Month: August 2018

Office of Management and Budget: +$845 Billion in Direct Loans by 2028

Nearly every year in July the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) publishes its Mid-Session Review (MSR) of the federal budget, which includes the Federal Direct Loan Program, and projects its future. These direct loans consist primarily of federal student loans, but there are a few other programs in there as well. However, it does not include private student loans, but these are a small percentage of all student loans and smaller still of new student loans. Thus, the MSR measure is both over- and under-inclusive of all student loans, but it covers most of them.

The OMB classifies direct loan accounts as financial assets totaling $1.281 trillion in 2017, but careful readers of these reports will find that OMB has now combined direct loans with “Troubled Asset Relief (TARP) equity purchase accounts.” No reason is given, and these items don’t appear related. In prior years TARP amounts have been negligible, so I’ll continue this series, assuming these TARP accounts make no impact. According to the office’s projection, by 2028 this figure will grow to $2.126 trillion—66 percent growth.

(Source: OMB FY2018 Mid-Session Review (pdf))

As with previous years, the current (2017) direct loan balance is below the OMB’s past projections, but not by much. For example, in FY2012, it predicted the balance would be $1.593 trillion by 2017, $312 billion (24 percent) higher than what actually occurred. Here are the OMB’s direct loan projections going back to FY2010.

As with last year, the OMB projects less student lending than during most of the Obama presidency. At the time, I noted that the projection came in much lower, but now it’s trending back upward. By 2028, federal student loans will reach $2.126 trillion. Because the OMB expects GDP to grow as well over this time period (we’d have bigger problems than student loans if it didn’t), the ratio of direct loans to GDP will level off below 7 percent over the next decade.

The OMB’s measure of direct loans is the net amount owed to the government, and the annual changes to that amount are not the same as the amount lent out each year to students. The Department of Education tracks its lending, which I discuss on the Student Deb Data page.

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Past coverage of this data series:

Manic Pixie Dream Girl Movie Matchup

For inexplicable reasons in the last couple months I saw three movies accused of featuring manic pixie dream girls (MPDGs), the most beloved and reviled of 21st-century stock characters. For those unfamiliar with the term, film critic Nathan Rabin defined it as a woman who, “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” Rabin “retracted” the term in 2014 because, as one might expect, any trope leveled at female characters is rapidly deployed indiscriminately against all of them. But retractions be damned! For I write in good faith.

I thought it might be fun to stack the three MPDG characters together and see how they matched up. To be clear, though, these movies aren’t regarded as paragons of the trope, so this post is more of an exploration than indictment.

In chronological order we have:

  • Danielle – The Girl Next Door (2004)
  • Summer – 500 Days of Summer (2009)
  • Ramona Flowers – Scott Pilgrim Versus the World (2010)

Seasoned readers will undoubtedly predict that I would be partial to Scott Pilgrim for its ’80s fan service, but I’m on the level here: Bias is bad. Here are three brief, spoilerific plot synopses.

The Girl Next Door: High school overachiever Matthew (Hm.) is caught peeping on the slightly older, attractive Danielle, who is house sitting next door. She goads him into spending time with her—after tricking him into running naked in the street—and encourages him to skip school, trespass in other people’s swimming pools, and go to a party that disallows uncool kids like him. Matthew kisses Danielle, proving he is capable of impulsiveness.

Then for some reason the movie keeps going for, like, another 90 minutes, and we learn that Danielle is actually an adult film model who needs saving and whom Matthew saves. Matthew also gets into a load of trouble from which he claws his way out. (The movie is actually a soft remake of Risky Business (1983).)

500 Days of Summer: In a non-linear narrative, preppy architect-cum-greeting-card-writer Tom, a romantic idealist, meets Summer, the woman he believes is The One. He charms her at an office karaoke night, and after agreeing to be friends, she makes out with him in the office copy room, things progressing from there. Tom is happy, but months later Summer breaks up with him and changes jobs. Tom is miserable, but he serendipitously encounters Summer again on the way to a co-worker’s wedding. Summer declines to tell Tom about her new boyfriend and spends the wedding with him. She invites him to a party she’s throwing where, fantasizing about winning her back, Tom finds out she’s engaged. Embittered, Tom quits his job to try to be an architect again, but he runs into Summer one last time, and she tells him he was actually right to be a romantic idealist.

Scott Pilgrim Versus the World: Scott Pilgrim is an unemployed hipster bassist, who believes he’s blameless in all his past relationships’ failures. He falls for Ramona Flowers, whose seven evil exes ambush Scott one by one Street Fighter-style to prevent her from being with him. In defeating them, he learns that he’s actually been a jerk to everyone around him all along, particularly to his previous girlfriend, Knives Chau, whom he cheated on with Ramona and who spends most of the film trying to win him back. Scott finally wins over Ramona, even though it feels unearned and the movie never really establishes why she likes him.

So, let’s compare these MPDGs.

  • Are these characters really MPDGs, or are they false positives?

It’s a fair question because arguments are made that Summer and Ramona don’t fit the term; Danielle’s fate is pretty much sealed. To aid in answering, let’s establish who an MPDG is and what she does. As a person, the MPDG is a vaguely defined character. Where she comes from doesn’t matter; she frequently has no social or family life of her own (though this may be a common trope in romances); she doesn’t have many goals for herself. In the movie she must be the sine qua non of the male protagonist’s transformation from brooder into man with a destiny.

Danielle fits the term so well that she disappears for much of the last two thirds of The Girl Next Door after it’s revealed that she’s made adult films. She practically becomes a MacGuffin, and we spend more time with the film’s antagonist, Kelly, Danielle’s ruthless producer. Given audience perceptions of adult models, we don’t expect Danielle to have much more of a backstory, but she certainly doesn’t have her own ambitions. She is, however, definitely necessary for Matthew’s transformation.

Summer is introduced with a backstory, but it plays no real role in the movie. She moves to Los Angeles out of boredom. We’re told (and I’m not sure why) that she’s popular and radiant, but we don’t see her friends until the end of the movie, and it’s clear Tom never meets them when he is involved with Summer. Does she transform Tom? Actually, I don’t think so. In the penultimate scene he professes his cynicism and looks at her like she’s an unstable airhead for marrying a man she’s only known for several months. Yet in the final scene, Tom nevertheless musters the courage to ask out the architect with whom he’s competing for a job, Autumn. It may be that Summer lifts Tom out of his cynicism, in which case 500 Days defies the MPDG framework by depicting Tom as the soulful brooder in the middle of the narrative and not its beginning. Or the final encounter between the two central characters may just be coincidental.

Ramona moves from New York City to Toronto to escape the heartbreak from the last of her evil exes. Before then, she’s also a mystery. She has no friends, standing uncomfortably alone at the party where Scott first meets her, and she too has no goals. We only learn about her through flashback expositions about her exes. How does she affect Scott? She doesn’t really teach him to enjoy life but offers him a moral lesson on himself instead. If we broadened the definition of MPDG to include men who aren’t “broodingly soulful” then Ramona fits the definition better as a necessary agent of Scott’s growth.

  • How do the female characters’ MPDGishness disserve these movies as romances?

Danielle – Girl Next Door is so bad that it’s actually better when the movie focuses on just Danielle’s and Matthew’s MPDG romance. Danielle’s most cringeworthy moment is when she tells Matthew, “This is what I am,” referring to her adult modeling. Damsel, meet distress.

Summer – I didn’t really catch why Summer falls out of love (if that’s what you’d call it) with Tom. Their relationship just fizzles out on her end, and she moves on. Although the movie wants us to see Tom as unreasonably naïve, I found myself sympathizing with him more than Summer, who escalates a relationship with Tom knowing that he wants something more from her than she’s willing to offer. (Tom isn’t blameless because he lies by saying he’s happy to just be friends with her.) She then deceives him by not disclosing her relationship with her new boyfriend, whom she marries after knowing for only a few months. If anything, I’m surprised Tom’s final encounter with Summer doesn’t reinforce his cynicism about romance. Summer becomes the caricature of naiveté that Tom is at the beginning of 500 Days.

Ramona – Scott Pilgrim‘s biggest failure is not including a montage scene showing Scott and Ramona falling for each other, something the other two movies did well. We don’t get why she likes him. Worse, as the plot progresses, we get the sense that Ramona treats men like disposable toys. Complicating the film even more, Ramona has the most power over the plot and does the least to change it. She doesn’t try to discourage her final evil ex, who’s their boss, from calling the others off from attacking Scott, nor does she break up with Scott just to save him. She adopts more of a passive-aggressive let’s-you-and-them-fight attitude. I’m left finding Knives Chau the most sympathetic character in the movie.

  • Despite their MPDGishness, what endearing qualities can we find in these romances?

Girl Next Door – The May-July age difference between the protagonists is what makes the first act of the plot believable. It gives Matthew a reason to feel intimidated by Danielle and willing to go along with whatever she asks.

500 Days – I think this one had the most believable romance with the least amount of cringiness. Too often romances don’t explain why two characters would be attracted to each other, especially the female participant. Tom dresses well, he shares interests with Summer, and subtly he’s fun to her too. I also appreciated that 500 Days kept the awkward, embarrassing male dialogue to a minimum. In fact, it gave some to Summer, e.g., “In college they called me Ms. Anal.” The line itself is juvenile, but few romances are willing to place their female protagonists in such an awkward light.

Scott Pilgrim – In a way Scott Pilgrim does a better job of achieving what 500 Days set out to do: Smack down the male protagonist for idealizing the woman he’s fallen for. We learn through the incessant attacks by each of her exes that Ramona really isn’t so stable herself. That Scott goes off with her at the end anyway is just bad writing.

I could write more, especially about how the female characters are established by their romantic (or pornantic) pasts rather than their other facets, but I’m going to stop here. As I said at the top, these films are not necessarily great examples of manic pixie dream girl movies, but they were all very different stories. Girl Next Door is a coming-of-age story, 500 Days is a romance, and Scott Pilgrim is an action flick. This genre breadth made this post interesting to think through.

However, none of these women compete with the best MPDG, Tyler Durden from Fight Club.

And you thought I only wrote about Star Wars movies. Ha.

State-Level Employment Projections: High Lawyer Replacement

Every two years the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes state-level employment projections on its affiliated Web site projectionscentral.com. The data from this site include estimates of the number of lawyer positions (not people who are lawyers) out there in 2016, a prediction of how many there will be by 2026 (assuming full employment), and the projected number of annual lawyer job openings.

In past years this topic was one of my favorites because I could compare the number of lawyer job openings to the numbers of law-school graduates (via the ABA) and new bar admits (via the NCBEX). However, because the BLS changed its methodology for calculating occupational replacement rates a few years ago, this is no longer possible. Instead, I can show the ten-year replacement rate for lawyers by state, but first here are the basic numbers compared to those from the previous cycle two years ago.

STATE/BEA REGION NO. EMPLOYED LAWYERS LAWYER EMPLOYMENT PROJECTIONS ANNUAL LAWYER GROWTH RATE
2014 2016 % CHANGE 2024 2026 % CHANGE 2024 2026 % CHANGE
Alabama 7,050 6,860 -2.7% 7,410 7,400 -0.1% 140 350 N/A
Alaska 1,070 1,030 -3.7% 1,020 930 -8.8% 20 30 N/A
Arizona 9,630 11,830 22.8% 11,870 13,310 12.1% 370 670 N/A
Arkansas 4,720 3,900 -17.4% 5,360 4,520 -15.7% 130 240 N/A
California 91,900 97,400 6.0% 102,700 108,000 5.2% 2,420 5,330 N/A
Colorado 15,800 14,630 -7.4% 19,270 17,370 -9.9% 600 1,010 N/A
Connecticut 12,620 12,260 -2.9% 13,080 12,960 -0.9% 230 590 N/A
Delaware 3,540 3,270 -7.6% 3,660 3,550 -3.0% 60 170 N/A
District of Columbia 38,920 39,360 1.1% 41,480 41,770 0.7% 830 1,920 N/A
Florida 59,400 60,180 1.3% 68,400 67,970 -0.6% 1,770 3,440 N/A
Georgia 18,160 20,570 13.3% 19,690 22,800 15.8% 420 1,120 N/A
Hawaii 2,410 2,690 11.6% 2,500 2,820 12.8% 40 130 N/A
Idaho 3,030 1,460 -51.8% 2,960 1,610 -45.6% 50 80 N/A
Illinois 35,840 36,230 1.1% 37,950 39,280 3.5% 740 1,870 N/A
Indiana 9,450 10,500 11.1% 10,520 11,530 9.6% 250 560 N/A
Iowa 4,340 4,330 -0.2% 4,880 4,880 0.0% 120 250 N/A
Kansas 5,090 4,750 -6.7% 5,570 5,350 -3.9% 130 270 N/A
Kentucky 9,490 6,850 -27.8% 10,640 7,250 -31.9% 250 330 N/A
Louisiana 9,180 8,390 -8.6% 9,730 9,210 -5.3% 190 450 N/A
Maine 3,170 3,000 -5.4% 3,210 3,020 -5.9% 50 130 N/A
Maryland 11,690 14,520 24.2% 13,370 14,930 11.7% 360 540 N/A
Massachusetts 22,100 22,220 0.5% 23,080 23,880 3.5% 420 1,120 N/A
Michigan 17,900 18,770 4.9% 19,230 20,140 4.7% 400 940 N/A
Minnesota 12,640 12,640 0.0% 13,340 13,800 3.4% 260 660 N/A
Mississippi 3,760 4,150 10.4% 4,030 4,200 4.2% 80 180 N/A
Missouri 12,470 12,220 -2.0% 13,160 13,510 2.7% 250 660 N/A
Montana 2,550 2,490 -2.4% 2,830 2,700 -4.6% 70 130 N/A
Nebraska 3,910 3,720 -4.9% 4,400 4,220 -4.1% 110 220 N/A
Nevada 6,030 7,050 16.9% 7,880 7,560 -4.1% 270 350 N/A
New Hampshire 2,010 1,950 -3.0% 2,070 2,090 1.0% 40 100 N/A
New Jersey 24,520 26,610 8.5% 25,140 28,660 14.0% 420 1,350 N/A
New Mexico 3,810 3,600 -5.5% 3,830 3,760 -1.8% 60 170 N/A
New York 90,830 84,230 -7.3% 99,020 93,900 -5.2% 2,150 4,660 N/A
North Carolina 16,020 14,430 -9.9% 17,870 16,010 -10.4% 420 790 N/A
North Dakota 1,740 2,080 19.5% 1,790 2,240 25.1% 30 110 N/A
Ohio 20,180 20,150 -0.1% 21,290 20,120 -5.5% 410 830 N/A
Oklahoma 9,480 8,280 -12.7% 10,290 8,930 -13.2% 220 420 N/A
Oregon 8,250 8,180 -0.8% 9,440 8,960 -5.1% 240 430 N/A
Pennsylvania 31,240 31,640 1.3% 32,960 33,790 2.5% 630 1,570 N/A
Puerto Rico 4,420 4,260 -3.6% 4,500 4,250 -5.6% 70 170 N/A
Rhode Island 4,210 4,050 -3.8% 4,460 4,250 -4.7% 90 190 N/A
South Carolina 7,220 8,160 13.0% 7,670 8,870 15.6% 150 420 N/A
South Dakota 980 970 -1.0% 1,080 1,070 -0.9% 20 50 N/A
Tennessee 7,990 9,660 20.9% 8,690 10,850 24.9% 200 550 N/A
Texas 51,420 N/A N/A 63,140 N/A N/A 1,920 N/A N/A
Utah 5,310 5,550 4.5% 6,360 6,800 6.9% 180 380 N/A
Vermont 1,940 1,950 0.5% 1,990 1,940 -2.5% 30 80 N/A
Virginia 21,860 21,530 -1.5% 24,150 23,660 -2.0% 550 1,150 N/A
Washington 17,290 15,510 -10.3% 18,940 17,040 -10.0% 430 830 N/A
West Virginia N/A 3,230 N/A N/A 135 N/A N/A 150 N/A
Wisconsin 9,620 9,400 -2.3% 9,940 9,870 -0.7% 170 450 N/A
Wyoming 1,160 1,020 -12.1% 1,130 1,060 -6.2% 20 50 N/A
STATES (EXCL. P.R.) 774,940 777,640 0.3% 854,470 857,480 0.4% 19,410 40,240 N/A
U.S.A. (EXCL. P.R.) 778,700 792,500 1.8% 822,500 857,500 4.3% 15,770 40,700 N/A
New England 46,050 45,430 -1.3% 47,890 48,140 0.5% 860 2,210 N/A
Mideast 200,740 199,630 -0.6% 215,630 216,600 0.4% 4,450 10,210 N/A
Great Lakes 92,990 95,050 2.2% 98,930 100,940 2.0% 1,970 4,650 N/A
Plains 41,170 40,710 -1.1% 44,220 45,070 1.9% 920 2,220 N/A
Southeast* 164,850 164,680* -0.1%* 183,640 182,740* -0.5%* 4,300 9,020* N/A
Southwest* 74,340 75,130* 1.1%* 89,130 89,140* 0.0%* 2,570 >3,180* N/A
Rocky Mountains 27,850 25,150 -9.7% 32,550 29,540 -9.2% 920 1,650 N/A
Far West 126,950 131,860 3.9% 142,480 145,310 2.0% 3,420 7,100 N/A

(Note: Only Texas did not report its numbers this year, which is lamentable because it’s a large state. West Virginia did not report two years ago. For the purposes of the regional estimates, wherever there were gaps, I used Texas’ 2014 numbers for this year and omitted West Virginia entirely.)

Superficially, one can tell that the data are erratic. It’s unlikely that half of Idaho’s lawyers disappeared in two years, and there are other wide swings like Maryland and Kentucky. The BEA regional numbers look steadier though.

On to the specifics. You can clearly see that the annual job growth numbers are much higher for 2016, but that’s because of the methodology change, not anything to do with the legal labor market. Presumably, had the new methodology been used in the past, the numbers would have been quite higher. Even as it is, unfortunately, the new methodology gives the misleading impression that the legal profession is capable of absorbing significant numbers of law-school graduates and new lawyers. Indeed, the class of 2017 only had about 34,500 persons, and nearly 42,000 people were admitted by examination or diploma privilege. Certainly this should indicate a healthy employment situation for law graduates, right?

The question isn’t simply whether grads get jobs, but what kind of jobs they are and how long they keep them. Moreover, lawyer positions that open by replacement won’t necessarily be filled by new lawyers. So, here’s a table depicting the projected annual number of new lawyer jobs created each year until 2026, the number created by replacement, and an estimate of the ten-year replacement rate.

STATE Annual New Lawyer Jobs Annual Replacement Lawyer Jobs 10-Year Lawyer Replacement Rate
2024 2026 2024 2026 2026
Alabama 36 54 104 296 43.1%
Alaska -5 -10 N/A N/A N/A
Arizona 224 148 146 522 44.1%
Arkansas 64 62 66 178 45.6%
California 1,080 1,060 1,340 4,270 43.8%
Colorado 347 274 253 736 50.3%
Connecticut 46 70 184 520 42.4%
Delaware 12 28 48 142 43.4%
District of Columbia 256 241 574 1,679 42.7%
Florida 900 779 870 2,661 44.2%
Georgia 153 223 267 897 43.6%
Hawaii 9 13 31 117 43.5%
Idaho -7 15 N/A 65 44.5%
Illinois 211 305 529 1,565 43.2%
Indiana 107 103 143 457 43.5%
Iowa 54 55 66 195 45.0%
Kansas 48 60 82 210 44.2%
Kentucky 115 40 135 290 42.3%
Louisiana 55 82 135 368 43.9%
Maine 4 2 46 128 42.7%
Maryland 168 41 192 499 34.4%
Massachusetts 98 166 322 954 42.9%
Michigan 133 137 267 803 42.8%
Minnesota 70 116 190 544 43.0%
Mississippi 27 5 53 175 42.2%
Missouri 69 129 181 531 43.5%
Montana 28 21 42 109 43.8%
Nebraska 49 50 61 170 45.7%
Nevada 185 51 85 299 42.4%
New Hampshire 6 14 34 86 44.1%
New Jersey 62 205 358 1,145 43.0%
New Mexico 2 16 58 154 42.8%
New York 819 967 1,331 3,693 43.8%
North Carolina 185 158 235 632 43.8%
North Dakota 5 16 25 94 45.2%
Ohio 111 -3 299 N/A N/A
Oklahoma 81 65 139 355 42.9%
Oregon 119 78 121 352 43.0%
Pennsylvania 172 215 458 1,355 42.8%
Puerto Rico 8 -1 62 N/A N/A
Rhode Island 25 20 65 170 42.0%
South Carolina 45 71 105 349 42.8%
South Dakota 10 10 10 40 41.2%
Tennessee 70 119 130 431 44.6%
Texas 1,172 N/A 748 N/A N/A
Utah 105 125 75 255 45.9%
Vermont 5 -1 25 N/A N/A
Virginia 229 213 321 937 43.5%
Washington 165 153 265 677 43.6%
West Virginia N/A 15 N/A 135 41.8%
Wisconsin 32 47 138 403 42.9%
Wyoming -3 4 N/A 46 45.1%
U.S.A. (EXCL. P.R.) 4,380 6,500 11,390 34,200 43.2%

(Note: States that predict declines in lawyer counts do not have replacement rates. Also, the U.S.A. totals at the bottom are not the sums of the individual jurisdictions of them.)

The one ray of hope here is the faster rate of new lawyer job growth nationwide. The BLS appears to be predicting it’ll accelerate at about 50 percent. However, most jobs are created by replacement, not growth. Thus, we have a set of ten-year replacement rates that are consistently above 40 percent, which astonishes me, but is still consistent with the national data from last year. I question whether the methodology is producing reliable results. Perhaps law practice is too small an occupation to accurately measure, unlike retail salespeople. Although, it’s necessary to bear in mind that not all lawyer jobs are created equal and some may turnover multiple times in a decade.

Meanwhile, I checked the numbers again, and occupations such as “Dentists, General” and “Physicians and Surgeons, All Other” have ten-year replacement rates below 30 percent. “Paralegals and Legal Assistants” have a staggering ten-year replacement rate of 120 percent.

So yes, the projections don’t inspire me with confidence, but they’re the best, neutral evidence we have about the long-term viability of a law career. If they gave a contrary result (and other evidence backed it up), then I’d arrive at a different conclusion. But today is not that day, so I stand by my opinion that law schools cannot credibly represent good outcomes for their prospective and current students.