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Jonathan Chait’s Mistaken Analogy

Summary:
Various friends are linking to Jonathan Chait’s recent article, “School Closures Were a Catastrophic Error. Progressives Still Haven’t Reckoned With It,” New York Magazine, January 17, 2022. It really is quite good. I found the analogy in the second paragraph below faulty: Social scientists have measured the factors that drove schools to stay closed last year. One study found schools with unionized teachers, more of which were located in more Democratic-voting districts, were more likely to remain all virtual. Another likewise found “local political partisanship and union strength,” rather than the local severity of COVID, predicted school closing. It is always easier to diagnose these pathologies when they are taking place on the other side. You’ve probably seen

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Jonathan Chait’s Mistaken Analogy

Various friends are linking to Jonathan Chait’s recent article, “School Closures Were a Catastrophic Error. Progressives Still Haven’t Reckoned With It,” New York Magazine, January 17, 2022. It really is quite good.

I found the analogy in the second paragraph below faulty:

Social scientists have measured the factors that drove schools to stay closed last year. One study found schools with unionized teachers, more of which were located in more Democratic-voting districts, were more likely to remain all virtual. Another likewise found “local political partisanship and union strength,” rather than the local severity of COVID, predicted school closing.

It is always easier to diagnose these pathologies when they are taking place on the other side. You’ve probably seen the raft of papers showing how vaccine uptake correlates with Democratic voting and COVID deaths correlate with Republican voting. Perhaps you have marveled at the spectacle of Republican elites actively harming their own audience. But the same thing Fox News hosts were doing to their elderly supporters, progressive activists were doing to their side’s young ones.

There are two claims here. The first is that Fox News hosts were encouraging their elderly viewers not to get vaccinated. I’m not sure that’s true. I haven’t seen them say that. We quit watching Tucker Carlson a few months ago. I’ve been a much happier person now that I watch fewer than 2 hours of Fox a week. Maybe Chait watches Fox more than I do. So it’s quite conceivable that he’s right about that claim. But I must say that I have seen literally no one in the minutes I watch recommend what Chait says they recommend.

But let’s assume, arguendo, that Chait is right about his factual claim. Does his analogy between Fox on vaccines and the elderly on the one hand, and progressives on schools and children on the other hand, hold up? Or, as cousin Vinny would say, does Chait’s case hold water?

I say, as Mona Lisa Vito, would say, Chait is wrong. But I’ll leave the reasoning for that conclusion to commenters.

David Henderson
David R. Henderson (born November 21, 1950) is a Canadian-born American economist and author who moved to the United States in 1972 and became a U.S. citizen in 1986, serving on President Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers from 1982 to 1984.[1] A research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution[2] since 1990, he took a teaching position with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California in 1984, and is now a full professor of economics.[3]

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