Jonathan Meer joins Allison Schrager to discuss the American labor market, the need to prioritize skilled labor, and changes that educators can make to prepare young people to enter the workplace.

Audio Transcript

Allison Schrager: Welcome to Risk Talking, a podcast about economics. I'm your host, Allison Schrager, and today I'm joined by Jonathan Meer, a professor and director of undergraduate programs at Texas A&M University. His research focuses on the economics of education and charitable giving. John is a Private Enterprise Research Center professor and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. I'm excited today to discuss with him something that's really pressing and we haven't quite gotten our hands around, and I don't feel like the discussion is really being informed by a lot of the research people like John, which is how to fix human capital in this country. So John, thank you so much for joining me.

Jonathan Meer: Oh, it's great to be here. I'm glad we're picking such an easy topic to chat about.

Allison Schrager: Just jumping in here, I think everyone agrees that there's just something kind of off about the labor market. What we're seeing is a lot of, especially prime-age men, it seems like every recession a bunch leave the labor market, and they don't come back. I feel like the worker shortage is definitely being felt. I mean, restaurants are closing earlier, you just can't get stuff. Every place seems understaffed and I mean, it's not just lower-skill workers. I mean, I think it feels like there's, if you want an electrician or a plumber, I mean I had a plumber recently, and he just happened to have an opening, and I didn't have to wait a month for him to come in. I mean, it definitely it feels like something's off in the labor market where maybe prices aren't working, people aren't getting the right skills. I mean, in your mind, what's broken?

Jonathan Meer: Well, a lot of things. I'm always careful to avoid a mono-causal explanation for anything. There are certainly short term issues having to do with the current structure of the labor market. I don't know that I have a whole heck of a lot to say about that, that hasn't already been said. And then there are longer-run structural problems.

One thing that I do want to talk about that builds off of your plumber complaint, and some of my very early research is the degree to which we have emphasized college for all as a goal, and the degree to which we disparage in many ways skilled manual labor. One of my first papers was looking at secondary vocational education, which had sort of been stigmatized and has been stigmatized as this dead-end job for people or dead-end path. And what had really motivated me to think about that was actually one of my high school swim-team teammates had told me that, we were just chatting and he told me that what he wanted to do was own his own welding shop, but I would probably think that was dumb.

And I remember thinking back then, and this is now many years ago, "Why would he think that I would think that was dumb?" Because that's the American dream is to own your own business, and that's someone who would have a genuine skill that could actually do something. But in many ways we've pushed away from the idea that anything other than sitting in a classroom has benefit. And so it concerns me that we have gone away from this path that I think is really important for a lot of people who are skilled but not necessarily skilled in the way that sitting in a classroom is rewarded. I do think there's a correlation with gender, and some of the recent work on the crisis for men and boys I think is closely related to this.

Allison Schrager: So do you think this is some sort of market failure? I mean, one of my favorite statistics that you told me years ago is that in a lot of communities, a good plumber makes more than a lawyer.

Jonathan Meer: That's absolutely true. A good plumber makes more than a bad lawyer.

Allison Schrager: So I mean, why aren't more people going into vocational programs? Are we not offering them, or are people not hearing about them? Is the social stigma just too great for people?

Jonathan Meer: I do think there has been a shift towards some of these. There are certainly success stories out there, and I should confess that I am by no means an expert on vocational education, but there definitely are. You do hear success stories, though they're anecdotes, and we're in a country of 340 million people. You can't really build policy or really understand true trends based on these anecdotes. I mean, there are certainly information asymmetries. People don't necessarily know what's out there later on, and they can only rely on what they're hearing from teachers and counselors in their school, what they're hearing from parents, and what they see in their community. But you're also making plans for a very long run.

And that has been one of the major concerns, which is that, you want people to be able to adjust to changing conditions. And to the extent that a more general education is more able to adjust to those shifting conditions, there's more flexibility and less likelihood of maybe getting stuck with depreciated skills. So I don't want to minimize the possibility or rather the importance of general skills. I just wish we didn't stigmatize those sorts of important trades to a degree that I think really pushes people off of a path that might be better for them.

Allison Schrager: I mean, do you think, ideally, this would happen more at the high school level or post-secondary level?

Jonathan Meer: Oh, so this is someplace where I do feel very passionate about, and I should say to your listeners that I teach principles of microeconomics class at Texas A&M to almost 3,000 students a year. It's an asynchronous online class. That doesn't mean it's terrible. It's actually quite good. I put a ton of effort into making it really good. So I have a real window into thousands of teenagers, freshmen at a flagship state university every year. And so I feel like I'm really attuned to changes in trends. And I also teach an economics of education course that's mostly to juniors and seniors. And I always tell my students that we will mostly be focusing on K-12 education because if we could fix K-12 education, a lot of the problems that we have with post-secondary education and the labor market would greatly diminish.

So, K-12 education has a lot of problems to it. And it's so strange to me that the solution that's reflexively proffered is more of the same. Do two more years, do community college, do two more years of the same structure? I'd love to see us introduce more rigor into high school in particular. That's going to be a double-edged sword. It's going to mean that it's harder for some students to graduate, and that's a difficulty. I think the accountability movement and testing, for all the downsides that come with standardized testing, has done that. But the idea that everyone should get the same food all the way through until 12th grade and only then can you go off and do different things, is just very odd to me. And I really like schools that offer pathways and specialized programs for students to pursue their interests and develop marketable skills early on.

Allison Schrager: When I was in junior high, we had an orientation before you went to high school of you can either do a vocational track, you can do an agricultural vocational track, or you can do the college track. And looking back, I'm like, "Wow, what a great opportunity." Although at the time I was just disgusted, I have to sit through this orientation. And I'm sure attitudes like that didn't encourage other people who probably would've done well doing that from pursuing it.

Jonathan Meer: I think you're right about that. And also, I mean, we should be very clear that we're talking about teenagers who are not known to be the best at making decisions, especially long-term decisions. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I have some magic bullet solution for this, but I do think places that offer a robust set of potential paths without reducing the academic rigor, especially in a world where being in manufacturing these days means being really adept at using computers and mathematics. It doesn't mean standing at an assembly line. Being a mechanic these days means really understanding computers. It's not just turning a wrench. And I'm putting air quotes around these terms as if I know which wrench to turn and how much. These are skilled professions and they're in demand. And back to the original point, that's why a good plumber makes more than a bad lawyer. And that is literally true. If you look at the income distribution for plumbers versus the income distribution for lawyers, you will see that that is in fact the case.

Allison Schrager: Yeah, but looking back on my aversion to any sort of trade school for anyone, it was honestly probably due to messages I got in the community. I think you do get that from somewhere. I hear it said all the time that to get into the middle class these days, you need a college degree. And that's clearly just not true. I've been hearing about Richard Reeve's book about men on a million podcasts, and he has all these statistics that teaching has become almost exclusively a female profession. So I mean, how could we even really scale up different sorts of high schools? Do we even have enough trained teachers who can teach those sorts of skills?

Jonathan Meer: So I don't know the precise figures on the number of vocational teachers that are available. I will say, in terms of Reeve's work, which I think is incredibly important and valuable, maybe people should be listening to podcasts with him on it instead of podcasts with me on them. But my research actually using data from Korea where teachers and students are randomly assigned to classrooms, which is of the economist dream, shows that female students benefit from having female teachers. And at least in those contexts, there's no particular benefit for male students having male teachers. But in other contexts, people have found that there is a benefit for male students to having male teachers, and particularly for minority male students to have minority male teachers. And so as Reeves has suggested, maybe what we need is a big push for more diversity in the teaching profession in the sense of more male teachers.

And we economists have mechanisms for doing that. You can pay bonuses and premiums. Those things are very hard to do in the presence of strong teachers’ unions, though. But the teacher labor crisis tends to be highly localized and tends to be limited to particular types of teaching. And to the extent that type of teaching includes some of these skilled vocational things, that those are ones where we might pay bonuses for recruiting and let the market sort itself out. Of course, education is one of the most highly regulated and structured markets out there. And so very often it's difficult to pay a high school science teacher much more than a kindergarten teacher. Not saying one is more valuable than the other, but if the supply of one is significantly smaller than the supply of the other, that would suggest that wages should be pushed up for that lower supply part of the profession.

Allison Schrager: Do other countries do that? Pay science teachers or math teachers more than a kindergarten teacher?

Jonathan Meer: Education varies enormously around the world. Many countries do pay specialties more, and that does happen in the U.S. as well. It's just that essentially there's a very strong correlation between the strength of teachers’ union and the flatness of the salary schedule.

Allison Schrager: So you just mentioned something that turned out to be incredibly valuable wealth of knowledge you had going into the pandemic, which you mentioned you've been teaching an online course even before the pandemic to 3,000 students, an intro course. Shortly after you started, or I guess a couple years after you started, almost all professors were teaching online, at least for a chunk of time. I speak to a lot of professors, and they don't really feel like it was a good experience. The students didn't really benefit from it as much as they would in-person instruction. They found it much harder to teach. What do you think is the future of online education?

Jonathan Meer: So that's a great question. So I don't think it is just awful Zoom boxes with everyone checked out for 45 to 50 minutes. So as you said, my course was specifically designed to be online, and long before the pandemic, it took a year to set it up, and then I'd say probably two full years before I was very happy with it. And at this point I'm very happy with its structure, but none of my videos are longer than 10 or 11 minutes because that's, anything beyond that is really asking a lot.

I do think that to the extent that online education plays a role, it will be for courses like mine, which are very large and sort of more foundational, where one of the big reasons that I set it up was that I wanted our students to have a more uniform experience, because it was highly variable depending on who was teaching it. They might have gotten one of our amazing lecturers, or they might have gotten a third-year PhD student who was teaching for the first time, who might have been good at it, but no one's that good at it the first time they're doing it. And so I wanted to have that experience be more uniform for them, and less highly variable.

What I don't think you can replace is an upper-division class that involves discussion and so on. But right now I'm teaching 1,700 students in this course this particular semester, and there's no way that I personally would be able to teach that many students, and even if you gave me a 2,000 seat classroom, somehow it wouldn't be the same thing. So I'm hopeful that we can expand high-quality teaching where a community college might say, "Look, there's a very good principles of economics course, and we're going to use that course in a box and then have a weekly meeting," call them recitations, call them discussions, call them tutoring lab, whatever you want to call them, so that you can get in-person help, which my students are able to get more than 20 hours a week of in-person help from me, from my TAs. The duplication of effort is unnecessary, I think. And so I do hope that we'll have higher quality education for core classes available to more people.

Allison Schrager: Yeah, I remember when you started, you said something intriguing, which was by moving the principles classes online, which were never a great teaching experience anyways, just a big lecture hall, you had freed up resources for more sort of honors sections, more one-on-one discussion for more advanced students.

Jonathan Meer: And so we're able to offer a lot more upper-division classes to our majors and to students who are minors in economics, and so on. Which if we had to service an additional 18 to 20 sections of principles would be essentially impossible. So our upper-division writing classes, of writing in the major classes, can have small sections to work on the craft of writing. And I get to teach economics of education. My colleagues get to teach courses like economics of crime, sports economics, more specialized classes so that our students can have that experience with research-active professors.

Allison Schrager: I was talking to a professor who teaches law principles classes about your experience, and he was just like, "It's very brave." Because I think a lot of people thought that this would be a lot more efficient, but students will never go for it. Parents will get really upset. Do you feel like post-pandemic, when everyone started doing online teaching, and now that we're coming out of it, people are more receptive to it or students are better at it?

Jonathan Meer: Well if anything, I think they're less receptive to it until they've actually had it. Because I lead off one of my introductions with, I know you've had a lot of online courses lately, but this one's actually good. I'm very sympathetic to the idea that what was slapped together during the pandemic was just terrible. It is hard to convince students anti-online teaching, that this is not going to be a bad experience. And I am sympathetic to students who say, "Well I learned better in person." Well, almost everybody learns better in person. However, what is the counterfactual? It's not me doing Dead Poet Society to 20 of them. That's not viable at a school with 55,000 undergraduates. The alternative is what I was describing, it's a series of 300-person lectures taught by instructors of highly varying quality at 8:00 AM Monday, Wednesday, Friday. And so I know how often students attend those classes.

I think my course is demonstrably superior to that. And when I survey students at the end of the semester, about 80 percent of them say that the course is at least as good as a live class. And so I try to use technology, not for its own sake, but in a way that leads to a better learning experience. So we have transcripts, they can rewatch as many times as they need to. I realize that I should be giving them more examples of me working through questions. So, I went in last year and I filmed a bunch of example videos and put them up there. So the resources are all there. And when I think back to my college experience, and this is probably familiar to you as well, one day you're sick or you know, partied a little bit too much last night, or you just don't feel like getting out of bed. You don't go that day, and you kind of fall behind. Yeah, sure you got your notes from your friend and all that stuff, but it's really not the same thing. And in my case it's, "Look, you're confused about public goods. Well, here's my video on public goods. You can go back and re-watch it. You didn't catch what I said the first time, you spaced out for a second. No big deal. Just rewind it." And I think that that offers quite a lot.

Allison Schrager: So I'm wondering if you think this is scalable. I mean, there's a lot of reasons for the high cost of college. I've always bought into Baumol’s cost disease, that it can be a very labor-intensive job, and a lot more people want to go to college, and there's not a lot of scope to make it more efficient. Do you think more online teaching could ultimately be scalable and make college in some ways more accessible to more people, especially high-quality education?

Jonathan Meer: I sure hope so. Let's just briefly describe what the cost disease is, which is that, because this is a labor-intensive field, as wages for the sort of people who do it go up, there's really no scope for increasing efficiency. And so in many ways we're teaching the same way that monks in the 11th century taught. It's one person in front of 30 students on a stage, almost. And that's very difficult to make more efficient other than by adding more seats in the classroom.

So I do think there is scope to make things more efficient, and there is a lot of innovation out there. My class is just a tiny drop in that bucket. There are organizations that are putting together certified credit-bearing curricula that students can take at a much lower cost. And I think it does really put a fine point on what is college for? Which is sort of at the heart of my economics of education class when I talk about higher ed.

And so much of it is consumption value. It is the amenities and the four- or five- or six-year party. And it is in many ways the signaling value. Why don't more people just go gather information from the internet? There are so many amazing courses available for free. And I think it's really hard to argue against the notion that much of what college is, the credentialism and the signaling that you are the sort of person who can play this game. And this is where I part company with a lot of my friends and colleagues in the economics of education, and I kind of stand more with the Brian Kaplans of the world, that so much of education really is signaling, and that if you don't do what everyone else is doing, then you're kind of a weirdo. And companies don't necessarily want to hire weirdos even if they're really smart.

Allison Schrager: But I reckon that college is largely, there's a big signaling component. I also wonder if, as I said, there are other kinds of training that goes on, like social training. I've been talking to some professors who say that post-pandemic students have forgotten how to study, how to turn things in on time. I mean, I think there are other soft skills that go on and do have to go on in in-person education. Do you think that's true?

Jonathan Meer: Absolutely, 100 percent. And I will say that it's not that they've forgotten how to study or turn things in on time. It’s that they never learned how to do them. And how big the difference, it's palpable. I can tell you right now, again, as someone who is teaching thousands of freshmen every year, the generational difference over the span of two or three years is really, really palpable and clear. There's a lot of helplessness and it's not really their fault. We probably don't want to get too far into whether schools should have been closed or what, but they were. And it has had very, very clear, incredibly negative outcomes.

Allison Schrager: These are students whose high school is closed down, or were there effects on those in their early years of college?

Jonathan Meer: These are students who basically missed their junior or their senior year. Those are the students who I've seen so far. And again, I'm in Texas where things were not nearly as closed as they were in other places. And so my sense is that the damage is worse. The longer schools were closed, the longer expectations were lowered. And quite rationally, many of these kids internalized the notion that, "Well things are really terrible, and so people are just going to be super nice to me, and I don't really have to try." And that's not an irrational response, when that's actually what's being done on your behalf. You can't expect them to turn it on and off like a switch.

So in terms of these soft skills, and I talk to my econ of ed students, I say, "What kind of thought experiments could we do to really measure the effect of signaling versus human capital? Could we give people a degree at random but not actually give them the education, or give them the education and then bar them from telling people that they actually got the education and see what happens in the labor market?" These are all obviously thought experiments, but another thought experiment I've always had is, what if we gave students two semesters of business etiquette, all those soft skills that you're describing, how to adult, and then we said, "Here's a degree. Go tell people that you have a degree." And I'm just so curious how successful they would be in the labor force, because I think you're right. So much of what happens, and especially for boys, for all of the reasons that Richard Reeve talks about the maturation, such as it is, such little that it is between ages 18 and 22 is incredibly important. The interaction with adults without constant parental supervision is incredibly important.

But why we need climbing walls and English distribution requirements, and all these other things is maybe less clear. How much would on-the-job learning, on-the-job-being-an-adult learning substitute for this? I don't know. I think it's an interesting question that a lot of people aren't asking. And whenever I hear, "Well, they're learning how to learn." There's not a whole heck of evidence that that's true. "Well, they're becoming more mature." Okay, why is this being subsidized to the tune of tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars a year? Maybe that's a good argument to make, but it's not the argument that people are making. People are saying, "Well, they're learning important skills, important academic skills. They're learning how to write, they're learning how to think." And there's just not a lot of evidence for that except in my class, which is fantastic. And where they learn a lot.

Allison Schrager: When you mention things like business etiquette, do you think kids today just don't have that because they’re a lot less likely to have jobs as teenagers in high school, or a summer job?

Jonathan Meer: I think that's absolutely true. And the evidence that we have on teen employment, which of course is very hard to do in a causal sense to say we're randomly assigning jobs. But there is some nice evidence, my friend Judd Kessler at Wharton has a nice paper using a New York City summer job for disadvantaged kids. That's where you learn how to deal with an annoying coworker, or how you learn to deal with a manager who maybe doesn't appreciate you, or rude customers. And I think that stuff is so valuable, and teen employment has just fallen off a cliff in the last 20 years. And there's some good reasons for that and some bad reasons for it. But what are the reasons they come in?

Allison Schrager: What are the reasons?

Jonathan Meer: So one of them, and this won't surprise you given our conversations on another topic that I do a lot of research on, is the minimum wage.

Allison Schrager: Oh, we're about to talk about that.

Jonathan Meer: Yeah. My friend and co-author Jeff Clemens has some strong evidence suggesting that the very steep drop in teen employment, in teen labor-force participation in the late first decade of the 2000s, the aughts and the early 2010s, was driven by the minimum wage. But teen labor-force participation is less than half of what it was when you and I were teenagers, which to be fair was a very long time ago, but still. And so I do think that interaction—a lot of my students don't seem to know how to talk to an adult. I get emails that look like they're a text message that was tossed off to a friend. And that happens frequently. And of course I have what I call module zero, the course policies, especially since my class is one of the very first that they're having. And I go through, here's just really basic email etiquette, here's how you craft an email to a professor. And it's not because I stand on ceremony, it's because if they send an email like that to a recruiter, that's going to be auto-deleted.

Allison Schrager: What are the costs of a higher minimum wage? I mean, your research is, you have one paper and you've written about it for City Journal here, that when we look at of increasing minimum wages, $15 an hour, people are very quick to declare victory. They're like, "See, it had no impact on unemployment. This is great." I mean, why is that not a complete way of looking at it?

Jonathan Meer: So there's a lot of subtleties and especially when the economy is doing well, that can paper over a lot of potential losses. I think one really important thing, and this dovetails with a lot of your other work and your excellent newsletter, is so many minimum wages are now tied to inflation so that they increase automatically. So for example, Seattle's minimum wage is scheduled to increase by something like a $1.40, it might even be more than that, on January 1st. So we now no longer just have nominal downward wage rigidity, meaning that employers don't like cutting employees’ wages in nominal terms, we now have downward real wage rigidity when it comes to, it's almost hard to call it low-wage labor when you're talking about $18 and $19 an hour minimum wages.

And so if you couple 10 percent inflation with a productivity shock, with a recession, then it's going to be very interesting and very ugly. You know way more about macroeconomics than I do. I think my macro colleagues are going to tease me about dipping my toe in the macro world. But it's really hard to see how this isn't going to cause serious problems, if at the very same time that the value marginal product of labor, meaning the value of what things these workers produce is down because of a recession, that you also have to be giving them 10 percent wage increases every year. There's only really one solution to that, and it's to lay people off or shut down the business, and then people lose their jobs.

Allison Schrager: So it's interesting, I never really thought about how critical that was to teen employment. And I'm becoming more and more convinced that there's some serious loss of human capital training going on. You said in the past that it impacts not just teens, but also people who are marginally attached to the labor force in general and have very low skills, their ability to enter the labor force.

Jonathan Meer: Absolutely. So I was a bartender in college, and I definitely learned a ton about humans in general in ways that I think have been really beneficial to me in my life in terms of just interacting with a lot of different people. And we all live in bubbles these days, whether electronic or real, and working is one of the ways where you can get out of your bubble. And some people are great and some people are rude, and some coworkers are lazy and some coworkers are wonderful, and some bosses are jerks and some bosses are supportive. And learning how to deal with that at a relatively young age and with relatively low stakes, I think has a lot of value. And to be clear, I'm not calling for some policy where everyone has to work or do national service or something like that, but there's just value in doing real things.

And I don't know what it is from the social side, the social-norm side, that has led to less and less of that, whether it's more emphasis on college readiness and doing extracurriculars instead of having a job, whether it's a rational response to the median admissions officer at a college saying, "Well, I don't really care that you bagged groceries and learned about the human condition. But if you started a club where you sat around and talked about the human condition and everything you understand about it as a 16-year-old, that counts." So maybe that's a rational response from the side of prospective students and their parents, but something's been lost, something's been lost in a meaningful way.

Allison Schrager: Yeah. I also wonder, because I speak to a lot of my friends who are professors, they talk about how helpless a lot of their students feel. I worked all through high school, and when I did my summer jobs in college, I would always move to some random place that looked cool, like Alaska, and just get a job and find a place to live. This knowledge that I could support myself and live on my own was really empowering, and I think it really drove a lot of the risks I took later. And I feel really bad that students don't have that experience now or that confidence.

Jonathan Meer: And it's important, and it's not their fault. And I'm not pointing fingers at parents either. There's no mono-causal explanation here. There are policy reasons for this. There are social-norm reasons for this, but it's true. And I say this as someone who, when I was younger, I definitely didn't know how to do as many things for myself as I should have. And there's a lot of upside to learning to be at least moderately self-sufficient in a more low-stakes environment. It's really not the end of the world if you get yelled at by your manager when you bag groceries or you're a bartender. You can learn something from that experience. It's a bigger deal if it's your first job is your first job when you're out of college, then those things are, that's higher stakes.

But let me now contradict myself very quickly, which is to say that at Texas A&M, our students are, they're really good people and they work hard. And there is an ethos of work ethic among the vast majority of them. And many, many of them have part-time jobs. And in many cases, these part-time jobs, the opportunity cost is study time. And I think that students don't understand the returns to better grades or the returns to a more rigorous major. We don't necessarily have great causal evidence on the returns to grades, because obviously students who get higher grades are different than students who get lower grades.

But there is just correlation, the correlation between a higher GPA and better grades is high and is often more money in your first-year salary than you're going to earn in 15 hours a week at $10 an hour for four years in your first year of working. And so it's sort of hard for me to say this to students, because I am coming from being middle-aged and with tenure to tell them, "Hey, why don't you just take out more loans, borrow against your future human capital." But it does worry me how much students sacrifice in order to wait tables for 15 hours a week while their grades might suffer from it.

Allison Schrager: So, are you going to encourage your kids to get jobs as teenagers?

Jonathan Meer: Yes, I am. And they might be some crappy jobs, but that's often where you learn the most. And I do think, again, those things just have a ton of value.

Allison Schrager: Yeah, I mean maybe the right solution is summer jobs, but maybe not during-semester jobs or something like that if at all possible financially.

Jonathan Meer: I think that's right. And again, I do think that there are people out there, a lot of people who are meaningfully constrained in terms of their finances, where those earnings do really matter. But as you had Beth Akers on your show, and we both love Beth, you borrow against your future human capital and that human capital has a lot of value. And so if you're sacrificing some of that human capital for a fairly small amount of labor earnings right now, we can back out what the implicit interest rate is on that decision. And I think it's an extremely high discount factor.

Allison Schrager: Yeah, certain things we say that aren’t true, and that’s a problem. One is that you need college for a middle-class job. But I think the other is that your first job out of college is indicative of your whole career. People don't think of human capital as a long-term asset. When I've taught and I've told students at NYU, “You're all sitting on a million-dollar asset right now, which is your future earnings.” They never believe me. It was so just unmeaningful to them that I think they sort of just feel like, "Well, if I'm not making a lot of money my first job out of college, it was somehow a failure."

Jonathan Meer: I tell my students that this is the time in their life to take risks because when you get older, it's a lot harder to take risks. I think I'm channeling my inner Allison Schrager when I say that because I tell them, “This is the time to try something out and maybe discover that you love it and if you don't love it, it's okay. You've learned something really valuable about yourself and you can get to thinking about the next thing.”

Allison Schrager: Yeah, I think that's a good place to end. Because that’s good life advice. So that's all with John Meer. We will link to his contributor page in the description, and you can find City Journal on Twitter @CityJournal or on Instagram @CityJournal_mi. And as always, if you like what you've heard on this podcast, please give us a five-star rating on iTunes. John, thank you so much for joining. It's always a delight to speak to you.

Jonathan Meer: Oh, we always have fun, Allison.

Photo: portishead1/iStock

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