Friday Eliezer described a Superhero bias: The police officer who puts their life on the line with no superpowers, no X-Ray vision, no super-strength, no ability to fly, and above all no invulnerability to bullets, reveals far greater virtue than Superman.
What I want to know is if those numbers take into account the number of people who actually work in that particular job. If there are more people working as waiters or waitresses, then of course more people are going to die on the job. Besides that, I don't think that people who are brave enough to run into a burning building are thinking, "man, I wish I didn't have to go in there and save some one, but I don't want to lose my job." If that were the case, I think they would just find another job.
mate shut up would you ever go into a burning hot house or building to save someone. as soon as you do i would like to hear about it ok.
This is stupid.... just because they die more on the job than police or firefighters doesn't make them HEROIC.... firefighters and police do their job and risk their lives everyday because they want to..... waiters and plumbers DO NOT!!
Another confounding factor: some jobs have physical fitness requirements. Firefighters, especially, have demanding fitness requirements, and I think there must also be a fitness requirement for police officers.
Questions of the form "Why X?" often can be answered with large numbers of plausible sounding guesses; I don't know how much benefit there is to idle speculation, though.
I think a lot of the reason people tend to perceive police as being admirable for their risk even if it is in actuality lower than many other jobs is because of the nature of the risk itself. When a police officer dies on the job it's not uncommon for it to be because he was killed by a criminal he was trying to subdue. The same goes for fire fighters, when one dies it's often because he was trying to rescue someone. But, when a waiter dies on the job it's probably because they did something stupid and got in an accident (I'm trying to think of ways a waiter can die on the job and they're all hilarious for some reason), very seldom is it because they were rushing into a burning building to save 8 children, 7 puppies, and a grandma all at once. In general I think people see dying while helping others as more admirable than simply dying of natural causes or because of a job related accident.
However, I have to say, my girlfriend is a notable exception haha. Whenever a police officer dies and it gets covered on the news for a week she gets furious because she says that just because they're a cop does not necessarily make them a better person than the 10 other people that died that week but only got 10 seconds on the news.
Stuart, I'm sure FBI are included in the category described.
Probably, but their relative numbers would be so small that the result would not be representative for them.
But I asked that question about FBI agents for a different reason - I hope you don't mind. You've previously blogged about how helping profession don't help - a position I disagree with, but which is coherence (the market rewarding people precisely according to their utility).
Then you present this post, which shows that the police is less altruistic/useful/admirable than we think. Fine; but the measure used (overall death rates adjusted by certain criteria) allows us to say that some professions are less admirable than others; but by the same token, we must be able to say that some are more admirable than others. Since public admiration of jobs is rather biased and random, it is nearly certain that there exists admired jobs that are in fact admirable.
That's why I brought up the FBI. I don't have the data on death-rates, but FBI agent is not that high status a job, is relatively low paid, and requires relatively high education attainment. Patriotism would also tend to make it more attractive to some people than it is inherently, further depressing pay, conditions ans status. It seemed a prime candidate for an admired job that is in fact admirable on your scale.
I just wanted to see whether your contrarian urge was driving this post, more than your desire to overcome bias. Sometimes I feel you don't keep that contrarianism in check, even when it should be. Sometimes conventional truths are actually true :-)
Anyway, apologies for that, and keep up the blogging.
Floccina- here are a couple web sites that deal with the bad boss. I don’t know that there are quantified studies to the health effects, but there seems to be plenty of anecdotal evidence to the effect that a bad boss can lead to bad health.
You can raise the status of others around you by showing them respect.
Something went wrong with my last post, so just the gist of the rest: how exactly should income and perhaps IQ be good enough to control for factors like genetic fitness which may very well both increase chances to get a high status job AND for living a long life...
By what channel exactly should higher status lead to lower mortality?
I think a Superman type character is a greater hero than his law-enforcement counterpart. "With great power comes great responsibility" - Uncle Ben If I had super-powers, villainy would look like a pretty good option. Why would Superman or Spider-man waste their time, sacrifice their relationships, and potentially risk their lives (against other super-powered foes) when they can join the side of evil and do it for a profit?
Doctors spend time with sick patients and in hospitals, so we should expect high mortality.
Sorry for so many posts but this subject is very interesting to me. I have been reading some paper on social status and health. In my crowd lawyers have very low status in a way by this I mean to imply that there are multiple ways to view social status? Doctors seem by any measure that I can think of to have higher status than lawyers. But lawyers seem to do significantly better than doctors in the above graph.
What happens to social status when one retires, when housewives quit working?
Are their ways to raise the status of people around us? How about our own status?
Does a bad boss lower the life span on his long term employees significantly?
Does taking welfare lower or raise ones social status?
I'm wondering where I can find a list of jobs and if they are low status or high status.I work with people who have all kinds of jobs, doctors, lawyers, farmers, some don't work at all. I wonder if it would be helpful if I knew something about job status.
I meant 'Older folks are more likely to have cancer.' Apologies.
"How the hell do death rates increase across the board when you add controlling factors? Shouldn't the totals have to be the same?"
You are thinking that 'controlling factors' are just conditioned on, but it's not that simple.
Say you want to know if smoking causes cancer. You can look at the conditional probability P(cancer|smoking), and if it's higher than P(cancer), you can argue that smoking causes cancer. The problem is, there a lot of variables which can influence both how likely you are to smoke, and how likely you are to develop cancer, for instance age. Older folks are more likely to smoke, and (perhaps) more likely to smoke. So intuitively what we want to do is look at cancer/smoking interaction in every age group. This interaction would just be P(cancer|smoking,age), the probability of cancer given smoking (at a particular age). We combine these estimates by weighting them by the prior distribution on age, to obtain sum_age P(cancer|smoking,age)P(age).
So now we 'added an additional factor' to our guess at the effect of smoking on cancer. It turns out that this new guess doesn't have to bear any relationship to our original guess. (It's a useful exercise in probability theory to figure out exactly why; the intuition is that there could be an arbitrarily strong influence from smoking to cancer via the age variable, and this influence is precisely what gets cancelled by adjusting for age).
I think this website could use more specific examples.
If, say, New York male firemen are less likely to die of, say, AIDS than New York male waiters do, does that really have much to do with the status of the fireman's job vs. the waiter's job? Or does it have more to do with the type of man that wants to become a fireman versus the type of man who wants to become a waiter?