Posts Tagged ‘statistics’

What is this nonsense?

November 19, 2017

subjearn

Following our earlier discussion, the BBC has published an article on the financial benefits of a university education, with some results as shown above.  But it’s difficult to know what to make of it, since they don’t say anything about data or methodology or (perhaps more realistically) give a link to where these questions might be covered.

Questions which are not answered include what data are they using, what years are they covering, what is the definition of these subjects, what students are they covering.

What data are they using?

The real question is income data.  If it comes from self-report, then you will get low coverage and also inaccurate answers.  If it’s HMRC data, then you might also get some regrettable inaccuracies and omissions and you will miss foreign students and UK students who went abroad after graduation.  There’s also a question about what coverage you get of UK students who don’t take out student loans.  The work is ascribed to Dr Jack Britton from the IFS and there is a recent IFS study that covers similar ground.  Perhaps it’s the same data…the same years…whatever.

What years are they covering?

Search me.

What is the definition of these subjects?

It is hard (for me at least) to work out the coverage of Medicine & Dentistry, Nursing, and All Medicine.  I suppose that All Medicine does not enter into combined, but you never know.  Then you could ask whether Languages is just Modern Foreign Languages, or does it include Classics, Welsh, Irish, Linguistics…and so on…

What students are they covering?

At a guess, it might be UK-based students who have done first degrees at UK universities and who can be followed up.  But then in some subject areas many of them will have done higher degrees and a PhD would probably depress earnings at the 5-year mark.

gradearn

Finally, the figure above is interesting for its inclusion of the Open University, whose students may well be different on entry and retired on exit…

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Indeed accounting for the value of languages

October 6, 2017
171006data

Data as at 2240 on 6 October

So we continue our previous attempts to find some value in foreign languages with the help of Indeed.  We say that the typical undifferentiated graduate may well end up as an accountant, and ask what value may be added if they know a foreign language.  This approach also has the advantage that ‘accountant’ actually means something (unlike ‘consultant’) and it means something outside the UK (unlike ‘solicitor’).

171006table

Accountant salaries, with and without languages

The table above shows results for numbers of jobs and average pay, where ‘German’ means postings that mention both ‘Accountant’ and ‘German’ and so on.

We see that:

i) a rather small proportion of the accountant jobs mention languages (about 4% for the languages mentioned here);

ii)  for some languages–Arabic, Turkish–accountant jobs are scarce;

iii)  as previously,  Dutch, German and Spanish are worth money;

iv)  as previously,  Polish and Japanese are not worth money.

How popular is Russian in the UK?

October 2, 2017

171002russnumb

The table above gives the numbers of people studying for examinations at various levels.  The school examination numbers refer to the numbers of entries as given on the JCQ site while the ‘Degree’ figures refer to first-year full-time students doing first degrees, as on the HESA site.  Here, in the ‘Degree’ column, we have assigned all of ‘Russian and East European Studies’ to Russian and all of ‘Modern Middle Eastern Studies’ to Arabic.

The table below gives the same data expressed in terms of ranks.

171002russrank

We see that Russian ranks between 5th and 9th, depending on the particular stage we are looking at.

From a slightly different angle,  British Council report Language Trends 2014 gives the percentage of schools in the state and independent sector where particular languages are taught at any level (including non-examination/extra-curricular) as below:

171002anylevel

Taking account of proportion of the total school population in independent schools, we might estimate that about 7% of children attend schools with some provision for Russian.

We can then ask what the position Russian ought to hold. A British Council report on Languages for the Future dating from 2013 gives as below in  terms of importance for Britain:

britcosum

So Russian may be about as popular as it ought to be.  We will not venture an opinion as to whether the same holds for the popularity of Russia.

Important languages, Indeed!

September 30, 2017
arabindeed

Data for Arabic as at 2240 on 30/09/2017

We try another approach to assessing the relative value of modern foreign languages.  The Indeed site allows one to search for job postings according to particular keywords in a particular location and gives a summary in terms of numbers and estimated salaries as illustrated above.

So we can compare these results postings containing the names of various languages such as ‘Arabic’, ‘German’ and so on in London, using in the first case key languages identified by the British Council as we discussed earlier.  This gives results as below, ordered in terms of average salary, which is just the total estimated salary associated with relevant postings divided by the number of postings.

170930postings

In this table, ‘Overall here’ combines the 12 languages listed while ‘Overall jobs’ reports on all the jobs returned for London at the time of the study.

There are many interesting points here–there does seem to be some value to Dutch, as pointed out by the British Council.  The results for Mandarin are as ever clouded by what you call the language–‘Chinese’ gives a healthier average salary (£27,395) and rather fewer postings (1879).  The low average salary for Polish is presumably down to the kind of work Poles do in London while ‘Italian’ may be referring to restaurants rather than the language, thus depressing the average salary assigned to the term.  The explanation for Japanese might be that all professional-level jobs are filled by native speakers recruited from Japan, leaving only low-paid roles for others.

In general, we see that about 9% of postings mention one of the British Council’s priority languages, and this will overestimate the number of posts.  If as often happens an advert mentions ‘knowledge of French, German, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese) then it will get counted 5 times.  While there are of course other foreign languages, the representation of foreign languages in the London jobs market can be no more than 10%.

We can tabulate the overall results here with those derived from some other search terms as below:

170930compare

The two points here are that the intuitive ordering of subjects and academic qualifications is reproduced and that languages seem to add less value than an unspecified degree.

Are languages important?

September 27, 2017

Never mind which languages, the question is are any foreign languages important in the English-speaking world?  After all, if you live in some non-Anglophone country you probably need English both for foreign travel and for doing business with the rest of the world, while for an English-speaker the only real need is when you have to sell stuff to foreigners.  And that’s stuff as in stuff, since the English language may be part of the attraction of services like education.

The CBI Skills Survey for 2017 suggests that employers are not satisfied with graduates’ foreign language skills:

cbi_gradsat

but also do not regard them as particularly important:

cbi_gradfac

…unless of course they come under ‘Degree Subject’…

Available surveys do not really show any particular premium for graduates in foreign languages.  A survey with rather unclear methodology looks at average [mean] starting graduate salaries as at October 2016, with some results we have summarised:

170927t3

So it appears that starting salaries for what appear to be language-based degrees are a little above the average for humanities and a little below the overall average.  By way of comparison, the highest and lowest salaries are shown below:

170927t4

A more systematic exercise (but with less detailed subject classifications) published by DfE gives median earnings in 2014/15 for those graduating in 2008/09.  As before, we would be hard-pressed to claim a particular premium for Languages:

170927t5

Finally, what looks like a very thorough study by the IFS is more interested in various factors such as socio-economic background, prior attainment and institution status but gives some rather discrepant information for males and females:

ifs_mal

ifs_fem.png

So ‘Lang Lit’ (which must be basically English in terms of numbers) looks like a pretty good deal for women but not for men.

We conclude that there is no real excess demand for graduates in modern foreign languages demonstrated by either employer preferences or salaries achieved…

Teaching important languages

September 26, 2017
bricolong

British Council ordering

As we have seen, the British Council report Languages for the Future gives a priority ordering of languages as above.

The question then is how this matches up with what is actually taught.  A further British Council report Language Trends 2014 gives the percentage of schools in the state and independent sector where particular languages are taught.

stateschoolang

Languages taught in state schools

indscholang

Languages taught in independent schools

We see that there is no particular sign of Arabic becoming widespread, nor even of Chinese doing so(though that is more common). We presume that ‘Arabic’ is Modern Standard Arabic in all cases and that ‘Chinese’ is Mandarin unless otherwise stated.

We can also look at the numbers of people studying for examinations at various levels.

exam_table

Numbers studying for various examinations

Here, the school examination numbers refer to the numbers of entries as given on the JCQ site while the ‘Degree’ figures refer to first-year full-time students doing first degrees, as on the HESA site.  Here, in the ‘Degree’ column, we have assigned all of ‘Russian and East European Studies’ to Russian and all of ‘Modern Middle Eastern Studies’ to Arabic.

We can try putting these various activities on a common footing by giving them a weighting based on the amount of time in years they take up (taking account of subsidiary languages/subjects for the Degree column).

weightings

Table of weightings

We would then like to compare the input for various languages with their importance according to the British Council report.  There is no obvious common unit of measurement between these two things, so it seems safest just to compare the rank of the languages according to these two measures. The table below refers.

comparison

Comparison of importance according to British Council with resource input, by ranks

On this crude basis, Arabic (especially), Portuguese and Turkish are under-provided, while Polish (heritage speakers) and the traditionally-taught languages French and German may be relatively over-provided, along with Italian.

But if you were just interested in studying languages and wanted to know which ones would be most profitable, the obvious course would be to do Spanish at school–which seems quite possible these days–and then Spanish & Portuguese at university..

Which foreign languages are most useful?

September 25, 2017

booktranslations_v1

The picture above (from the WEF site) gives one answer in terms of the most influential languages as reflected by book translations.  There seem to be definite nodes at English, French and Russian, then less clear ones at Dutch, German and Chinese.  But it is hard to give an exact interpretation of this figure, or indeed the other ones displayed at the same place.

Otherwise, the Internet reveals a number of attempts at weighting-and-ranking:

BRITISH COUNCIL

A British Council report on Languages for the Future dating from 2013 takes account of 1. current UK export trade 2. the language needs of UK business 3. UK government trade priorities 4. emerging high growth markets 5. diplomatic and security priorities 6. the public’s language interests 7. outward visitor destinations 8. UK government’s International Education Strategy priorities 9. levels of English proficiency in other countries 10. the prevalence of different languages on the internet and their table of English proficiency by country is quite interesting:

engprof

From the point of view of importance to Britain, they give a ranking of:

britcosum

This may well be the answer from the British perspective!

WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM

A further study (2016) from the WEF considers languages under the criteria of 1. Geography: The ability to travel 2. Economy: The ability to participate in an economy 3. Communication: The ability to engage in dialogue 4. Knowledge and media: The ability to consume knowledge and media 5. Diplomacy: The ability to engage in international relations and comes up with the following results:

powerlang

LIST 25

List25 gives a list of the world’s 25 most influential languages as of 2014, where the rankings are not just done according to how many people speak the language. Of course this is taken into consideration but so is how many people speak it as a second language, its impact on global commerce and trade, and its lingua franca status around the world.

They have some nice maps, for instance for French:

french

and come up with a ranking of 1. English 2. French 3. Spanish 4. Arabic 5. Mandarin 6. Russian 7. Portuguese 8. German 9. Japanese 10. Hindustani (Hindi/Urdu) 11.  Malay…

CBI

Meanwhile, the CBI Skills Survey for 2017 gives the following:

skillsurvey

So, English is clearly the most important/useful/influential language of all times and peoples, and we will set it aside in what follows.

Using the British Council rankings as a starting point, we can summarise the results as below, where languages outside the British Council list are ranked by number of occurrences and then average ranking where listed:

britco1

Or we can apply the same procedure for all of the languages that occur more than once without privileging the British Council rankings, so that we rank first by number of occurrences and then average ranking where listed:

britco2

So, the world’s second most important language might be French, Spanish or Mandarin.  In fact, the top 5 for the British Council and the combined ranking have the same laguages, if not quite in the same order:  French, Spanish and German (the languages most widely taught in British schools) together with Mandarin and Arabic (rarer and more challenging, one might say).

More about lost sleep

January 3, 2017

sleep1

Following the earlier study,  our client has now produced some further data covering three weeks’ holiday, with results as shown above.  We suspect that the slightly anomalous results for Sunday are indeed due to there only being three observations.  The mean amount of sleep per night is 6:32 for the Work period and 7:08 for the Holiday period.

So there is some difference, but hardly enough to say that the client is compelled to give up work.  He will have to make his own decision, which is rarely a popular piece of advice…

 

Were it not that I have bad dreams…

December 1, 2016

sleep

A middle-aged bureaucrat has collected data on his sleep pattern for 29 weeks or so. He works 4 days a week (not Wednesdays) and wants to know whether these data should impel him towards early retirement.  We can see from the above that the prospect of going back to work on Monday and Thursday causes some lack of sleep.

Table of sleep data

  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Mean 06:25 07:10 05:12 06:52 07:40 07:07 05:00
N 29 29 29 29 29 28 28
Min 01:00 03:00 02:00 04:00 05:00 05:00 00:00
Max 08:30 09:00 07:30 09:00 10:00 12:00 07:00
Q1 06:00 06:30 05:00 06:00 06:30 06:52 04:30
Q2 06:30 07:30 05:30 07:00 07:30 07:15 05:45
Q3 07:30 08:00 06:00 07:30 08:00 08:07 06:30
StDev 01:27 01:29 01:19 01:07 01:07 01:26 01:35

The overall mean is 06:29, while results here indicate an average of 06:50 for those aged 40-55.  The difference is hardly large, but in the other hand the justified expectation of sleeping poorly tw0 nights a week is not something one would wish to continue indefinitely.

We presume that there are essentially two possible explanations for the smaller amount of sleep on Sunday and Tuesday nights:  apprehension and having to get up early/change in routine.  If it was purely a case of the latter, we would expect the effect to be greater on a Sunday night since there are two days of changed routine to account for as against one on a Wednesday night.  But in fact there is no significant difference between the means for Wednesday and Sunday, so we presume apprehension is playing a role here.

Our preliminary recommendation would be for the client to collect the same data for a substantial period of leave so as to establish how far the results above deviate from the natural pattern.  And here it is!

Try Books! read in 2014

February 20, 2015
MEDIAN BEST WORST
Stoner 9 8 0
The Road 8.5 3 0
We Need New Names 8 0 0
This Boy 8 2 1
Under The Skin 8 1 1
Gone Girl 7 1 1
Old Filth 7 1 0
A Winter in the Hills 7 0 2
The Children Act 7 0 0
Telling Liddy 6.5 0 0
Almost English 6 0 3
Seizure 5 0 5

The table shows the books read by Try Books! in 2014 and their median scores, along with the number of times someone gave it their highest or lowest rating for the year (remember ties!)

stoner

John Williams and Stoner are the clear winners here, while Erica Wagner and Seizure were rather less successful.  But it was A Winter in the Hills  that caused the real excitement, of course.

Seizure Other
Stoner Howard, Jo Aruni, Christine, Dick, Heather, Judy, Linda
Other Jocelyn, Stephanie, Suzannah Vicky

The table above classifies people according to whether Stoner and Seizure were indeed their best and worst books respectively. As ever, this was complicated by not everyone having read (scored) every book, but Howard and Jo seem to be representing the mainstream with Vicky as the rebel.