SAT and ACT tests. They could get an idea which test was better for them and then do any test prep during the summer before taking their selected test again in the fall of their senior year. Many students ignored that advice and took a path similar to what Finn describes.

  101. For me, the part of Trump’s wall promise that invokes the most disbelief is his assertion that he will make Mexico pay for it. Um yeah, let’s see how that flies. And of course, deliberately pissing off our immediate neighbor for no apparent reason is just such a great approach to diplomacy.

  102. Finn, I hadn’t thought of the new SAT angle. See, that is why I am so bad at this college search process. I just don’t think in these strategic terms.

  103. And for those that asked – my DS1 is diagnosed as inattentive type ADHD. He takes meds and has been working with a therapist for almost 2 years now. He says the meds help but don’t break through the inner fog. The therapist has been a huge help, though, and he has really improved dramatically while working with her. Besides offering him practical tips, she keeps him motivated which is huge because he is working so hard at all of this. He has to expend so much more effort than the typical kid to keep track of everything.

  104. “So “native test taking ability” still figures prominently in SAT achievement levels.”

    The one thing I never hear discussed, among the parents I know, is the possibility that sometimes SAT scores are lower because the student hasn’t mastered fractions, geometry, algebra, grammar, etc. It is always “poor test taking ability.” It will be interesting to see how many people follow through with Khan Academy’s SAT test prep, which purports to teach the concepts and skills, rather than “eliminate 2 and guess” type tricks, and is therefore going to be much harder that the usual prep classes.

  105. And I wasn’t talking about kids with ADHD or any other diagnosis that affects standardized tests.

  106. “poor test taking ability.”

    Am I correct to assume this term is used to explain why their grades are higher than their test scores?

  107. Mooshi – you just tweak some agreement slightly in our favor, or in a way that can be interpreted in our favor, and call the bill paid.

    I don’t think Trump plans to send Mexico the actual invoice and make them glumly write out a check.

  108. Hour – I think scores on Sat are a combination of what you had learned and in cases of Mooshi’s DS1, a natural flair for Math. You can’t do very well on your flair alone, you need study as well. Asian Mom speaking :-).
    My DS wrote a reminder on his hand yo sign up and even with marker on hand. It worked.

  109. MM, weren’t you hoping your son could go somewhere like SUNY-Binghamton? If he broke 200 on the PSAT, why wouldn’t he dramatically exceed the typical SUNY admission statistics on the SAT?
    http://collegeapps.about.com/od/GPA-SAT-ACT-Graphs/ss/binghamton-university-admission-gpa-sat-act.htm

    The GPA/ACT/SAT scattergram suggests he’ll get admitted on the basis of his SAT scores unless his GPA is below 3.0. My friend with the sub 2.0, NMSF son observed that her son could mostly ace the exams to proceed to the graduate courses at State U in big data that interest him. I can imagine your son following a similar path.

  110. the student hasn’t mastered fractions, geometry, algebra, grammar, etc.

    Absolutely, and I have no idea how to fix that. My mother spoke perfect written English. If I was stuck on a grammar question I could just close my eyes and imagine her voice and I’d get the answer. And she was one of those annoying Totebag moms who would be cutting an apple and would call me over to show me how fractions work while I wailed, “I don’t CAAAARE, stop telling me this!”

    So what do we do for the kids who didn’t have Totebag parents? I have no idea.

  111. “The one thing I never hear discussed, among the parents I know, is the possibility that sometimes SAT scores are lower because the student hasn’t mastered fractions, geometry, algebra, grammar, etc. It is always “poor test taking ability.””

    Well, yeah, obviously there’s the face-saving angle. But parents don’t always have insight — if you see your kid pulling As in math, and then get a crappy score on the PSAT, what are you going to do but blame the test?

    Personally, I’ve come around to realizing this isn’t the cop-out I always thought it was. I had the sublime self-assuredness that comes from an innate ability to take bubble tests. Because it came naturally to me, I assumed the tests were fair and accurate measures of knowledge; ergo, a lower score meant that you just didn’t know as much.

    As with many of my life stories, this one ends with “and then I had DD.” She just. does. not. get. it. DS, man, he looks at a test and intuits the tricks — at 7, he had figured out that you can always dismiss some answers that are way too big or little. He’s mini-me; it’s all a big fun game to figure out to him. DD, though, just plows straight ahead, does the problem, and when her answer doesn’t agree with any of the options, doesn’t know what to do. So she spends far too much time on one problem, then runs short of time and rushes later problems, which of course leads to more screwups, and ultimately ends up guessing on the last 10 problems or so.

    I’m sure both my kids have failures in mastery. But DS can cover many gaps by strategic guessing (and has the innate sense to cut his losses and move on if something is taking too long). For DD, though, its a vicious cycle, where one knowledge gap or careless error compounds into panic and time management problems. It just seems like the high-stakes testing plays to her weaknesses, whereas it plays to DS’ strengths.

    I am hoping to get her focusing on some of the Khan Academy stuff starting this summer to reinforce those gaps. But DS is still just always going to get higher scores.

  112. Mooshi: Hire your DS a college coach. That way, you have a professional who can work through these issues with him.

  113. Lots of kids didn’t have Totebag parents Back in the Day, but they had Totebag teachers. Especially nuns. My dad still remembers stuff he learned from those ladies. Yeah, some of them were mean, but they wouldn’t let you escape their clutches without knowing the difference between “there” and “their” and being able to recite the multiplication tables on command. I and plenty of teachers like that in my very ordinary public school. Before they forced us into open classrooms.

  114. LfB, does she have any general cussedness you can tap into as a personality trait? The ability to be strategically lazy- to figure out only what needs to be done and do only that- is an important life skill. Would it help her to view the test as “How can I get as many problems as possible correct?” with recognition that harder problems are still at the end of a reading section, etc?

    I’ve been impressed by lower grade Khan Academy so I suspect their ACT/SAT prep will be good.

  115. “And of course, deliberately pissing off our immediate neighbor for no apparent reason is just such a great approach to diplomacy.”

    Isn’t Mexico risking doing this by allowing its citizens to enter and work in the US illegally? Mexico benefits hugely from the remittances ($26B in 2014) that it’s illegal immigrants send home to their families from the US.

  116. LfB,
    I have had the same experience with my kids. Two are mini-me’s and the other does well but not stellar on bubble tests. The thing is that, to me, they all seem to have roughly equal ability and intelligence, though with obvious differences in personality and interests. Has that been your experience with your kids?

  117. @Scarlett: Yes, exactly. My concern is that DS has the type of personality that will make himself smarter as he grows up, but DD does not. DS is the kid who gets excited and engrossed in something and dives in deeply and learns everything about it. Apple, meet tree. DH read the entire encyclopedia as a kid — for fun — and spent hours of free time as a teen trying to invent artificial blood; I had the same level of intensity with whatever author I was into at the time. I also had the “general cussedness” WCE mentions — I taught myself to pitch by walking to the HS and throwing a ball against a wall for hours all summer, because I didn’t have a pitchback or anyone to throw with.

    DD has the same innate ability (we actually have IQ tests for her as part of the ADHD diagnosis), but she doesn’t engage in the way that grows knowledge. She’s ADHD in action, flitting from thing to thing, getting interested and then veering off when it gets to hard work. I keep hoping she’ll find the thing that grabs her for long enough that she wants to work hard to succeed at it — she wants to be an ER doc, which I think shows a pretty good level of self-knowledge given that she was about 10 when she chose it; I just worry about her willingness to do the huge amount of work for many, many years to get there.

    @WCE: that characterization is freaking brilliant. I have come to realize that strategic laziness is my superpower — that joke about the commander always giving the scutwork to the laziest guy on the squad because he’ll spend 5 hours figuring out how to turn a 3-hour job into a 2-hour job, that’s totally me. DD has a very high level of general cussedness; she also has the “laziness” part but needs to work on the “strategic” part. :-) But she is also becoming more willing to listen (vs. insist on doing it her way) and put in a little work when it is something that she sees as helping her future — she actually *wanted* to do the Cogmed last summer, because she thought that would help her deal with HS expectations, which gives me hope. We’re definitely going to do test prep, so I will think about how to frame it up to appeal to that part of her psyche. Thank you.

  118. Milo says “Mooshi – you just tweak some agreement slightly in our favor, or in a way that can be interpreted in our favor, and call the bill paid.”

    First of all, like everyone else, you are reading into Trump’s comments what you want to hear, not what he says. That is the part I don’t get – everyone just assumes he will do something different from what he says. How do you know he will do this? Maybe he will march into Mexico and force them to pay at gunpoint. Or maybe not. Who knows? No one knows.

    Secondly, even if he took this strategy, the minute he starts bellowing that now Mexico has paid, they will pull out of whatever agreement this is. Why? Because claiming that Mexico has paid for a wall that they find really insulting just doubles the insult. You don’t insult your neighbor/trading partner like that.

  119. Houston says “Isn’t Mexico risking doing this by allowing its citizens to enter and work in the US illegally? Mexico benefits hugely from the remittances ($26B in 2014) that it’s illegal immigrants send home to their families from the US.”

    This has gone on for so many years, through so many administrations, that it isn’t something that is going to turn into a diplomatic crisis. And remember, this arrangment has really benefited US employers too. If we were really serious about cracking down on illegal immigration, we wouldn’t build a wall, we would add much harder to fake status checks and hold employers responsible for really checking.

  120. Re: the wall. It is all sizzle, no steak. Just like Trump. I cannot stand people or ideas like that. It is insulting.

  121. “And remember, this arrangment has really benefited US employers too. If we were really serious about cracking down on illegal immigration, we wouldn’t build a wall, we would add much harder to fake status checks and hold employers responsible for really checking.”

    I totally agree. The US doesn’t really want to stop illegal immigration for this reason. It’s a lot of lip service. Especially for a guy like Trump who definitely relies on illegal workers in his businesses and doesn’t even really deny it!

  122. CA collects a LOT of sales taxes from immigrants from Mexico (legal or illegal). I suspect if we were to magically deport all these people, without any transition plan for collecting all the produce from here that is enjoyed all over the country, things would fall apart. All bluster that ignores reality from my perspective.

  123. I was no fan of Obama during his campaign- his spending promises outweighed his proposed revenue increases by 30x- but his campaign promises didn’t materialize and in reality, I think his choices around Guantanamo and treatment of non-US citizen possible terrorists were not dissimilar to those that a Republican president would have made after 9/11 had faded from public memory.

    I’ve come to admire Obama for his statesmanship and his general decency as a human being.

  124. Numerically, the U.S. employers most likely to employ illegal immigrants are individuals hiring a babysitter, housekeeper or gardener. I suspect Trump’s businesses have an adequate employment verification process or he would be in legal trouble.

    I agree that the employment verification process could be dramatically improved, but that’s another area where the federal government wants the benefits of a law without paying the full cost of its implementation.

  125. I suspect you will find that many illegal immigrants are working in landscaping businesses, chicken processing plants, farms, and tourism.

  126. There are tons of illegal immigrants working in home building/renos and restaurants.

  127. Yes, restaurants. In NYC there are a lot of Chinese illegal immigrants in the restaurants

  128. It depends on if you frame the question as “What percentage of employers of illegal immigrants are individuals?” vs. “What percentage of illegal immigrants are employed by companies?”

    In areas where meatpacking facilities are inspected regularly, the fraction of illegal immigrants is very low. If the penalties for hiring illegal immigrants were increased (hopefully in association with improved e-verification), people would hire them less.

    I think an illegal immigration crackdown would affect the people who hire nannies and housekeepers and get manicures more than it would be the meatpacking plants. Those plants have mostly gotten pretty stringent about enforcement, especially in states with regular inspections.

  129. One more Trump comment: Why is he still actively running his businesses while running for President? Isn’t that a conflict of interest? I thought Presidential candidates all put their financial stuff in a blind trust or something.

  130. “Numerically, the U.S. employers most likely to employ illegal immigrants are individuals hiring a babysitter, housekeeper or gardener. I suspect Trump’s businesses have an adequate employment verification process or he would be in legal trouble.”

    I think you are thinking of industries where people pay cash under the table and don’t bother to even attempt to verify employment status.

    I am talking about where employers require the paperwork but knowingly look the other way at forged or stolen documents. Restaurants, hotels, resorts, golf clubs, construction, warehouse operations – these are the types of industries that are alleged to look the other way and not attempt very hard to verify the legitimacy of their workers’ papers. Why do you think E Verify is voluntary? Who do you think is lobbying to keep it voluntary?

  131. “I’ve come to admire Obama for his statesmanship and his general decency as a human being.”

    +1

  132. Ivy, you’re right that I was thinking of the huge number of people who pay in cash to avoid taxes and paperwork requirements. As a conservative, one of my frustrations is the mindset that only “corporations” should have to pay $15/hr + payroll taxes or face a consequence.

    I think e-Verify should be mandatory but that individuals should get to keep their jobs if a question is found with their employment status until the issue is resolved, and that government staffing has to be adequate to resolve issues within ~30 days. Any ambiguity requiring judicial involvement should be nearly as prompt.

    There! WCE supports government hiring to enforce immigration law. :)

  133. The Wall idea is not new. And Tom Russell’s satirical song from the first time it was suggested. Who’s gonna build your wall, makes the point that if you deport all the illegals, there will be no laborers left on the us side of the border to build it.

  134. WCE,

    It’s refreshing to see you arguing in favor of the Federal Government dramatically increasing the regulatory and risk burden related to operating a business in ways that will significantly increase the cost of labor.

  135. Not just business- individuals will have to do more of their own cooking, cleaning and childcare or pay market rates.

  136. it is difficult to find out whether someone is illegal without running afoul of antidiscrimination laws. If someone provides an id and a social security card, what am I supposed to do? Say, “You don’t speak English well, you must be illegal alien”? That is illegal. I send I our employees payroll taxes and submit their social security numbers every quarter. The money that is withheld from their taxes goes to the social security administration, under their social security number. The government should be able to figure out in a timely fashion whether or not the number is legit. While I have on occasion, gotten notice from the SSA, that someone’s number doesn’t match, those notices have all come several years after that person left our employ.

    As for EVerify, it is dependent on the social security office having the persons correct birthdate. The SSA doesn’t have my correct birthdate, and the process to get that fixed is so onerous, that, even though I have known about the problem for 10-15 years, I haven’t gotten around to fixing it. I’m not going to depend on EVerify.

  137. Not just business- individuals will have to do more of their own cooking, cleaning and childcare or pay market rates.

    I know just think of all the economic disruption and unintended consequences.

  138. My hypothesis is that coastal elites disproportionately want cheap nannies, housekeepers, landscapers, manicurists and deli/take-out which affects demand for illegal immigrants. I am not bothered that people purchase these services; I am bothered by the hypocrisy that only “corporations” should have to treat employees properly.

    And I agree with Cordelia about the current glitches in the e-Verify process, thus my comment about government needing to fix/fund/properly staff the system.

  139. I suspect that it would be cheaper to fund e-Verify than to build The Wall. Maybe we could get Mexico to fix e-Verify for us.

  140. ; I am bothered by the hypocrisy that only “corporations” should have to treat employees properly.

    Who is in favor of a $15 min wage who is also in favor of underpaying illegal manicurists?

  141. Rhett, do you think only NYC’s conservative Republicans visit the illegal manicurists?

  142. The only service workers I have ever hired have been legal. The lady who does housecleaining for me is Honduran, but is a permanent resident. Her daughter who often babysits is a US citizen. Long ago, the sister was a nanny for us but she too was a permanent resident. Those are the only regular service workers I have ever directly hired. But… I strongly suspect that the gardening service we employed for a time was using illegal workers, and also some of the workers when we did the house renovation. Since I didn’t do the hiring, I had no way of knowing.

  143. All of the coastal elites that I know pay their household employees on the books and above the min wage, overtime, and give paid vacation, sick time, etc. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t comply with the requirements. The DC area might be unique in this as so many people worry about compliance because of their jobs/security clearances.

  144. I don’t do manicures, but I would not be suprised if the delivery guys at the Chinese restaurants we have used were illegal. You just cannot avoid it. That is why everyone, from big businesses to local small businesses, to individuals, look the other way. Even Trump supporters get manicures

  145. Rhett, do you think only NYC’s conservative Republicans visit the illegal manicurists?

    No. I think they think they should be paid a living wage as well.

  146. I often pick my own berries in large part to avoid being complicit in illegal immigrant employment. I verified the employment status of my housekeeper and babysitters.

    I think people can avoid being complicit. It is just very hard and takes effort that most people aren’t willing to put forth.

    I think rural people are less complicit because they perform these services themselves for economic reasons, not because of any moral superiority.

  147. I actually think it is the opposite. Most people try to comply on an individual basis. I would never have someone watching my children and not pay my employer taxes or the necessary unemployment tax. But when it comes to going to a restaurant or hiring a lawn service, what am I supposed to do? I have no obligation or means of checking on the people they employ. If we are serious about it (and I am not sure that is the right course of action), we need to spend a lot more resources going after companies who do not comply.

  148. I compel my children to pick berries too. When we arrived at opening one time, my kids were jealous of the farm worker kids who got to ride in the back of the minivan with no carseat.

  149. Moshi, that news article isn’t remotely plausible.

    As we discussed recently, hospitals have to have translators. Actual translators, not the employer, or ad stated some random guys whose dairy the injured worker happened to be on.

  150. MM, I could pick a similar data point about someone in an urban area abusing an illegal immigrant.

    That doesn’t change the fact that it’s mostly in higher income areas that people have the money to outsource food preparation, landscaping, childcare and housekeeping. I suspect problems with illegal immigrant employment are at least as bad in touristy rural areas, so my generalization wasn’t meant to apply to every case.

  151. my point is that small farms, even family farms, employ lots of illegal workers. I was already aware of this because it is a big controversy in the foodies world. Those lovely local organic farms would not survive without illegal workers.

  152. That’s why I’m such a fan of chemicals and automated processing in agricultural operations and part of why I garden rather than participate in a CSA.

  153. “That’s why I’m such a fan of chemicals and automated processing in agricultural operations”

    Yes. I hypothesize that without illegal immigrants, our agriculture and fast food industries would be much more automated, and that automation would have created a bunch of well-paying jobs for service techs for that automation.

    I’ve been reading recently that the push for increasing minimum wage has led some fast food places to increase their levels of automation. And of course many employers will increasingly automate their work scheduling to maximize production per hour, i.e., minimize the number of workers during slow times of the day.

  154. “It is always “poor test taking ability.””

    Not necessarily.

    It’s also the corollary to “that kid must be so bright to get such high test scores.”

  155. “Meta-analysis has shown that test prep on average offers very little increase in test scores. So “native test taking ability” still figures prominently in SAT achievement levels.”

    I’m skeptical that test prep offers little increase, especially with the new SAT no longer being guessing-agnostic. OTOH, making the essay optional will decrease the increases due to test prep.

    “As a way to counter the college admissions frenzy our school used to advise students to wait until spring of junior year to take their first SAT and ACT tests.”

    Which is, as I’ve elucidated, IMO bad advice for totebaggy kids.

    My kids’ school takes a similar tack, but at automatically signs up all juniors for the December SAT, which is about as late as I would recommend taking it for the first time.

    I’ve waxed about how pleased I am with how my kids’ school addresses some issues brought up here, but I’m not thrilled with their approach to college admissions. I can see the desire to shield kids from the ‘college admissions frenzy,’ but I disagree with their methods of doing so.

  156. “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t comply with the requirements. The DC area might be unique in this as so many people worry about compliance because of their jobs/security clearances.”

    The Zoe Baird incident put the fear of God in many of these DC types, and everyone in my firm was scrupulous about this stuff, but plenty of others were not. At least half of the responses to my nanny want-ad were from women with previous childcare experience but who could not give me satisfactory answers to the green card question.

  157. “I think rural people are less complicit because they perform these services themselves for economic reasons, not because of any moral superiority.”

    Ummm, wait. The “coastal elites” hire illegals out of a sense of “moral superiority”? Superior to what? To those brown people whom they believe to be their social inferiors? Offensive much? I don’t think you meant it that way, but, damn. If anything, I’d argue the sense of moral superiority goes the other way, i.e., it’s morally superior to do for yourself than to hire others to do for you, good old Yankee thrift, etc. Look at what you just wrote. Why would you assume that your decisions are logical and economically-driven, but others’ (that strawman Other, a/k/a the big bad “coastal elites,” a/k/a hypocritical Democrats) are driven by emotion and demonstrate poor morals? Yeah, ok, I see the first part of that sentence. :-) I just don’t see why you’d assume others must be basing their decisions on a completely different (and worse) calculus.

    The theory also doesn’t hold water. It makes total economic sense for folks living in big cities to outsource that kind of work specifically because of the salary disparities. As we were discussing the other day, it costs a lot more to live in the coastal cities, and the professional salaries are usually commensurate. If I can bill out at, say, $250 an hour, then economics tells me to work full-time (or more) and hire someone at $15-20/hr to mow my yard and provide daycare for my kid and paint my house and pick my fruits and veggies for me. Sure, I might decide not to do that for non-economic reasons — because, say, I don’t want to work that hard, I want to see my family, I value knowing how to do things for myself. But in purely economic terms, spending an hour picking my own berries instead of buying them in the store is, to use some very highly technical language, a dumb-ass move that costs me a buttload of money.

    I think outsourcing makes less sense in rural areas because you by and large don’t have the same broader access to higher professional salaries, which means there’s both less income to start with and a much smaller delta between the value of an extra hour at work vs. what you’d have to pay someone else to take care of something, which means that outsourcing would eat up a proportionally larger share of your income.

  158. LfB, I think you misread WCE and are in violent agreement with her actual point.

  159. LfB, you’re saying exactly what I meant to say. I meant to say that the reason that rural people are less complicit (and I argue they are) is economic, not moral.

  160. I don’t get the less complicit part. If you hire illegal immigrants, to pick your crops or mow your lawn, you are equally complicit. And given that the biggest share of illegal immigrants work in agriculture, there are clearly a lot of rural folks hiring them.

  161. MM, maybe you are right about “level of complicity”. When I buy produce at the grocery store, I know I’m complicit, but I’ve decided it’s too hard not to be.

    My impression- open to correction- is that personal services are underpriced in elite urban areas. If people had to pay the full cost of those services (including market-rate housing for the legally employed people who provide them and possibly carbon tax on their commute), fewer of those services would be consumed and elite urban people would do some combination of pay more, move and do more of their scutwork themselves. The lack of law enforcement around immigration law for decades has created this problem.

    The problem of the intermittent need for agricultural labor for picking crops (due to the tilt of the earth) and the lack of solution to this problem in a society predicated on year-round employment and opposition to child labor, is different. I think the problem of agricultural workers receives public attention and the more-solvable problem of creating market-rate jobs for people who provide services is understudied.

    At least in Iowa, meatpacking operations have become quite strict about employment verification.

  162. I disagree that the forces are different. Agricultural work is also underpriced. Most economists who study illegal immigrant employment issues say that food prices would skyrocket if illegal immigrants were all deported.

  163. Oh, I get it — you’re saying that rural people are less complicit in hiring illegal immigrants because the economics don’t support them doing so, and not because their choice is driven by innate moral superiority. Right? Sorry for the misread. HM is right, we are in violent agreement (which is actually my boss’ favorite saying, btw — first time I’ve heard it from anyone else).

    I think the urban “solution” that has developed has been the development of a variety of companies that organize these services — e.g., maid service companies instead of individual maids, daycares vs. nannies, etc. I, for one, have always used companies instead of individuals, because I figured it was the best way to ensure compliance with immigration, tax, and SS requirements. The problem is that the insertion of a middleman provides better legal compliance and accountability but decreases the amount of $$ that goes to the employees directly (e.g., my cleaning service charges an effective rate of about $30/hr per employee, and the cleaners themselves probably get 1/3 of that). So even when you are doing your best to fix some problems (illegal workers, nonpayment of SS taxes), you are contributing to another (lack of a livable income for unskilled workers).

  164. MM, the forces aren’t entirely different but the tilt of the earth can’t be ignored. I think that higher food prices associated with higher pay for agricultural workers would be a good thing.

    The problem is that few people want to engage in hands-on agricultural work. I spent the morning setting out plants, and I’m glad I don’t have to do it all the time.

  165. “Yes. I hypothesize that without illegal immigrants, our agriculture and fast food industries would be much more automated, and that automation would have created a bunch of well-paying jobs for service techs for that automation.”

    There are lots of jobs for service techs, and it is very important to pay them promptly and be nice to them.

    A few days ago, on my facebook feed, which I can’t find, there was a post about various robotic machines with electrical eyes. One could go down a tree row, scan the canopy, and determine water stress based on changes in photosynthesis, it was pretty cool. Another could go down a field row, determine if a plant was a weed or the crop, and spray herbicide on the weed. I was at Cooperative Extension field day yesterday and there were a variety of devices for dtermining and scheduling irrigation with the need for hands on labor.

    As wage rates increase, technology and capital improvements become more sensible. How much labor is needed is a decision criteria when we are developing cropping plans.

    WCE, we have always figured that a few days on a transplanter would be a good source of information for any kid who thought school was hard.

  166. The raid in 2008 has changed meat packing in some areas, but not everywhere. Look at what happened in Chicago when there were rumors that la migra was on its way. http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/18176/confronted_with_an_immigration_raid_during_negotiations_meatpacking_workers

    Do those of you who scrutinize residency and work authorization of anyone you hire also pay payroll taxes, or are you only worried about short–changing the fed, not these workers when they retire?

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