Friday, January 06, 2017

The Lorenz Curve and Law School Administration: Are the Greediest at the Top?

P.J. Waterstone
(cite as 2 Class Bias & Random Thoughts 17 (2017)

The Lorenz curves illustrates what percentage of income the lowest ten percent of wage earners get and then what percent the lowest 20% get and so on. If income is equally divided you get that 45 degree line. The gini coefficient is the same idea expressed as a number. If one person gets all income, the coefficient is 1 -- perfect inequality. In the US it is slightly over .40.

The concept has a great deal of promise for running a law school. Suppose a Dean or Associate Dean kept a record of how much time was spent attending to each individual faculty member.  Then they would be ranked from least amount of time to most. Suppose it is a faculty of 50. The percentage of total time taken up by the lowest 20% (10 people) could be calculated. The percentage of time taken up by the most demanding 10 could also be determined.  My hunch is that the bottom 20% take up about 5% of the time and the top 20% take up about 50% of the time. The Lorenz curve could be even  more bowed than the one in the graph. 

Actually, the real Lorenz curve and the faculty demands on administrative time may be similar in an important respect. If you think of the real curve, the upper 10%, income-wise, may very well be the greediest most self-interested in the land. Now switch over to the faculty-demand-on-administrative-time Lorenz curve. My hunch is that people in the top 10% share many of the same characteristics as those in the top 10% of the real curve. Instead of money, though, it is badgering and complaining about leaves, courses, teaching loads, days spent teaching, special treatment, self-promotion, and being "helpful."

The analysis bogs down a bit at this point. The real Lorenz curve can be used as a basis for thinking about income redistribution. It is hard to apply that to the demand for administrators' time since people in the lower regions actually are likely to be pretty happy with their jobs and do not want or need greater attention. In fact, my bet is that the time hoggers are actually generally unhappy people at work and in life. Still,  if you could just lop off the top 20%, administrators would have much more time to tend to the needs of the students and the institution.

You could also use the gini coefficient to assess how many students people teach. Again, take the bottom 10 (20%) in terms of student contact  hours generated and my guess is they generate about 10% of all the teaching that goes on. The top 20% of teachers in terms of student contact hours probably account for 40%. Plus, I am willing to bet the people in the bottom 20% never pull their share of the load and the to top 20% are consistently the work horses.

In both cases -- demands on administrative time and student contact hours -- I'll bet the happiest law schools are those where both curves approach 45 degrees.

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