Where the 1% attend college

by MooshiMooshi

Here is an utterly fascinating collection of data charts, showing where the types of colleges that the 1% attend vs the schools that the bottom 60% attend. It isn’t surprising that elite private schools do not enroll many of the bottom 60%. Near the bottom is a great chart showing the colleges with the highest mobility rates – the schools that propel students from lower income families into a higher income category, The chart shows the top 10, but you can type in the name of any school and get its position. My own employer came in at 75, which is not bad at all considering there are at least over 1000 schools on this list. We also have less than 1% enrollment of one-percenters, and 48% from the lower 60%.

The question that must be asked: why isn’t more charitable giving directed to the schools that are most successful at propelling lower income students into higher income categories? Charitable giving to universities is dominated by money going to the elites, which do not function well as engines of mobility. I think this idea of mobility as a measure of success needs to be more publicized, and donors who care about education should be encouraged to give to the schools that are already doing a good job at mobility.

Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60. Find Yours.

Opinions? Should colleges be rewarded for helping more students move upwards?

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310 thoughts on “Where the 1% attend college

  1. I think there are probably a few things going on. Lower income students often don’t even bother applying to the really expensive private schools because of sticker price alone and this is a guess, but perhaps they are also not being guided by counselors in high school to some of these schools.

    Individuals are generally not going to give to schools they did not attend so that’s probably not worth the manpower of development officers. There are exceptions of course, but overwhelmingly it’s alumni that are supporting their alma mater. Foundations are looking at this (I know the Gates Foundation is really making this a focus) and corporate foundations are as well. I used to work at Georgia State which is doing amazing things with first generation college students, often with very little money.

  2. “Roughly one in four of the richest students attend an elite college – universities that typically cluster toward the top of annual rankings (you can find more on our definition of “elite” at the bottom).

    In contrast, less than one-half of 1 percent of children from the bottom fifth of American families attend an elite college; less than half attend any college at all.”

    Is this really a surprise to the NYTimes writers? They are all in the top 5% in income and education.

  3. I think the correlation between field of study and socioeconomic mobility is much stronger than the correlation between school and socioeconomic mobility. When this paper came out, I used it to confirm my pre-existing bias that the best way to move up is to have the aptitude to be a “grind” and willingness to move geographically. (see Voices from Rural America on Why or Why Not to go to College in today’s NY Times)

    To improve socioeconomic mobility, the children of Totebaggers would need to move down. I prefer a system that provides a reasonable standard of living to most/all people rather a system that focuses on mobility, though given the low value of caregiving work, I don’t know economically how that can work.

  4. Our university makes some efforts to admit first-generation college students, but lower-income applicants who aren’t actually first-generation (because mom is a nurse or kindergarten teacher, for example) and aren’t URM are completely ignored as special admits. Most lower-income kids just can’t compete with Totebag progeny for admission to the elite schools, even if they make the heroic effort to apply. At least, they can’t compete without tons of support. DH is doing some pilot research projects funding local programs that help guide talented kids through the whole college process starting in 8th grade, but the parental obstacles alone are formidable.

  5. I’d speculate that, if compared against these statistics, military enlistment offers a very favorable likelihood of upward social mobility for those starting in the bottom half. WCE’s point about getting them away from home is no small part of that.

  6. I went to school with several people that were in ROTC. The whole paradigm shifted for some of these kids in the 90s when they realized that they would actually have to serve overseas. This was a remote possibility I went to college in the mid 80s. I know very little about the program now, but I wonder if fewer kids are using ROTC scholarships to help pay for their education since the country has essentially been sending troops overseas on consistent basis since the Gulf War.

  7. From my small data group, I agree with Scarlett. I’m doing a lot to support my HS Junior in starting the college process. In fact, we are going to a school visit (“scholar day”) next weekend for one school, another school on President’s Day, and working to narrow down her “choices” to hit some schools this summer. We talked alot about timing of the ACT/SAT testing for her. We are looking at summer programs that might give her a bit more hands on experience for what she “thinks” she wants to study. We are also willing to pay for the AP tests, even though we realize she may need to retake some of them in college, because it will help her be more prepared.

    In contrast, a friend of DD’s whose family is on the threshold of LC/MC with a single mom as head of household is letting the school pretty much take the lead. Although in the past the mom has been more proactive, she has limited her role to encouraging her daughter to take advantage of what the HS offers and timely responds to requests for signatures, payments, etc. She has discouraged AP classes over dual credit due to cost and her belief that these will *for sure* shorten her DD’s time in college. This is the same school that let the DD sign up for all electives and only one core class fall of sophomore year. In fairness, there was some confusion on the DD’s part about how the process worked, but the school didn’t flag this as a problem that would have led to requiring summer school to graduate on time.

  8. Most lower-income kids just can’t compete with Totebag progeny for admission to the elite schools

    Use the tool to look at the median income at 35 for these elite schools. It’s pitiful. It doesn’t seem like they are doing all that good a job at parsing out the future elite using “how tiger parented were they” as the primary admission criteria.

  9. “To improve socioeconomic mobility, the children of Totebaggers would need to move down.”

    I think this is the key to these findings. “Elite” colleges are massively funded by the well-to-do, because those are the people who can afford to pay the massive tuitions. Ergo, asking these schools to improve socioeconomic mobility in effect asks them to improve the chances that their graduates move down the economic scale. That’s pretty much a deal-killer.

    I think what people mean when they are talking about this isn’t truly “socioeconomic mobility” — it’s specifically focusing on giving poorer kids the chance to compete fairly with richer kids, and ignoring the unstated consequence of doing so. I’m actually a fan of that, despite the fact that it isn’t great for my own family. The article suggests that these top colleges actually do a good job of that with the poorer kids who get admitted and graduate. So, yay.

  10. Totebaggers – Do/did your children expect that their standard of living during and immediately after college will be the same as it is before college?

    My friend who just got back from a couple of college visits was shocked by dorm and off campus housing prices and the “luxury” of those housing arrangements. She went to college in the same era I did and what college students and/or recent graduates could afford was several levels below what living at home on the parents’ dime was.

    I ask this because some of the college graduates we hired were shocked that the salary we paid did not allow them to have the same level of living as the dorm they just moved out of without parental assistance.

  11. My undergrad did not fare well and it is a large state university that is fairly selective. I was surprised by how low it ranked. Part of the issue is that a child coming out of a very low income area would also have to be extremely internally motivated to find out information about colleges. I find that college guidance is woefully inadequate in most large urban school districts much less low income area high schools, where expectations are lowered for the outcome as early as elementary school. Our large school district has a college entrance rate of 53% of high school graduates and a college completion rate of only 18% and that includes students attending community college programs. Even our local magnet that is rated in the Top 10 nationwide consistently has one of the lowest yields for NMSF and the list of colleges that students attend is not that impressive when you consider the potential for its students.

  12. I don’t expect their standard of living to be the same after college. I would admit I would be open to some subsidy to ensure they are in a safe neighborhood but part of learning to become an adult is budgeting and being motivated to earn more and improve your standard of living. I lived in a cinderblock walled dorm room with a roommate and then moved into a sorority house where I had a roommate that I shared a closet with and I had three whole drawers to myself. We felt lucky that we had a shared bathroom for four people versus large communal bathroom down the hall. My kids have trusts for college but it can also be used for grad school, to start a business, make investments or buy a house. It is not enormous but I wouldn’t want to use it all for the kid to live in luxury.

  13. Comparing to cost of on-campus housing with meals at UT Austin:
    Prices for Spring 2017
    These rates are for the Spring semester. All rates include Room, Meals, basic ResNet and applicable sales tax. Each student will receive $750 Dine In Dollars which can be spent in DHFS operated locations and $150 Bevo Bucks which can be used at any participating location. See the 2016-17 Terms and Conditions.

    Shared space with community bath $4,879
    Shared space with connecting or private bath $5,179
    Jester East shared space with community bath $5,029
    Jester East shared space with connecting or private bath $5,329
    San Jacinto or Duren shared space with connecting or private bath $6,079
    Single with community bath* $5,821
    Jester East single with community bath* $5,971
    Premium Single with community bath* $6,763
    Premium Single with connecting or private bath* $7,064
    Jester East Premium Single with community bath* $6,913
    Duren Single* $7,964

    Makes Rhett’s apartment seem like a pretty good deal although you would usually need a car if you are off campus. I worked on an apartment complex deal that used to be part of the campus shuttle route and the shuttle stopped crossing the highway. Place became a low income apartment complex within 18 months and couldn’t pay its debt.

  14. DW’s cousin and her new husband are living this shock now. The houses they grew up in now cost, oh let’s say, about $750k. They can’t afford that mortgage. And they can’t afford to save a downpayment because the only apartment that met their standards (and honestly, he’s worse than she is) rents for about $2200 a month. They definitely expect to be able to dine out regularly, and fast-casual doesn’t count as “dinner out,” that’s more like “picking something up.” Certain counties are not safe, cars with more than 100,000 miles on the odometer are not safe. Any house they buy should be new or recently renovated, or renovated before they move in, because they have no willingness to do any work themselves (it’s almost more an issue of they don’t even realize that it’s possible to paint a room without hiring it out — it’s not their fault, entirely, neither has ever seen his/her parents do anything of the sort).

    DW’s uncle told me at Christmas that when he and Aunt move, they’re going to have the kids move into their condo (it’s a long story of moving away and coming back) and pay only enough rent that will cover the mortgage payment. So that’s the gift that will get them out of this paralysis.

  15. Milo – don’t you want to just leave MMM’s website open when they visit and leave Dave Ramsey’s books lying around? Good grief – it’s like they are crying out for budgeting skills!

  16. My one kid who is essentially on his own does not expect the same standard of living especially as to home comforts as he grew up with. He lived in dorms for a couple of years, then off-campus non-school-affiliated “student” housing with 5 other guys for a couple of years. They kept house like you’d expect college boys to keep house. And the house definitely showed the wear and tear of (probably) decades of similar treatment. His current apartment is basic, fairly old, but well maintained. He doesn’t have much stuff so it’s not crowded. It serves him well, but it’s not as nice as living at home.

  17. I am surprised that my alma mater is on the list for elite colleges that enroll the most low-middle income students.

  18. Austin: I saw some of those dorms–they are like resorts. They fall in the “hell, no” category.

  19. My Alma mater managed to make it into the top 50 for both lists. The school is in the top 50 for a school that has more students from top 1 percent than the bottom 60 percent, and they are in the top 50 for elite colleges that enroll the highest percentage of low- and middle-income students.

  20. Austin, did you see my post about Naviance at the tail end of our recent discussion about RPI/WPI?

  21. Atlanta Mom — Can you share some of the things Georgia State was doing to help its first generation students achieve success?

    The Posse Foundation has been very successful, with a 90% graduation rate. They screen vigorously, so they probably only recruit students who are qualified for college work. But then they provide a “posse” of peer and professional support while in college.

  22. I think my stepson and his wife were pretty clear that their standard of living was going to vary depending on where they moved. Seattle was really pricey and they had a kind of crummy apartment in a convenient location. Now in Boston they have a very old house that *I* wouldn’t have chosen, but it has its charms. But the kitchen and bathrooms haven’t been “refreshed” in decades, and there are too many stairs, and to say it’s not open floorplan is an understatement. If they had moved to the Texas panhandle I’m sure they could have massively more house for the same money.

  23. “Our large school district has a college entrance rate of 53% of high school graduates and a college completion rate of only 18% and that includes students attending community college programs.”

    MiaMama — I’m very curious as to where you get that 18% college completion rate. That is a notoriously difficult stat to get from public schools.

    (Also, the Posse Foundation is not limited to first generation.)

  24. From what I can tell, most affluent parents subsidize to some degree their college graduate kids’ lifestyles. (We’ve discussed this before on this blog.) However, this can range from paying most of the kid’s rent and vacations to paying for mobile service and giving generous birthday gifts. My older kid definitely realizes he is not able to live at his parents’ level, and I recently sent him this to help him budget.

    After living on $60 a week for a month, here are my 7 best money saving tips
    http://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/27/after-a-month-on-a-cash-diet-here-are-my-best-money-saving-tips.html

  25. They fall in the “hell, no” category.

    As hard as he’s worked you’re going to make him do without as a matter of principle?

  26. Milo,

    Their major problem seems to be they don’t make enough money. I assume they aren’t computer science majors with a double minor in math and economics?

  27. Mia – I actually think gave Suze Orman’s book to her for a college graduation present, along with a check. We’ve tried to talk casually with them about it, but it’s mostly hopeless.

  28. Rhett – You assume correctly. I estimate their combined income to be around $110k – $120k. It’s right at that point where MMM could have a justified field day with them (“face punch”), but definitely not where they can afford a $700k mortgage.

  29. but definitely not where they can afford a $700k mortgage.

    $70k from mumsie and daddy for a down payment and they are at $4082.72 including property taxes, insurance and PMI. 3300/month is 33% of gross which is fairly typical. They are a decent new job or promotion away.

  30. Rhett – That apartment is 35% of their gross income.

    Finn – No…I’ll have to go back and look.

  31. “$4082.72 including property taxes, insurance and PMI”

    Holy sh1t I would croak if I ever had to pay that as a monthly housing bill. When DW and I were married, our combined income was about $150k, and we were paying $1600 in rent. That seemed like more than enough. When we bought, our mortgage/taxes/insurance payment was significantly lower.

  32. Holy sh1t I would croak if I ever had to pay that as a monthly housing bill.

    I agree but that’s how the vast majority of people live. It’s how it’s done.

  33. Holy sh1t I would croak if I ever had to pay that as a monthly housing bill.

    Oh, c’mon. It’s entirely about where you live. If you were in Manhattan or San Francisco you would pay it and be grateful.

  34. “Should colleges be rewarded for helping more students move upwards?”

    Colleges can only do so much if K-12 schools have failed.  After you’ve picked out the capable, motivated students, what can a college do with the rest of our high school graduates who cannot even handle 9th grade reading and math?  This article claims that a post-secondary education is needed for good jobs yet it seems clear that an adequate high school education would be sufficient.

    When the German engineering company Siemens Energy opened a gas turbine production plant in Charlotte, N.C., some 10,000 people showed up at a job fair for 800 positions. But fewer than 15 percent of the applicants were able to pass a reading, writing and math screening test geared toward a ninth-grade education.

    “In our factories, there’s a computer about every 20 or 30 feet,” said Eric Spiegel, who recently retired as president and chief executive of Siemens U.S.A. “People on the plant floor need to be much more skilled than they were in the past. There are no jobs for high school graduates at Siemens today.”

    Wanted: Factory Workers, Degree Required

  35. “Don’t move to NYC.”

    hahaha. I’m laughing so I don’t cry. My kids want to stay in the NYC area, and it’s a difficult dilemma.

  36. Rhett, where do you see the data on the median income from all the schools? I went to the project page but I don’t see it.

  37. DW and I were married, our combined income was about $150k

    $4082 is 33% of $148,462 so you could have afforded 700k with room to spare (at least according to the conventional wisdom.)

  38. Rhett – That is the point. They don’t want to have a roommate. Yes, with one it is affordable.

    Finn – Yes they do use Naviance and, now that I have the ability to access it, I am asking her questions that I know she can find out the answer if she tinkers around. The one thing I am not sure about how to evaluate and the counselor wasn’t much help, is when it says she has a 4.0 GPA, then the other two SAT and ACT scores are fairly far to the right, but the overall is a question mark and says “You have time to improve your GPA”. What the heck does that mean? Her school doesn’t go over a 4.0.

  39. CoC – I am hoping my kids don’t want to stay here. We’re hoping to move to where they land (and hopefully they pick places near each other) for our retirement. The dream would be to keep out current place (maybe rent it out) and still do that.

    We have a ways to go though.

  40. I went to the project page but I don’t see it.

    Scroll down till you see the first school. Click on it. Then scroll down and you’ll see median income at 34. You can also click back and add any school to the list and then you’ll be able to click on that one as well.

  41. They don’t want to have a roommate.

    That’s just ridiculous. You can live in meh alone or in awesomeness with a roommate – them’s the breaks. If you want to live alone in awesomeness without the money to do it, then you need a good swift kick in the ass.

  42. ” Her school doesn’t go over a 4.0.”

    They don’t give extra credit for honors and AP courses? Does the college in question show that accepted students from your high school have GPAs higher than 4.0?

  43. “I agree but that’s how the vast majority of people live. It’s how it’s done.”

    What happens when the baby comes in the baby carriage? They can’t add daycare to a $4,000 housing payment. They can’t afford a $4,000 housing payment if she stays home.

    That’s why people who don’t have financial support from their parents say “I’ll stay home for a few years, we’ll move to Frederick, and he’ll commute.”

    https://www.redfin.com/MD/Frederick/206-Thames-Dr-21702/home/15224782

  44. What happens when the baby comes in the baby carriage? They can’t add daycare to a $4,000 housing payment. They can’t afford a $4,000 housing payment if she stays home.

    Do what our friends did and just put the portion of daycare you can’t afford on a credit card. Again, that’s how people live.

  45. “From what I can tell, most affluent parents subsidize to some degree their college graduate kids’ lifestyles.”

    Yeah, I definitely see this, but I also see plenty of early 20-something living at home for 6mo – a year after getting their first job and then in the exact same apartment buildings that I lived in that were plenty affordable with roommates on an entry-level salary. Of course, I never lived in the doorman rental buildings that cater to the higher-income 20-somethings or those heavily subsidized by parents. (My office is absolutely packed with early 20-somethings, most from MC-UMC suburbs.)

    I was shocked to see what dorms and college food service are like these days due to the dorm/gym/food arms race in recruiting. But the prices match! Does the allure of living off campus still hold when the dorms are so posh? I imagine a lot of kids still want to be more independent, but who knows.

  46. “I’ll stay home for a few years, we’ll move to Frederick, and he’ll commute.”

    That’s a 100 mile round trip commute. At the IRS 0.52/mile that’s $1144 a month.

  47. “If you were in Manhattan or San Francisco you would pay it and be grateful.”

    No, I just wouldn’t go. I don’t think there are any families with children who earn only $150k (or let’s say $200k dual income) who, without some sort of major family help, are actually moving to San Francisco or Manhattan proper.

  48. Aha, I see it! :)

    Milo, when we first moved in together in 2002, DH and I made combined about 175K, and I am pretty sure our rent was over 2200 a month. It would have been higher in NYC.

  49. addendum to 12:22. Maybe Columbia professors with housing subsidies or university housing or something?

  50. “Not to mention 3 hours a day in the car on a good day?”

    Rhett – That’s what people do.

  51. It is possible to afford to live in NYC if you’re willing to give up space and some luxuries such as a washer/dryer in the apartment. I am willing to make a few sacrifices to go back, but my husband is not willing at this point in his life. I sort of understand this when you’re 50/60ish, but why some of these younger folks need to make some sacrifices to get to reach their goals. They could live in NYC if they were willing to eat some ramen noodles. I just read an article about a star of This is Us, and the sacrifices that she had to make to live in LA to pursue her acting career.

  52. CoC – They changed systems last year. Prior to that if you took a pre-ap your gpa was raised by 0.25 and 0.50 for an AP. However, 100 = 4.0 and 99 = 3.9, etc. The information they sent out said that when compared to other schools our kids had lower GPAs based on how they were calculated.

    Now we are on this system where you get 8 points added to your grade for a pre-ap or AP class. That means your max grade is 108 in a pre-ap or AP class. They then just average all your grades to get your “GPA” – therefore they put into to systems like Naviance 4.0 for grades of kids with averages over 100.

    It seems that (based on parents of kids in neighboring districts) the common approach is regular classes are scored on a 4.0 scale while pre-ap, AP are scored on a 5.0 scale.

  53. For the first house, I think going with the 35% of income on housing is fine if you are early in your career. We were probably close to 50% for our first house and needed parental assistance. Personally, I don’t like to spend more than 15-20% on housing costs generally. However, I also don’t believe in amortizing your mortgage. I put down a larger downpayment and use an interest only mortgage at the lowest rate possible. Once I find my forever house, I will pay cash (maybe) but this is just a place to lay my head while my kids finish school in a good district. I would rather invest the difference than keeping a lot of savings locked in a house.

  54. (or let’s say $200k dual income)

    I think you’re forgetting that your average suburb dweller making 200k has a mortgage of $5500 a month. You can rent a decent two bedroom for $5500. The average rent on a two bedroom in SF is $4487.

  55. “Not to mention 3 hours a day in the car on a good day?”

    Rhett – That’s what people do.

    NOT ME. I would like in a 1 bedroom apartment with my children and sell all of my stuff before I would spend 3 hours in a car each day.

  56. The issue in Manhattan isn’t just rent – where are you sending the kids to school. Most of my friends are paying almost $45,000 per child for private school.

  57. “Austin: I saw some of those dorms–they are like resorts. They fall in the “hell, no” category.”

    The college student market seems to be demanding dorm rooms that more resemble a Holiday Inn suite than a prison cell. At our university, the older dorms with charm and character do indeed resemble prison cells, but as those dorms are gradually renovated or even replaced with newer buildings, the trend is definitely toward the “hell, no” category. There is no price differential between the charming prison cells and the soulless suites, which makes no sense, but then there would be complaints that the rich kids would end up in the nicer rooms. Campus housing is allegedly based on a random lottery system, but the donor’s kids tend to land in the new dorms.

    Both of our older kids ended up with nicer living places as adults with jobs, but that is because they lived in fairly spartan dorms. When we were in grad school back in the day, we had a 2 BR 2 BA apartment with a parking space right out front for half the cost of our first professional 1 BR high-rise in DC with parking around the block. But that was because we moved from a low-cost market to a high-cost one.

  58. “They could live in NYC if they were willing to eat some ramen noodles.”

    But then what’s the point (other than shortening your commute if that’s where you work)? The benefits of NYC are restaurants, theater, night life, shopping. I can totally understand why people want that. I can equally understand the Fruglawoods going the totally opposite direction to grow their own vegetables on the Vermont homestead, or MMM hiking the Rockies. But WTF is the point of NYC if you’re stuck at home in a tiny apartment eating Ramen noodles and washing your clothes at the Laundromat?

  59. For the first house, I think going with the 35% of income on housing is fine if you are early in your career.

    That gets us to almost $6000/month at 200k. You could rent and max out a 401k in SF or Manhattan or live in the suburbs and save nothing as you pour all your money into a house*.

    * That’s how people live.

  60. Mia: Where would your forever house be? I would like to move back to my hometown to be near my family. It will be hard to give up our current house, because it is the perfect size and location…

  61. Here is an example of how you can live in Manhattan:

    Washington Heights/Inwood neighborhood, where there is easy access to the city via public transportation. A small 2 bedroom apartment will cost $1,600-$1,800. you need a roommate, so you can spend less than $1000 on rent. On $50k pretax you should net $35K, after rent (which includes all utilities) you’re left with about 25k or $2,085.

    – $350 a month health insurance, or less if employer provides any type of coverage
    – $600-800 a month for groceries
    – $200 a month TV, WIFI, Cell phone service
    – $112 a month unlimited ride NYC metro card ( you can also use pretax money to buy a metro card up to $130 a month)
    -$25-30 a month Gym membership
    -$600 a month for extras

  62. “They could live in NYC if they were willing to eat some ramen noodles.”

    But that’s now how the numbers would work. You’d be in Scarsdale at $6k a month with two cars and a $350 (or is it $550?) [per person rail pass vs. $5000/month in Manhattan, a $112 metrocard in NYC and no cars. You’re eating more ramen in the suburbs.

  63. “Does the allure of living off campus still hold when the dorms are so posh? I imagine a lot of kids still want to be more independent, but who knows.”

    That can depend on the attractiveness of the off-campus options. We’ve had extraordinary levels of new construction within healthy walking distance of campus (though most people seem to drive) — apartments, townhomes, SFHs, condos. Many are marketed to parents or alums for football weekends, but upperclassmen and grad students also live there. It can be cheaper than the on-campus dorms if students are willing to cook for themselves, but my sense is that saving money is not nearly the factor as escaping the dorm rules.

  64. “But WTF is the point of NYC if you’re stuck at home in a tiny apartment eating Ramen noodles and washing your clothes at the Laundromat?”

    There are free and relatively inexpensive attractions in NYC. And if you much prefer big city to suburban living, well there’s that.

  65. “I think going with the 35% of income on housing is fine if you are early in your career.”

    This thumb-rule was developed for people who had defined-benefit retirement plans and a spouse providing childcare, housework, and meal preparation. You can’t just transfer the 35% to a combined income that also must cover retirement savings, childcare, convenience meals, and housecleaning.

  66. “But WTF is the point of NYC if you’re stuck at home in a tiny apartment eating Ramen noodles and washing your clothes at the Laundromat?”

    Because it is a stage in life, not a permanent way of living. And forget Ramen, you can get great, cheap food all over NYC.

    As DH’s realtor once said – who cares how big your apartment is? NYC is your front yard!

    (Shall I break out singing “If I can make it here, . . . “?)

  67. I don’t think our mortgage has ever been above 28% of DH’s income. We took my income out of the equation from the get go because when we were first married I was working from home on six month contracts and then a few years later we started having children. Right now it’s about 20% of DH’s base and we’re not knocking it out of the park on the savings front so I’m always surprised to hear people can go so high.

  68. Milo, there are a lot of things to do besides eat in restaurants. Presumably, one would have friends with whom one could engage in activities. I haven’t spent much time there so can’t tell you what they are, specifically, but how much of your non-work time as a young person was spent doing things you paid for? Why wouldn’t x variations on that other stuff be available in NYC?

  69. There really are a lot of free things to do in NY. Time Out and other others publish these lists all of the time. It also isn’t expensive to eat out frequently in NY for a fairly inexpensive amount. If you’re not a tourist, you have plenty of time to get to know the local places that are tasty/cheap. even if you’re new to the city, this stuff is published all of the time, and you really don’t have to just exist on ramen noodles. There are museums that offer free days or evenings, and some of the really big museums are still completely free because they just have a suggested donation.

    The unlimited metro card allows you to travel all over the city, and it is fun to search out new places when you’re young and have the time to explore.

  70. Kerri – agree. If spacious, comfortable apartments are at the top of your list for being in NYC, well I can’t help you. I would live in a tiny apartment to be in the city versus commuting in.

    Milo – Spending 35% of your income to buy a house when you are 25 is ok. If I only hoped to ever make that salary, then yes you would aim for lower house spending. Even when I was 29 and having my first child, things were tight with childcare. I remember the first time we had our emergency fund money and I thought how much comfort it brought to be able to have some money in the 401k (just aiming for maxing out the match at the time) and be able to afford to replace our A/C if it went out. That was fairly early stage career and with rates coming down and refinancing twice, that same payment went down while our income went up.

  71. Houston – good question. Kind of depends where the kids end up. I have always wanted to live in a cottage and I am hoping that someone will let me downsize to a cute little cottage not in our expensive school district some day. I could also see DH and I moving to a condo and have a second home that floats and structuring jobs/income so that we could enjoy both.

  72. My DH spent his grad years in NYC. Clearly he wasn’t making much money and yet he found living there to be wonderful. He shared a studio with a roommate, and did not go out to expensive restaurants or clubs. Who needs to? There is so much else going on. I used to visit him all the time, and even though I also had no money, we had a great time. There are a lot of free or really cheap performances going on, and a lot of good food to be had in small ethnic restaurants.

  73. If my kids wantt he same lifestyle post graduation as they have now, they are welcome to come live back at home!

    I actually think they will be OK, though, lifestyle wise. My oldest wants to major in CS, or computer engineering, or something similar. I bet he minors in math too. I think he can find a decently paid job off that.

  74. One of my retirement goals is to live in NYC. Not long term, but for a long enough stretch to feel like a resident, not a visitor.

  75. I, too, would like a condo because of lack of upkeep. That said, the condo fees I’ve seen seem really expensive.

  76. “Does the allure of living off campus still hold when the dorms are so posh?”

    the school my middle kid attends owns a ton of small houses all clustered together. They are technically “off-campus” but the school owns such a high % of the neighborhood it’s like being on campus. He, as a matter of fact, is 4 houses and a narrow street from the campus rec center. The house is decently maintained, but small. Anyway, he cooks for himself (and makes Sunday dinner for his 3 roommates + some invited guests sometimes…they all pay for this. He provides the labor and they buy the food.) and his weekly grocery bills, the stuff he puts on my Visa card at Kroger, are ~$75/week. That’s way cheaper than what the dining service wants to extract. And rent is lower than the upper class university apartments. They have a backyard they do not have to maintain but is great for parties. He likes the set up. They have a dog (not allowed) which they certainly could not get away with in the other housing.

  77. “Even when I was 29 and having my first child, things were tight with childcare. I remember the first time we had our emergency fund money and I thought how much comfort it brought to be able to have some money in the 401k (just aiming for maxing out the match at the time)”

    Mia – Not to beat a dead horse, but that’s giving up a decade of compounding. I realize that’s nothing that you don’t already know, and everyone does it differently, yadda yadda. But man alive!, you really need to be getting significant pay increases from then on in order to make it financially worth it, because you have to invest twice as much for the rest of your career in order to catch up.

    That’s probably a key reason why MMM adherents are all engineers of some variety. (In addition to the obvious social awkwardness, orientation toward optimization in all things, etc.) And it’s why Thomas Stanley could praise engineers as being “Prodigious Accumulators of Wealth” (relative to income) and shit on doctors for being the opposite. There’s a time factor in all of this; it’s not just “what are you earning at 40?”

  78. Houston – if we had to move to Houston for work, would love to live in a condo or townhouse near the museum area. It is such an oasis in the middle of a big city. That is another town where I would prefer to live in a small box close in to downtown versus spending an hour and a half commuting in from Katy or the Woodlands.

  79. Yes, Milo – I get it. But I also sold that house for a $250,000 profit after eight years (great location!) so it more than made up for it. At the time, DH had his own business and was also not pulling much salary.

  80. “my sense is that saving money is not nearly the factor as escaping the dorm rules.”

    That’s was certainly a big part of the appeal BackInMyDay. But the dorms were also terrible, so the crappy apartments/houses were not a huge step down really, especially for the girls. The party houses that the boys lived in were another story.

    I thought about moving to NYC when I lived in Connecticut, but by the time it was a real possibility, I was not really looking to live in a place that I could afford. So I moved here instead and lived in a 2BR “vintage” apartment with radiator heat and no A/C that was next to the L tracks. So it’s not like I was moving up to a big house in Bethesda or anything.

    Is DC cheaper than I think? I was under the impression that it was not so much cheaper than NYC or San Fran – including the surrounding area. Maybe 20% less.

    I can’t imagine ever spending 35% of gross on housing. And yes – I know that’s what people do, along with the people who commute ridiculous distances to buy a big, new house. I don’t think I’ve ever even paid 20% of gross.

  81. “That said, the condo fees I’ve seen seem really expensive.”

    IME, it really depends on what it includes. We live in a small building, and the fees are minimal, but we also don’t have a gym, doorman, pool, large common areas, heat/electricity, cable, internet, or anything like that. The fees pay the building insurance, city water, maintenance snow/lawn care, common electric, security (which means maintenance of gate/locks/buzzers). The highest ones seem to be in high-service high-rise buildings or ones that were mis-managed and have large repair bills to pay back.

  82. I just want to circle this back to the original intent. House prices for our Totebag kids is entertaining, yes, but I still think the idea that there are schools that are successful at moving a lot of poor kids into is worth thinking about, because the usual meme is that it is hopeless and poor kids just can’t succeed in college. I know a lot of rich people donate to their alma mater, and that is fine, but there is also a lot of money that pours into the elite college through foundation and government grants, ostensibly to improve college education. I actually review these types of proposals for a particular government agency that shall remanin unnamed. It irks me, because the money ends up flowing to the elite schools rather than the schools that are doing the real work of moving kids upwards. Why? Because it is hard to write competitive proposals, or pitches to foudations, and the kinds of schools that educate poor kids don’t have budget for grantwriters or well staffed grant offices.

  83. When DW & I bought our first condo in a nondescript area of greater Los Angeles, we were paying ~25% of income for mortgage + taxes + insurance. Buy low, sell high. 2 years later we were sitting on $100k equity when we built this place.

  84. Ivy – I believe Rhett and I have come to the conclusion that DC is comparable to Boston. NY is a whole ‘nother level. And what’s most punishing about NY is that the rate at which prices decrease as you move away from downtown is minimal (i.e., driving until you can afford it isn’t so fruitful).

  85. what would you guys think is a fair multiple of gross income to pay for a house? growing up I used 4X, but it seems that number is recommended at 2 to 2.5. that seems low to me.

  86. I also saw ROTC mentioned. We have a large ROTC presence at my school, as well as lots of vets. I think it fits in with the overall focus at my school – serving kids who are first in their family to attend college. It adds to the extreme diversity at my campus – hijab, Sikh turbans, and ROTC uniforms

  87. @MM – On topic, I think the endowments of the Elite schools are obscene. I didn’t go to an elite school, but I can’t see giving more money to them when there are so many other worthy causes.

  88. Mooshi – I am working on investments in low income areas and I agree that we aren’t investing funds in the schools that are transformative in terms of socioeconomic mobility. I think that it is an issue that needs to be addressed earlier about planning for and access to college. It would be great for the guidance counselors in the lower income areas (or all areas, really) to be aware of the best pathways for kids to attend college and choose a major that will give them a satisfying career and keep a roof over their head. IMHO totebaggers have been having that conversation with kids since toddlerhood and it is not happening at all at home in low income neighborhoods. Programs like ROTC probably do a fairly good job in your average high school of facilitating higher level education and a career path for a kid who might not have anyone else setting expectations for them. Is there any other analogous programs that are not military focused?

  89. Thang – depends on the market. In Dallas, I think it is closer to 2.5x and if you are on the West Coast, it was up to 7x in certain areas in the height of the real estate bubble.

  90. It irks me, because the money ends up flowing to the elite schools rather than the schools that are doing the real work of moving kids upwards. Why? Because it is hard to write competitive proposals, or pitches to foudations, and the kinds of schools that educate poor kids don’t have budget for grantwriters or well staffed grant offices.

    Good point.

  91. Not more than 3x and I would run that off a base salary without any bonuses or commission/incentive income that is variable. You really need to take into account your other expenses – do you have other debt, childcare, private school, etc. If you have any of those, 2-2.5x would be the max.

  92. ROTC works because it is so immersive. You would need something similarly immersive. There are programs that put HS kids on college campuses in the summer. I think the ones that work best are residential but that is expensive. We run lots of programs on campus in the summer for NYC kids but they don’t stay overnight.
    There do need to be alternatives to ROTC because that model isn’t going to be attractive to or work for everyone, and also, I don’t think ROTC could even expand that much.

  93. Wonder what the investment per ROTC members is? Is that all Federal money supporting it? Would be interested in learning the return on investment and seeing if you could design a program without a military or government component with similar attributes and seek funding from a foundation or impact investor.

  94. Mooshi, I’m sure you’re right. There are some programs specifically for schools that are under certain $$ criteria, but not enough.

    Alternatives to ROTC would be fantastic. Didn’t JFK originally pitch the Peace Corps as analogous to the military?

  95. I am asking in all sincerity because this was not a thing in Miami….does Future Farmers have programming that is helpful? We had Future Business Leaders of America and Future Homemakers of America when I went to school. Not sure that either of those taught practical skills for career or college.

  96. Our school counselors have their hands full with all types of problem. Sick kids, neglected kids, poor kids, and failing kids. College advice falls lower on the list of priorities, rightly I think.

  97. When I mentioned the military earlier, I wasn’t talking about ROTC. That path is obvious — at 26, you’ll edge into the top quintile whether you like it or not. But ROTC’s not starting with very many people who grew up in bottom-quintile households.

    No, I was saying that for actual, honest-to-God socioeconomically bottom-quintile recruits, enlistment (boot camp, whatever) at 18 is likely one of the best social mobility boosts in the country.

  98. Mia,

    But twins, a layoff, a stalled career, falling home prices, etc. the risks were incredible. Then again, what’s the worst case foreclosure or at most bankruptcy and you’re buying a new house in 7 years.

  99. Milo – I don’t disagree but how many people in the bottom-quintile would be accepted? Could/would the military accept more if they applied? Would they meet the fitness criteria and pass the required testing?

  100. ROTC’s not starting with very many people who grew up in bottom-quintile households.

    Really? How many high school ROTC kids continue with it in college?

  101. Not more than 3x

    That seems like a poor metric as it doesn’t take into account interest rates, property taxes, insurance: flood, hurricane, etc.

  102. When we bought the current house, we made about the same amount of money, but based mortgage off of only one person working. In part, because we were both mid-career and had already had most of the large income gains behind us. Second, we’d seen a rough housing market here in the late 80’s where many people were upside down on their homes. Third, we had young children. After being here about 5 years, my partner was laid off and due mainly to some uncontrollable factors (but yes a few controllable ones) he took early retirement. If we had gone with a mortgage based on our dual income, we would have had to sell the house.

    In the article, my alma mater shows up as having about 20% in the bottom 60% and 10% in the bottom 40%. When I was there you could clearly tell the haves from the have nots. One male dorm had no AC and was very cheap. But, most have nots lived off campus in very cramped quarters. A classmate of mine had 6 girls living in a one bedroom/one bathroom apartment. There was a large table with chairs for studying/eating (each person had an assigned spot) and they had curtained off the bulk of the living area. Three beds there and three more in the bedroom. My classmate rented a locker at the school gym because showering there was much easier than the schedule for the one bathroom.

  103. Rhett – my in-laws and parents lived down the street. I would take the risk of things being tight financially and having kids younger versus waiting until I was 35 to start trying to get pregnant. For my own personal situation, not to imply that others should do the same.

  104. I’ve always heard housing costs no more than 30% of take-home, so a mortgage for whatever you can afford with that payment.

  105. I am asking in all sincerity because this was not a thing in Miami….does Future Farmers have programming that is helpful?

    I am an unabashed supporter of FFA, (which is the official name of the organization that used to be known as Future Farmers of America), so take my words with a grain of salt.

    FFA is without peer in teaching kids public speaking, leadership and organizational skills. I have watched kids go from being hesitant at addressing a classroom to confidently speaking in from of an auditorium full of kids and adults. They have a job interview contest where kids practice interview skills and then compete at the section, region, state and national level. They teach the kids grooming, how to shake hand, address an adult, and sell themselves.

    FFA provides kids with the opportunity to run events where they contact business and community members for sponsorships and to act as judges for contests.

    Members compete at various levels throughout the contest season (January to April in our area). They generally go to a college or high school, compete in their event and are expected during the downtime between events to meet and mingle with kids from other chapters. Basically, a couple times a month, the kids go and practice networking.

  106. Rhett – all of those expenses are generally a percentage of the cost of the home, so it does indirectly take that into account.

  107. It irks me, because the money ends up flowing to the elite schools rather than the schools that are doing the real work of moving kids upwards. Why

    It’s in the elite school’s interest to maintain the allusion that they are contributing to the success of their students. They take in a super high quality product statically don’t add very much and then claim all the credit when that high quality product goes on to great success.

    It’s the same with parents and school districts – for some reason people like to believe it’s the quality of the schools that makes Scarsdale amazing vs the quality of the inputs.

    The increase in achievement relative to the quality of the inputs is a very dangerous metric.

  108. The question that must be asked: why isn’t more charitable giving directed to the schools that are most successful at propelling lower income students into higher income categories?

    Malcolm Gladwell did a podcast about this http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes

    The answer, IMO, is because these large donations to the Ivies and such are for status, not an actual desire to help students. These donors want their name on a building at Harvard, but it’s clear that several million dollars would do much more good at a school that primarily serves lower-income students.

  109. “I don’t disagree but how many people in the bottom-quintile would be accepted?”

    Umm all of them? You walk into the recruiting office and say “sign me up.”

    “How many high school ROTC kids continue with it in college?”

    I don’t know the numbers on that, but not very many. High school ROTC (technically JROTC)…let’s see, how can I say this…tends to be focused on kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. I’m going to say that a much higher percentage of them enlist after high school than go on to college enrolled in a four-year degree and commissioning program. An actual ROTC college scholarship is fairly competitive. Off the top of my head, I can not think of a single person I knew at the Naval Academy who had participated in high school JROTC.

  110. Rhett – all of those expenses are generally a percentage of the cost of the home

    That’s not true at all. First off 3x income at 4% is a whole different thing that 3x income at 8%. Property taxes and insurance can also vary widely for the same price of house.

  111. Students from the public university I attended do not move up, according to this study. I’m not surprised. 54% come from the top quintile.

  112. Umm all of them?

    About a quarter of high-school graduates also can’t pass the Armed Forces Qualification Test, which measures math and reading skills, Gen. Youngman said. “They aren’t educationally qualified to join the military in any capacity, not just the high-tech jobs,” he said.

    You live in quite the bubble, Milo.

    That also goes to Totebag parenting concerns – the competition isn’t nearly as still as some people here think.

  113. “They take in a super high quality product statically don’t add very much and then claim all the credit when that high quality product goes on to great success.”

    Hmm, this seems at odds with college advice you’ve provided for my DS.

  114. I think employers have to be willing to hire college graduates from public schools if they want to level the playing field. I posted that I recruited at Wharton, but only one of the banks that I ever worked for took resumes from kids at Baruch for a training program. There needs to be more outreach and on campus recruiting outside of the elite schools so that these kids have a chance to get to some of the firms with the higher compensation and benefits.

  115. Housing affordability depends on the interest rate so it’s probably best just to say don’t go over 28% gross instead of a multiple of income.

  116. “large donations to the Ivies and such are for status, not an actual desire to help students. These donors want their name on a building at Harvard, but it’s clear that several million dollars would do much more good at a school that primarily serves lower-income students.”

    The key question is what those donors would do with the money if not give it to their elite alma maters.

  117. Rhett – it does. While the insurance and tax rates vary by location and jurisdiction, it is still going to be roughly a percentage of the homes’s cost because insurance is for rebuilding said house (i.e. its cost or less since land value is factored in there) and property taxes are based on its assessment, which generally approximates its cost or generally less (homestead exemptions vary of course).

  118. Cordelia, when I was growing up, long ago and far away, FFA was for kids who came from farms. They generally had been in 4-H for years, and entered their animals in competitions at the fair and did trail maintenance at a state park. At my son’s HS, which has some rural kids but mostly suburban (including low-income suburban areas), I don’t know exactly what FFA does, but it has a goat, a ferret, and some other animals, and have adopted a stretch of road. All the animal focus sounds very different from what you’re describing. Maybe there has been a lot more going on than an outsider can see.

  119. My limited anecdata supports what Milo is saying. My relatives who did High school ROTC enlisted right out of high school. Getting away from their family was absolutely the best thing for them. They are now married to a fellow Navy person, have re-enlisted, and occasionally volunteer for assignments to the Middle East area to cover the cost of tattoos.

  120. “To improve socioeconomic mobility, the children of Totebaggers would need to move down. I prefer a system that provides a reasonable standard of living to most/all people rather a system that focuses on mobility”

    Yes. When mobility is measured in terms of %ile, it’s a zero sum game.

  121. S&M

    While animal agriculture is certainly a part of FFA, it is only a part. It is the best option for practicing networking that I have seen anywhere. Last summer, my younger DD went to Washington DC for a conference. She was one of two kids from the state who went her week. There were kids from all over the U.S. Somehow she became an honorary Missourian and is still in contact with kids from 30+ states.

    My older DD went to mammoth land grant university and even though she is the only one from her high school there, she knew some people from the southern part of the state from her networking while in high school.

  122. “About a quarter of high-school graduates also can’t pass the Armed Forces Qualification Test, which measures math and reading skills, Gen. Youngman said. “They aren’t educationally qualified to join the military in any capacity, not just the high-tech jobs,” he said.

    You live in quite the bubble, Milo.”

    You got me there. This stat is news to me. Times have changed. I worked for officers who, when they were just starting out, were still getting some sailors who had chosen the military as an alternative to incarceration (and there were some real success stories there, btw).

    But I will say this — of those who can’t pass this Qualification Test, it is going to be a total waste of time, money, and source of unnecessary frustration for them to be going to any sort of college.

  123. “They are now married to a fellow Navy person”

    Sorry, can’t resist….

    Initial image upon reading this was of an interesting marriage arrangement.

    As mentioned before, I tend to read things literally initally. I know what you mean, but literal readings often conjure humorous images.

    Rhett, does this tendency of mine put me somewhere on the Asperger’s scale?

  124. I’ve read that obesity had become an increasing reason for disqualifying wannabe enlistees.

  125. were still getting some sailors who had chosen the military as an alternative to incarceration

    That’s doesn’t nessecarily mean they are stupid. They could be average with poor impulse control.

  126. “of those who can’t pass this Qualification Test, it is going to be a total waste of time, money, and source of unnecessary frustration for them to be going to any sort of college.”

    This relates to my point at 12:11. Colleges cannot be reasonably expected to help these kids succeed in college and move upwards, so making “free” money available to them for this purpose is highly questionable, to say the least.

  127. “But I will say this — of those who can’t pass this Qualification Test, it is going to be a total waste of time, money, and source of unnecessary frustration for them to be going to any sort of college”.

    Oh, I agree. But what are we supposed to do to get them out of the lowest quintile? Most factory jobs are far more technical these days, fast food jobs are probably going to be largely replaced by robots and computers in this decade, and they lack the education and skills to obtain a college education.

  128. I’m not saying they were stupid. I was actually thinking of one story where they guy stayed for 30 years and became a chief warrant officer. (That’s what you get for assaulting a state trooper.)

    I’m saying that they weren’t being selective. They always need people to mop or paint. Then to chip paint, and re-paint.

  129. “But what are we supposed to do to get them out of the lowest quintile? ”

    There will always be a lowest quintile. As I’ve said before, a better focus is to help them maintain a humanitarian standard of living.

  130. Rhett, does this tendency of mine put me somewhere on the Asperger’s scale?

    Among other things…

  131. “I agree that we aren’t investing funds in the schools that are transformative in terms of socioeconomic mobility.”

    We used to.

    Here are a couple of related articles that include lists of top schools for moving the most students from low SES to higher quintiles:

    https://psmag.com/which-colleges-deliver-true-upward-mobility-465e06d92d6c#.tr6vx1yp6

    Note that most of these are public, non-flagship colleges. My guess is that facilitating the movement of students from low SES up the SES ladder, and net contributors to society, is (or should be) a core mission of these colleges.

    Our society used to pump money into these colleges via our state governments, but it seems we have collectively deprioritized the investment of funds into these schools.

  132. Point taken. Move up the average income for the lowest quintile then. I don’t know that there is a path to do so other than some universal basic income. I think we could all agree that would be tough politically in this country.

  133. ‘“They are now married to a fellow Navy person”

    Sorry, can’t resist….

    Initial image upon reading this was of an interesting marriage arrangement.’

    And I’m trying to figure out what that interesting image is.

  134. “That’s doesn’t nessecarily mean they are stupid. They could be average with poor impulse control.”

    Or so poor that certain criminal activity seems reasonable. I’m thinking Jean Valjean.

  135. “But what are we supposed to do to get them out of the lowest quintile?”

    Is that a reasonable goal? It is, after all, impossible to empty it out.

  136. The military definitely turns kids around. We were discussing this on my mommy mailing list. One of the moms has a kid who really wants to go into the military, but there is no way he can qualify because he has some cognitive issues, partiuclarly in math. She was looking to see if there was any program under which he could be accepted. We actually as a group poured through a document that states the criterion for being permitted to enlist – and wow! We were all joking that most of our kids would not qualify. I learned, for example, that neither of my boys would qualify.

  137. “And I’m trying to figure out what that interesting image is.”

    They (plural) are now married to a (singular) Navy person.

  138. Ack – “around” should be “away”, Actually, I know the military turns kids around, but they also turn kids away

  139. Oh, that is interesting . . . and I don’t doubt it will someday (maybe sooner rather than later) be an accepted arrangement.

  140. “Move up the average income for the lowest quintile then. I don’t know that there is a path to do so other than some universal basic income.”

    well…you can limit the number of people coming in who are most likely to be earning in the bottom quintile. Even if you change nothing else, now the upper end of the 20% bar will have to extend higher up the ladder, bringing up the quintile’s average. More importantly, however, some say that it will increase the value of the labor that the bottom quintile can offer. Home health care is apparently big. Doesn’t take a lot of Math or English to do that.

  141. I don’t know. If you have a household with income of $9,000-$13,000, they are too poor to afford a car, insurance, housing and food, so I don’t know that they will have the resources or the bandwidth to get themselves out of that situation even if they have potential skills to graduate high school and attend college. In a developed, wealthy society, it seems odd to say “well that’s your lot in life”.

  142. One other thing – our ROTC students are pretty typical of the rest of our students: diverse, and usually first in their family to go to college.

  143. “Even if you change nothing else, now the upper end of the 20% bar will have to extend higher up the ladder, bringing up the quintile’s average.”

    Or speed up the the process of automating some of those functions.

  144. “Because it is hard to write competitive proposals, or pitches to foudations, and the kinds of schools that educate poor kids don’t have budget for grantwriters or well staffed grant offices.”

    Didn’t get to read all of the comments, but it is HARD to get low-income kids to the point where they are competitive for admissions to elite or even not that elite colleges. The existing mentoring or summer boot camp programs can only do so much; ultimately, what each of these kids needs is a parent surrogate who can do all of the things that we do for our own kids, on a daily/weekly basis, starting at least by age 10.

  145. CoC – I just mean mathematically. If you take a population and eliminate a portion of the bottom, the new bottom 20% will include people who were previously in the second quintile.

  146. This line sounds straight out of the Onion:

    “McDonald’s listened to their customers who asked for different ways to enjoy the one-of-a-kind Big Mac taste at the size that best fits their appetite,’’ the restaurant chain said in a statement.”

  147. Rhett – I was at a real estate conference recently and the group collectively believed driverless cars and ride-sharing would be the norm inside of 10 years. That changes all kinds of things in our economy.

  148. “Should colleges be rewarded for helping more students move upwards?”

    Different colleges have (and IMO, should have) different missions.

    E.g., top technical schools, e.g., LSJU, MIT, Caltech, probably have a large part of their mission being advancing the state of knowledge and state of the are WRT science and technology. A large part of what they do is to attract the brightest minds, put them together in collaborative environments, and provide them with resources and goals to advance science and technology.

    Moving students up in SES would seem to be incidental to this. E.g., they probably have a strong interest in the student from the crappy HS who got an 800 in SAT math because that person is likely to be one of the brightest minds, not so much that it will move that person out of the bottom quintile.

    IMO, top schools should have, as part of their missions, to put top minds together in a collaborative, synergistic environments that allow them to stretch their minds. Our society has an interest in cultivating these minds, as many of the advances that benefit all of society will come from them. (I similarly support public schools like Lowell and TJ and Stuyvesant that facilitate the same thing at the HS level.)

    Facilitating the movement from low SES into the middle class makes sense as a mission for directional and regional state colleges, flagships in smaller states, community colleges and JUCOs, and some non-elite privates.

  149. ” I think the endowments of the Elite schools are obscene. I didn’t go to an elite school, but I can’t see giving more money to them when there are so many other worthy causes.”

    So my grad school, the business school, just got a gift from a classmate of mine of $150M. Now the overall University just completed a ~$5B capital campaign…this was outside of that. DW & I met there, and the education was a good investment, so we support that place more generously than almost everything else. But, and I know this will be hard to believe, our gift pales in comparison to that and makes me want to reconsider where we should give our charitable $$. (Oh, btw, that gift is only 1/2 as big as a single donor has given to my undergrad…same thoughts apply).

  150. “Totebaggers – Do/did your children expect that their standard of living during and immediately after college will be the same as it is before college?”

    Yes, I strongly suspect DD will expect this. She has a very nice standard of living now, and if the new dorms at my alma mater are indicative, will have an equally nice one in college (4 singles around a common area and kitchen — are you effing kidding me?). When she gets out in the real world with her real salary, I am going to laaaaauuuuuugggggghhhhhh. :-)

    Re: 35%-of-gross mortgages for 28-year-olds: remember also that many of the young grads making $150-200K are graduating with student loans. A salary that qualifies you for a $500K mortgage is still insufficient if you also have $100K in student loans.

  151. Scarlett +1

    I interviewed two kids this year that were from high schools that are in towns with guidance offices that are not primarily focused on getting their graduates into elite colleges. Both of the girls were raised by single parent moms, and their moms never attended college. Each girl had someone that guided her through the entire process. One example, a softball coach was the parent sub, and she even brought her to the interview on a Sunday morning.

  152. “What the heck does that mean? Her school doesn’t go over a 4.0.”

    My guess is that it means there’s a disconnect somewhere in the customization of Naviance for your DD’s school. I’d just ignore it.

    Please let us know what your and your DD’s impressions are of your college visits.

  153. “ROTC works because it is so immersive. You would need something similarly immersive. There are programs that put HS kids on college campuses in the summer.”

    At my kids’ school, there’s a program that tries to identify bright, underprivileged kids in nearby public schools. Kids in the program are brought in for summer programs every summer from MS through HS, taught study skills, and groomed for college. Kids in that program are also invited to many of the college info sessions along with the other kids in my kids’ school.

    They’ve had a high success rate in getting the kids into colleges.

  154. Talking about moving the lower quint somehow–are people talking about the rising wealth gap?

    I don’t get the “fellow Navy” thing either, unless Finn can’t tell his navy from his Navy.

  155. “$600-800 a month for groceries”

    For one person? How expensive are groceries in NYC?

    Here in the land of $9 gallons of milk, our family of four spends less than $800/month.

  156. I included $200 per week for food, health and beauty products, etc. It is a broad category.

  157. “One of my retirement goals is to live in NYC. Not long term, but for a long enough stretch to feel like a resident, not a visitor.”

    Mine too. I’d like to do that in multiple places around the world, staying anywhere from a couple months to a couple years.

    Besides NYC, some other locations that come to mind include SF, Aspen, Tokyo, Hong Kong, … I’m also thinking somewhere near DC, but I don’t know where in that area would make sense.

    Hey, maybe Santa Cruz and Taos too. And wherever my kids end up.

  158. I’d like to do that in multiple places around the world, staying anywhere from a couple months to a couple years.

    You could even make money on the deal. I assume the rent you could get on a multi-bedroom home in HI would be more than the rent you’d pay on a one bedroom (or even a studio) apartment in SF, Paris, London, Hong Kong etc.

  159. “I assume the rent you could get on a multi-bedroom home in HI ”

    As much as Finn has pointed out the illegality and problems caused by this in HI, I swear to God he had better not do it himself!

  160. Then again, what’s the worst case foreclosure or at most bankruptcy and you’re buying a new house in 7 years.

    It was only 2 years before we were allowed to buy again. Ridiculous.

  161. “As much as Finn has pointed out the illegality and problems caused by this in HI, I swear to God he had better not do it himself!”

    Even if it were legal, I don’t think we’d want to have people we don’t know staying in our house and using our stuff.

  162. I don’t think we’d want to have people we don’t know staying in our house and using our stuff.

    If it netted you out 2k a month even after paying for the apartment in Paris?

  163. On standard of living expectations, DD texted me while she and her friends were apartment hunting. She said they kind of liked the location of one, but it did not have granite counters. I told her DH and I could live with her not having granite counters. They did get a three bedroom three bathroom apartment so no one had to share a bathroom, and it had a washer and dryer, but it was still cheaper than the dorm once we included groceries. The next year one of the roommates parents bought a house, and she could’ve lived there sharing a bedroom and bathroom, but was not interested.

    Now that she has experienced the commute from our area, she is very interested in getting an apartment. She previously did not want to roommate, but now is willing to have a roommate to have a nicer place, and is also willing to live in a very small place. Her number one criteria is feeling safe, not amenities.

  164. no one had to share a bathroom

    !!

    Well, at least this is not an expectation my kids will carry off to college with them.

  165. My senior year we rented a house – 5 girls with one bathroom. It worked out because a few of us basically lived at our boyfriends’ places and we all had classes at different times. I’m guessing kids nowadays would not be so amenable to this situation.

  166. “If it netted you out 2k a month even after paying for the apartment in Paris?”

    The damage and losses that could be incurred could easily be into the hundreds of thousands.

  167. All through college I was in a group of either 3 or 4 girls (or *women* as per the knock-knock joke) sharing one bathroom. Since I had grown up with 5 people sharing one bathroom it never occurred to me that it was a problem.

    The knock-knock joke:
    Q: How many Radcliffe girls does it take to change a light bulb?
    A: They’re *women* and it’s not funny.

  168. I wouldn’t want to rent out our primary home, but I would be happy to rent the beach house in order to fund 6 month long stints in Paris, NYC, London, Costa Rica. That’s my short list.

  169. We had a shower and sink in the room, but a bathroom down the hall. Except for senior year, then everything was down the hall.

  170. I was lucky enough to get student housing in grad school in New York – only $640 per month! It was so depressingly small that you could touch both walls at the same time. But I did have my own tiny bathroom – again lucky! You could turn on the shower and brush your teeth and use the toilet all within arms reach. DH did not visit much. The communal kitchen was really gross and I mostly lived off bagels and the $3 slice place down the street. My second semester one of my classmates graduating from J-school and I put in for a transfer. Two bedroom apartment with shared bath and nice kitchen with view of the Columbia lawns. Same price.

  171. The damage

    Ah yes, well maybe you could put the Rembrandts and the Chippendale credenza into storage*.

    * I find it hard to believe the damage would be more than $24k a year.

  172. I had a friend who attended UNH in the early 90’s, which was notoriously bad for freshman dorms where you were required to live. She was in a quad that was one room and the bathroom was shared with the floor. They had one roommate who had no issues with bringing home boys to sleep with regardless of her roommates’ wishes/concerns. My friend spent many nights sleeping on friend’s floors. They were locked in with that roommate for the year as you needed someone else to take her on to get a move. The dorms that my younger cousins have enjoyed are quite amazing compared to the cells that were available for us.

  173. “Ah yes, well maybe you could put the Rembrandts and the Chippendale credenza into storage*. ”

    LOL!

  174. My college roommate played in the band and let’s just say there are more hot and sweaty home games than there are opportunities to have the uniforms cleaned. The Tennessee game freshman year was a smelly, smelly weekend. Blazing hot most of the game and poured rain the last 10 minutes.

  175. “Ah yes, well maybe you could put the Rembrandts and the Chippendale credenza into storage*. ”
    I was in an Airbnb rental last year that is a gorgeous house owned by a slightly well-known movie set professional. IIRC there were a couple of closets and a room that were locked and out of bounds for renters. While I would be a bit nervous about strangers staying in my house, I think I could get over it.

    “She said they kind of liked the location of one, but it did not have granite counters. ”

    My kid used the lack of granite counters as one of his reasons he did not cook much in his college apartment. :)

  176. Imagine how well we would be doing as a country if the expectation were not that a normal house has granite counter tops with individual bedrooms with ensuite baths.

  177. Imagine how well we would be doing as a country if the expectation were not that a normal house has granite counter tops with individual bedrooms with ensuite baths.

    I’ll bite. How well would we be doing?

  178. Average debt per household would be lower. We would have less credit card debt (smaller closets and no square footage to store the extra stuff). Electric bills and insurance bills would be lower. Somehow accelerated the space that humans need in the last 40 years. Did you know that New York City was twice as densein 1900 as it is today?

  179. ““Ah yes, well maybe you could put the Rembrandts and the Chippendale credenza into storage*. ””

    We never bought their (Rembrandts’) CD.

  180. Okay, well, I agree that average individuals might be better off. But

    Did you know that New York City was twice as dense in 1900 as it is today?

    That’s because everyone lived in those horrifying, disease-ridden tenements! NYC is plenty dense now. We don’t need to go back to the days of everyone packed in like rats in a crowding experiment.

  181. ‘“They are now married to a fellow Navy person” I was picturing two people who had dark blue skin color marrying – I didn’t get the “they” at first.

  182. From the politics thread

    “I work at a Catholic university. . .. Our institutional focus and mission is social justice”

    Does this mean that facilitating its students moving out of the bottom quintile is a part of its mission? Does it provide those kids with any advantages to facilitate that?

  183. ssk, I think SM was thinking along the same lines.

    But whether the fellow person was a member of the Navy, or had dark blue skin, the sentence still suggested the Navy person was bigamous.

  184. “My senior year we rented a house – 5 girls with one bathroom.”

    I did that for two years. One semester, all of us had an 8 am class. We had assigned 10-minute slots for showers in the morning, and we each got half a shelf in the fridge. When I graduated and started law school, I had my own 1 BR apartment and reveled in my own refrigerator and bathroom. Heaven.

  185. Finn, yes, absolutely. I can’t quote directly, but there is a lot to that point on our mission statement. We are not Jesuit, and that plays a role (can’t be any more specific).

    There are numerous examples, but one is that we had a program for ages with NYC to bring in students from homeless families. There was a lot of mentoring involved.

  186. It could avoid being bigamous if the first person had a fluid gender identity, and preferred to be addressed as “they” rather than “he” or “she”!!

  187. But whether the fellow person was a member of the Navy, or had dark blue skin, the sentence still suggested the Navy person was bigamous.

    Only if you ignore the implied “each” in the original sentence.

  188. My senior year was also 5 girls and 1 bathroom.

    Come to think of it, I’ve never had my own bathroom. Ever. In my entire life.

    Shared with siblings, shared with hall mates and roommates, shared with DH.

  189. I didn’t have granite or an equivalent countertop until I was 46! I am worried that I am now raising one of these kids even though she lives with mice and no A/C every summer. I think a plus of growing up in the bottom 25% is that my expectations for what I need in a home are not as high as other people. I am thrilled to have laundry in my home and multiple closets.

  190. “I am worried that I am now raising one of these kids.”

    There are three easy ways to solve this:

    1) only allow her to select a very high-paying career.

    2) commit to providing lifetime parental supplementation

    3) don’t let her marry someone who’s similarly disadvantaged with the burden of upper-middle-class standards but without the trust fund.

  191. “ultimately, what each of these kids needs is a parent surrogate who can do all of the things that we do for our own kids, on a daily/weekly basis, starting at least by age 10”

    I agree with this. This was sort of my idea for a voluntary organization. It goes beyond free tutoring.

    My kids have been told that they definitely need a good income if they are to live the life they have today. They ask about how much different professions make, we have discussed life style trade offs, cost of living in different places etc. My parents had similar discussions with me when I was growing up. I was firmly in the Totebaggy professions camp growing up.

    My dorm when I came to college here was suite style, common living room, no kitchen facilities. Two girls to a room. There were shared showers and toilets in our suite. Not bad at all, except for one messy room mate. The RA’s had single rooms, so there was a lot of interest in becoming a RA. I can see students wanting their own room and bathroom but the camaraderie of a suite setting.

    DH and myself had very comfortable apartments on our early combined incomes. We went out quite a bit too. We saved money for a house as well. We enjoyed ourselves and it was far above eating ramen noodles for dinner.

  192. On the attractions of big city life….a single guy I knew at work moved from here to NYC. He had a newer apartment here but in NYC he had to share an apartment with two room mates. Also it was up several flights of stairs.
    The apartments he described were amusing. One had a bedroom right as you opened the door, the other had some sort of weird shower arrangement. His potential roommates said that they did not look as people took their showers.

  193. I remember how thrilled I was to get a fridge with a frost free freezer. That was when I was pregnant with number 4. And a range wider than 24 in, plus a full sized 220 dryer and washer with a proper hook up (prior apt the washer hooked up to the sink. You had to always do the dishes.) Those were when the youngest was a freshman in college. Non formica countertop at 63.

    I really don’t feel guilty enjoying the exotic vacations and the watches.

  194. “Only if you ignore the implied “each” in the original sentence.”

    Well, I did mention that the literal reading is what raised the humorous image.

  195. “I was lucky enough to get student housing in grad school in New York – only $640 per month! It was so depressingly small that you could touch both walls at the same time. ”

    Mia, are there undergrad dorms like that too?

    That’s one of the schools DS is strongly considering, but he’s really looking forward to a residential experience.

  196. Shared with siblings, shared with hall mates and roommates, shared with DH.

    For some reason I find it fascinating that some people have never lived alone. Having my own place in my 20s was heaven.

  197. I am worried that I am now raising one of these kids

    Are there any openings at MM’s Stop & Shop?

  198. Finn, what you’re saying is that you either aren’t familiar with or don’t accept the convention of using “they” as a gender-neutral third person singular pronoun? You made so much fuss over that? It would be much nicer of you to come out and say it next time.

  199. My first year of college I was in a former RA suite with three other girls. Two sets of bunk beds smashed into a room that was probably 6×6, a small living/ study room, a sink (!), and stove(!). The bathroom was smaller than 5×8. I think it was some sociologist’s study with hidden cameras. I was pregnant. One roommate was out drinking nearly every night, and had to set her alarm to get up for her first class of the day at 2:00, one frequently went home to spend the weekend with a boyfriend who beat her, one was a sorority girl whose parents were getting a divorce (“but Daddy, what do you mean I can’t get a ring because your money is tied up in the divorce? You don’t love me!”) Made me look not unusual.

    The next three years I was in a dorm that had been a Lazarette when the school shut down for the Civil War. Our floor had 45 girls, two bathrooms with a total of 7 showers and 8 toilets, Never occurred to me that we were cramped.

    I can’t imagine never having lived on my own. I don’t believe my parents, siblings, or brothers in law ever have.

    “She said they kind of liked the location of one, but it did not have granite counters. ”
    My kid used the lack of granite counters as one of his reasons he did not cook much in his college apartment. :)

    I don’t remember when I first became aware that granite was a possible countertop material. Certainly much later than college. I grew up in a house with Corian, don’t think I’ve ever had granite, and don’t think my parents have it even now–but I’m not sure. Maybe one of your kids can come check it out & tell me.

  200. S&M I agree. I am amused at the amount of comments on my poor editing. I corrected myself because both of the relatives did not marry their partners. One did, and the other is just having a baby with said partner. On my phone, I missed the edit.

  201. “For some reason I find it fascinating that some people have never lived alone. Having my own place in my 20s was heaven.”

    Thinking about the recent college graduates in our circle — most of them are living with roommates now, especially those who are in expensive housing markets.

  202. My undergraduate school made the top 10 list of colleges with the highest mobility rate. No surprise there. Last summer, while interviewing for my current job, my Ivy League educated manager asked my why I chose that school. Really? I graduated from high school 30+ years ago. Both of us ended up at the same Big 4, with same professional credentials, although he got there first since he’s a bit older than me.

  203. I agree with Cordelia’s comments concerning FFA. It is a great organization and one that my daughter has greatly benefited from for all the reasons that she mentioned.
    S&M-I think that you might be confusing agriculture classes with FFA. FFA is an afterschool activity and ag classes are part of the daily school curriculum. DD has taken ag classes all four years of high school. She has really enjoyed the class. It is a nice break in the day from the usual stress and heavy workload of her AP classes, and having that on her transcript certainly set her apart from the typical suburban kid when she she applied to college. And finally it is an easy A and since the past two years have been dual enrollment, she gets extra points for it so it is an easy boost to her overall GPA.

  204. Years ago DH and I endowed a need-based scholarship at Harvard because DH felt he should give back after all the aid he received (my parents paid full tuition.) —To whoever made the snarky comment that rich people only want buildings named after them- very classist comment. Many important cultural and educational institutions exist because of these people.

    Anyway, we kind of regret it. Harvard certainly doesn’t need it and we now fund scholarships at independent middle and secondary schools. it can really change the life of a bright kid to get out of a failing public school and in this environment at that age.

  205. Mafalda – that’s exactly why a lot of successful people give. They value the education or scholarships they received and want to give more students that same experience at their alma mater. Just because Harvard doesn’t technically need more money does not mean that scholarship money is not being given to deserving students.

    I have never lived alone either. Although my first year out of college, I was living outside of Boston and my roommate (childhood best friend) had a boyfriend an hour away so she wasn’t home very often.

  206. Mafalda, that was very generous of you and your DH. And I also understand your later re-thinking of the best use of the scholarship money.

  207. I’ve lived alone for years at a time, but I know DH only lived alone for a year or so after the divorce. He didn’t do all that well. And now that I think about it, DSS has never lived alone. Huh.

  208. I only lived alone for a year and a half, and I hated it. I always had roommates, or family, living with me.

  209. I’ve always thought it was an important and valuable experience to live alone, but I realize it really depends on the individual. Some people like or need having other people around and some prefer or need more solitude. But I’m kinda surprised more totebaggers have never lived alone because I would have thought most of them would have had an experience similar to mine — move away for first job not knowing anyone in your new location.

    We reminisced about Mary Tyler Moore the other day. She was a sort of role model for me when I had my first “nice” apartment out of college.

  210. “Mafalda, that was very generous of you and your DH. And I also understand your later re-thinking of the best use of the scholarship money.”

    ITA. Incredibly generous.

    Assuming we don’t count single motherhood as living alone, I haven’t lived alone either. I guess I was alone in my apartment for certain summers during undergrad when my roommate was home working and I stayed, and one summer as a teen I lived alone at our cottage while teaching swimming up there, but not sure any of that really counts, either.

  211. Mafalda — do you follow the paths of your scholarship recipients? If so, what factors in their success or failure have you observed?

  212. I guess I did things a bit backwards. I decided where I wanted to live and then got a job in that location. Out of college, my friend and I decided on Boston and we looked for jobs there. A year later I decided to move to D.C. to live with my best friend from college and so I just couch surfed until I got a job (about a month) and then we got an apartment. Then I married DH a few years later and we moved to Providence for his job and then to Atlanta for his job.

  213. I’ve lived alone for exactly six months of my life, immediately after college, here:

    It was so typical of the New South, like this tropical paradise with palm trees, swimming pool, everything new and shiny and smelling of fresh paint. In stark contrast to what I’d just left, having my own bedroom, private bath, living room, kitchen, and even a little screened porch seemed impossibly decadent.

    But if I ever stayed home alone on the weekends, I’d quickly grow lonely. I had a lot of parties, or just hung out with people. But when I had to move in six months, I got a roommate.

  214. CoC said ” But I’m kinda surprised more totebaggers have never lived alone because I would have thought most of them would have had an experience similar to mine — move away for first job not knowing anyone in your new location.”

    See, my big moveaway was for college. Once I moved to the Northeast, I stayed here. I always lived on campus, even in grad school, because I liked having friends and hubub around me. In NYC, I couldn’t afford a first solo apartment so I had a roommate (a really interesting lady who was much older than me and had fled an abusive husband). Then came the year and a half alone in a basement apartment in Hoboken. I lived a few blocks from friends, which is why I moved there, but I still hated being by myself in that apartment. After that I moved in with my husband-to-be.

    My horror is the idea of being elderly and living alone. And sadly it happens too often

  215. Mooshi – I agree w/ your last statement. I feel unreasonably sad for older people when I see them alone in a store or wherever. For all I know, they’re perfectly content, but I always have this huge pang of sadness for them and assume they’re desperate for company. I want to offer to carry their bags to their car and then go home w/ them to help them unload and maybe stay for tea and a visit. Watch – I’ll give in to the temptation one day and get clobbered with a cane for being so weird.

  216. I would have thought most of them would have had an experience similar to mine — move away for first job not knowing anyone in your new location.”

    Then you’d scan the roommate wanted ads back in the day and I assume Craig’s List today.

  217. Ris – I’m holding to your word if my mom is ever alone. As long as you know your Coronation Street and British Royal history you’ll be a great companion!

  218. “I only lived alone for a year and a half, and I hated it. I always had roommates, or family, living with me.”

    I lived alone for 2 months and hated it, too. I, too, worry about growing old and living alone.

  219. CoC – that’s an interesting question! Early on the development office gave us info on the recipients but it was mutual, they knew who their benefactor was- after receiving a couple of letters of appreciation we got uncomfortable and made the whole thing anonymous. But data show that Harvard grads on financial aid do very well later.
    From the secondary schools 100% go to college most HSS an HS. Our school has an amazing aquatic center and one scholarship student went on to be an Olympic water polo player!

  220. “‘I’d like to do that in multiple places around the world, staying anywhere from a couple months to a couple years.’

    You could even make money on the deal. I assume the rent you could get on a multi-bedroom home in HI would be more than the rent you’d pay on a one bedroom (or even a studio) apartment in SF, Paris, London, Hong Kong etc.”

    IIRC, this was the plan of a House Hunters episode — the couple had a place in Brooklyn that they were renting out, and they were living overseas on the delta between the rent they collected and their mortgage. I would totally do this if my primary home were in a desirable location like that — not just for the money, but because we plan to travel for long chunks for a few years, and it would be nice not to have to worry about pipes freezing, mail building up because the weekend guy doesn’t pay attention to the hold mail, lawn mowing, etc.

  221. I lived alone for one year before marrying DH. I do think it is important to live on your own. My aunts were both spinsters that were required to live at home because they didn’t marry. One tried to move out a couple times and my grandmother was really vindictive about it and she ended up having a nervous breakdown and moving home. She was also not allowed to go to college and she was very smart. Come to think of it, this is probably why my dad told us we must go away to college and always be able to support ourselves.

  222. I enjoyed living alone. I luckily got hired about two weeks before graduation and moved from Texas to a midwestern city. I knew no one, but there were a lot of young people at work and that was my social group. I had to talk a lot while at work and really enjoyed coming home to the quiet of my apartment.

    I grew up with two siblibgs and had the same roommate all through college, so I never had the experience of living with tons of different people. Once I started working, my next roommate was DH!

  223. “British Royal history

    Sign me up!”

    Not exactly British Royal history, but I think you’d really enjoy the book I’m currently listening to. “Dead Wake” by the guy who wrote “Devil in the White City” and “Garden of Beasts.”

    It’s the Lusitania, stories of a number of the passengers, the captain, a portrayal of trans-Atlantic shipping in 1915; and then there’s the U-boat, its culture and crew, operating habits; there’s the British intelligence office trying to figure out what to do about the threat, Churchill; and there’s the grieving widower Woodrow Wilson who’s growing scared of being drawn into the war and also pursuing a new romantic interest.

    It’s entertaining in a light, historical style. “Guns of August,” it is not.

  224. “Assuming we don’t count single motherhood as living alone…”

    Hm, is that alone? When I had a baby/toddler, I certainly thought of myself as alone, but I don’t any more. I’m not sure when the transition happened. Maybe when he could first help–he skyped my parents when he was five to tell them I was hurt & asked what to do, and then he did it. Or maybe it’s more recent, as he is beginning to think of me as a person in the world, and not only a mom. In between there was a time when I knew I could count on him to do what he said.

  225. “When I graduated and started law school, I had my own 1 BR apartment and reveled in my own refrigerator and bathroom. Heaven.”

    Yep. I had decent-to-great roommate situations in college (I tended to luck into the older, cool buildings vs. the “modern” cinderblock jail cells), and then a poor one that fell apart after first semester of law school, so I moved to this place, where my best friend lived –http://www.apartmentguide.com/apartments/Texas/Austin/Coppertree/8078/ (note that I don’t actually remember the giant lake, and we certainly didn’t have the fancy club room; OTOH, I don’t think they’ve changed the apartments at all in the past 25 years!). The thing that I remember most was the vaulted ceilings, because I was on the third floor, and the fact that mine had the “grey” color scheme instead of the “beige” one (hallelujah). I *loved* that place. For an introvert, just having my own space all to myself and not having to negotiate with other people on everyday minutiae made me very, very happy.

    But, yeah, now I am dreading living alone again, because it will mean that I am old and my family is gone and this huge part of my life will be over. And I am not hugely social (part of the reason I love being surrounded by family is because I don’t have to work so hard at the relationships/conversation/etc.!), so it will be an effort to develop those same kinds of close relationships and interactions, etc.

  226. When I moved away for my first job, I stayed with my ex-boyfriend for a couple weeks. He was in grad school, and I got to know the others in his program and a few other friends. I went to happy hour with them, some of them (including ex) had roommates, but I preferred to get a duplex on the other side of the interstate that I could afford on my salary.

    Risley, have you seen the feel-good story going round Facebook about a little girl who befriended an old man in the grocery store (by announcing, to her mother’s embarrassment, that he’s old)? They get together now for tea. He says he really appreciates her.

    I feel the same way about roommates in old age as I do about husbands–if I want one, I’ll do something about it then. No need to start hunting now. I don’t think I’ll be keen on moving into any kind of retirement place, because I like to see people of all ages.

  227. There are all kinds of community living situations for older people, you know. Y’all don’t HAVE to live alone.

  228. I have never lived alone. I met DH fairly young and it would have been a room mate or him, I chose him. Culturally there is less prevelance of women living alone. Now, women who move for school or jobs in the home country usually have room mates. There have been safety issues for women in the home country and big cities with their anonymous high rises ensure privacy but has been risky in cases.

  229. “There are all kinds of community living situations for older people, you know. Y’all don’t HAVE to live alone.”

    And yet living alone seems preferable to returning to middle school, or being patronized by helpful attendants when I ask for a second glass of chocolate milk.

    Fundamentally, I do not like people in large, communal situations. It either devolves to Lord of the Flies, or you have to put up with perky little Julie your effing Cruise Director and all of the associated forced happy fun-ness.

    Maybe I will luck into some sort of co-housing arrangement with a smaller group of reasonable people.

  230. Fundamentally, I do not like people in large, communal situations. It either devolves to Lord of the Flies, or you have to put up with perky little Julie your effing Cruise Director and all of the associated forced happy fun-ness.

    1. I don’t think that’s an accurate statement.

    2. You may want to nip this terrible attitude in the bud now as it’s only going to get more terrible as you age.

  231. LfB, that looks like where we live now, lol. Vernacular architecture it is not.

    My Austin neighborhood has changed a lot. There is a HOA, and I bet rents are a lot higher. I lived between 38 1/2 and 41st.

    I bet there are people on temp assignment to Baltimore/DC who’d rent your place loft a few months.

  232. Milo,
    I was going to suggest Dead Wake for you! Just finishing the audiobook version. Absolutely riveting, even though everyone knows how it ends. It is a perfect audiobook IMO because you are forced to listen to every line, and can’t skip ahead to see whether this or that exquisitely described person is a survivor. Larson pulls together so many seemingly unrelated threads and weaves them together like a novel.

  233. Milo, not sure how far along you are, but I loved the description of how the submarine captain had to use his crew as ballast when firing a torpedo to compensate for the sudden weight drop.

  234. Laura, they’re not all like that. My mom’s place wasn’t. My in-laws’ place isn’t. You have your own apartment, and you can join some groups/projects/outings if you like. Pace that Soprano’s episode where Pauly Walnuts’ mom was surrounded by Mean Girls, lots of older people are nicer than they were in middle school. The ladies from my former church who live in a lower-income elder apartment situation enjoy it a lot. They take lightweight classes and get together socially and chat in the hallways.

  235. When my parents first started being snowbirds, Mom said it felt like summer camp. Lots of people their age with similar interests, all wanting to meet people. There are frequent parties at the clubhouse, some streets (including the one they live on now) have monthly meet & greets, there are tennis and golf leagues, occasional speakers, and I think there are a few other clubs. If you want a trainer in the weight room, that’s available, but there no one to wipe your chin when you dribble. They are at the point now of being interested in the next places people move to. Most go to some kind of semi-assisted living, where the units have kitchenettes and there is a dining room with a meal plan, so residents can pick. I guess the step after that (frequently just down the hall) is back to preschool.

  236. On living alone as an older person — agree with Risley. Those who are blessed with long lives can expect at least some period of single living. Even in a retirement community, the residents with their own apartments are on their own for a good chunk of the day, especially if they aren’t interested in the group activities available, which seem IME to consist of lots of forced cheeriness and bingo.

  237. Scarlett – I read that. I’m on Disc 7/11.

    It’s so riveting, I’ve found myself cheering for the Germans at times, like when they were fleeing the British destroyers after getting caught in the chain net, and were unknowingly dragging the buoy behind them, revealing their track.

    I was also shocked to learn how much merchant traffic was still traveling by sail in 1915.

  238. If you’ve just moved into the retirement home and still drive, you can even stay in your tennis group.

  239. “Pace that Soprano’s episode where Pauly Walnuts’ mom was surrounded by Mean Girls”

    I *LOVED* when Paulie confronted the son of the woman who was being mean to his mom.

  240. “It will make you laugh and cry” I did

    Milo, you mean actual sail, fabric catching the wind?

  241. LfB – You could live with your kids, ala Louise.

    No ! Absolutely not !
    I do not recommend this option unless that is what all parties and their spouses want to do. The better arrangement would be living close but not in the same house.

  242. “Milo, you mean actual sail, fabric catching the wind?”

    Yes. So like you read a history book and suddenly it’s “The Age of Steam!” and you just assume it’s 100%, or pretty darn close.

    But, for example:
    http://www.rmslusitania.info/related-ships/earl-of-lathom/

    Here you have this incredibly advanced and terrifying war-fighting technology, a diesel-electric ship that can submerge and disappear, and from underwater launch torpedoes that are never seen…and it’s attacking and sinking a wooden square-rigged schooner:

    http://www.rmslusitania.info/related-ships/earl-of-lathom/

  243. Louise – I was thinking of a “grandma apartment” not a bedroom down the hall.

    (We all think you’re a saint BTW.)

  244. “The better arrangement would be living close but not in the same house.”

    Like Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, who lived next door to each other. That seems ideal.

    Okay, I will try to remain open about where and how I will live in my old age. I have seen all sorts of options that work, and don’t.

  245. This conversation makes me miss PTM. Wasn’t he going to drive us all around in his fabulous car when we all ended up in the Villages? Or something like that.

  246. “LfB – You could live with your kids, ala Louise.”

    Only if it is DS — DD is the one who would be telling me I couldn’t have the second chocolate milk. :-)

    @Rhett — Why? Evidence of the crotchety-old-age-leads-towards-dementia mindset? FWIW, I have been like this my whole life; it’s only as I have gotten older that I have been able to recognize the common thread of “forced belonging as part of a large group of people I don’t know.” My experience for most of my life has been not quite fitting in and not quite knowing what I was doing wrong; with age and perspective, I became aware that there are always unspoken rules and expected behaviors that tagged people as “in” or “out,” and that I was somehow violating those rules, but I still cannot reliably figure out what those rules are or how to comply with them.

    Now, admittedly, I’m not the same kid who was repeatedly bullied in ES and MS — primarily, I am not as easy of a target now, since I am no longer poor. I have social markers of success that will likely let me start off at a better place within the pecking order. But forgive me if that experience has left me with a high level of fear and loathing over finding my place in a new (large) group, which I will be relying on for acceptance and friendship, which will have its own pre-existing social structure and rules and expectations that I still won’t be able to figure out, but which (unlike MS) I have no hope of escaping to better options after three years.

    “When my parents first started being snowbirds, Mom said it felt like summer camp.”

    Probably not coincidentally, I hated summer camp.

    My hope is that, after the kids are gone and we are retired, we will have more time/energy to invest in friendships and community, and that we will build up more of a social network that makes “alone” not feel so “alone.” Because at 90, I’d rather be the little old lady with the pull-cart schlepping to the grocery around the corner in Manhattan, with all sorts of places I can get to by a short walk, subway, or whatever-is-Uber-in-40-years.

  247. My DD says she is going to get an RV when she grows up and she will live in it and park it in our driveway.

  248. LfB, your vision sounds more like what I’d like for myself. Neither my son nor I enjoy forced merriment. (That phrase reminds me of one I laughed over–at the end of a month in the GDR, the very last item scheduled for the last night was something like “joyful togetherness”. I’d gotten to know the counselors/minders/staff fairly well, and they thought it was hilarious.) I think hanging out with rich old white people all the time, if I have the option, would get old, even if I’m old, and I don’t enjoy situations where I must talk about nothing. So I can’t empathize with them there. But I do see the immense difference in services available between there and home–both a wider range and higher standards in their Florida neighborhood. (Extended example: house sitter one winter “forgot” to water about twenty plants that had all been moved to the same room (they died), and her boyfriend (why was he even there?) burned a hole in a tablecloth with his cigarette–they couldn’t find an ashtray. House sitter in Fla has a list of things he checks; the first time they used him, he checked the batteries in all their smoke detectors (which are up on high ceilings) and left them a note explaining conditions under which batteries can spontaneously combust (I think in the trash can, or maybe the wrong combo in the detector).) They feel cold much more so than they used to, growing up in Wisconsin & Minnesota, and things tend to be built with the elderly in mind–not ADA-standard handrailings all over, but long gentle slips rather than little steps. So altogether, this feels much easier to them. The main things keeping them from moving here full time are my comments about the heat (they must stay here an entire summer before selling their house) and their deep connections in the medical community back home. You live in a big enough city that you can probably find all that (Johns Hopkins, hello!) except the weather and still have the network you’re building now.

  249. Milo,
    I found myself keeping a mental scorecard of how many torpedoes the U-20 had left. The description of the captain watching through his periscope, but not able to hear, the aftermath of the torpedo attack was one of those little details that made the book so compelling.

  250. “a mental scorecard of how many torpedoes the U-20 had left.”

    Like the old six–shooter scene: you can’t shoot me; you’re out of bullets.

  251. Lemon – you bet. Looks like Rhett and I will be trading off days.

    Coach Harbaugh lives on our street, in a gated mansion on a hill, and bought the house at the bottom of the hill for his parents. We’ve seen the kids running down to see their grandparents after school. That seems nice. I think Louise would approve.

    (His is the only gated mansion on our street)

  252. I lived alone from when I was out of law school and working to when I got married. It was very peaceful, although also sometimes lonely.

    When we were staying in the dorm for my college reunion a couple of years ago, I got a kick out of the bathroom-down-the-hall and back-to-summer-camp aspect of it, so clearly those sort of situations don’t bother me. I liked camp as a kid, too.

  253. Yes, but apparently they could sink smaller ships with the deck gun and not waste a torpedo.

    Scarlett – You should try “Thunder Below.” I had PTM read that one, and I think he said he enjoyed it.

  254. Do you think being in the only gated mansion on the street gets lonely sometimes? I always wonder about this place. It’s behind Home Depot, on a stretch of almost-bay that didn’t get developed in the 70s. There are a couple run-down home there, a set of ok-looking apartments and a couple houses of those single room apartments that look from the outside as if nothing there has ever been cleaned. There are a few UMC houses built along the canal, so they can have boats and nearly direct access to the Bay. Then there’s this on the other side of the road 8+k square feet, and only four bedrooms. What do they do with the rest of it? Can’t be pirates, because they’re way back from the water. Gangsters from Tampa of a couple decades ago? Check out how long that driveway is. Pulling up the sat photo view on maps really shows the difference between it and how the other houses are built. http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/4706-Troydale-Rd-Tampa-FL-33615/82988743_zpid/

  255. What would you guys do if a teacher keeps bringing up her antiscience views in class? My son has a teacher who gets her nutrition info from the internet and the more faddish the better. She teaches pe and nutrition. Most of the time we just mock her pronouncements at home during dinner.

    Apparently, today, the kids have to make some sort of poster. DS wanted to make one on genetically modified organisms, but, according to him, the teacher said he couldn’t because gmos are bad. I asked her to send me the assignment and why his topic was inappropriate. A few weeks ago she made reference to the idea that his chronic condition is a result of conventional farming practices so I am already annoyed. FYI, his condition is the result of an unfortunate mix of bacteria, fungi, and bad genetics.

    In the past, she has told my kids that drinking milk is as dangerous as smoking cigarettes, told them that earthing was a good idea, particularly if you can run around outside holding metal in a thunderstorm.

    He has the possibility of this teacher for two more years, although I suspect I can convince the principal that we’d all be happier if he has someone else. Still, she is teaching hundreds of kids a year junk science and my older kids tell me that most of the students believe her. I would like her to stick with some sort of vetted curriculum rather than fad of the week.

  256. Cordelia – I can’t help, but my Pilates instructor has gone nuts for essential oils. She now starts class by giving us each a swab of “Elevation.” My eye rolls are excused, I think, because of my gender, but probably only for that reason.

    I wasn’t aware of this, but essential oils can fix so many things. When her daughter is having a tantrum, a touch of just the right essential oil calms her down immediately. It’s amazing.

    Namaste.

  257. What would you guys do if a teacher keeps bringing up her antiscience views in class?

    Well, my younger son’s approach was to point out at length that her views were wrong, unscientific, and not consistent with the curriculum, and to pretty much challenge her for control of the classroom. She passed him out with a D just high enough that she wouldn’t have to have him back repeating the class, so I can’t say I’d recommend that approach.

  258. C, do all the other kids’ parents let them run around in thunderstorms, flying kites with keys on them? Is your son known as a renegade for his milk-drinking ways? If you have to deal with the principal for two more years, you don’t want to use up all your points now, so get allied with other parents.

    You are right that no student should be under this teacher. From your past comments on the school, I’m guessing that not all the other kids hear corrections at home. You need to find out the wheels that have to turn to have a teacher removed, or at least put under significant supervision. It probably starts with formal complaints, so you could start gathering them all up to be delivered together.

    For your son’s project, how about comparing US laws on GMOs with EU standards?

  259. What would you guys do if a teacher keeps bringing up her antiscience views in class?

    Take it as a helpful learning experience? In life, you’ll encounter any number of idiots spewing nonsense, the sooner you can recognize them for what they are the better.

  260. Saac nobody lets their kids run around in thunderstorms holding metal. My child who was in that class told me that not even the kids who just got here from Mexico and didn’t speak English believed her. She has tenure, so nothing will be done about her, and the more outrageous nonsense she spews reduces her credibility. At least that is what I hope.

    Rhett, we have used her as an example of people in authority spewing nonsense for years, and you’re right, figuring that out is a useful skill.

    HM, my initial reaction is like your son’s but I try to be an adult and refrain, even though child me (and younger adult me) would have found his approach intensely satisfying.

    At this point, I am hoping for an email I can show next years principal. We have a decent relationship, we are working in concert on some issues and having him out of this teachers class means that we could work together on productive causes rather than fuss over something that is not her priority. She has discussed with me her priorities on what she wants fixed, I am mostly in agreement, this teacher isn’t on her priority list and I am mostly ok with that.

  261. My eighth grade science teacher taught us that black people were descended from Neanderthal man and white people from Cro Magnon man. In a DC private school attended by foreign diplomats’ children, among others. It was the last straw in my campaign to convince my Mom to move to what she perceived as an acceptable school district so that I could attend a good public high school.

  262. “Saac nobody lets their kids run around in thunderstorms holding metal. ”

    Wha— did you honestly take that to be a serious question? Obviously, no parent is doing those things, and their kids are being told they should. Sounds to me like you have plenty of natural allies. But you’ve since written that you are mostly ok with the principal not doing anything about the teacher, so I have nothing more to say.

    Meme, that should’ve brought a diplomatic incident.

  263. Teachers like Cordelia’s kid’s teacher are an argument for Common Core and against tenure.

    I’m wondering if she’s always taught nonsense, or only started after getting tenure.

  264. I think schools should just stay out of the nutrition arena and teachers should really not disclose personal views.

  265. I think schools should just stay out of the nutrition arena and teachers should really not disclose personal views.

    I think the problem comes when they’re tasked with teaching things like healthy habits and life skills — glommed in with sex ed in the Health class that, coincidentally!, was the one where my son took on the teacher — because you’re just asking for the teachers to share what they consider their wisdom and life experience with the kids. And it’s not usually the star teachers who are assigned the middle school health class . . .

  266. “Apparently, today, the kids have to make some sort of poster.”

    What grade is your son in?
    Rhett has a good point about Life Lessons. Your son isn’t going to learn anything useful by making a poster anyhow, so one approach might be to pick a boring and acceptable topic, and don’t waste any more time on this project than it deserves. Picking Your Battles is also a major life lesson.

  267. My experience for most of my life has been not quite fitting in and not quite knowing what I was doing wrong; with age and perspective, I became aware that there are always unspoken rules and expected behaviors that tagged people as “in” or “out,” and that I was somehow violating those rules, but I still cannot reliably figure out what those rules are or how to comply with them.

    LfB, this is my life. I always feel like there is an in crowd that I’m not part of. And I have no idea what to do to join.

  268. Cordelia, when I was in 7th grade, I had a social studies teacher who was a John Bircher. Instead of teaching us the material, she subjected us to her political views, endlessly. I remember she told us she kept a gun under her bed so that when the Russians came, she could shoot herself.
    So in class, I learned to just parrot her views back to her. But one day, I went into school really early, before she had arrived, and I plastered her walls with leftist political posters that I had made myself.

  269. Meme said “My eighth grade science teacher taught us that black people were descended from Neanderthal man and white people from Cro Magnon man. ”
    Oh! I remember that one too, from 7th grade.

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