Friday Edition


1. College Kids Heading South

For social, political and economic reasons, prospective college students are moving away from elite schools in the Northeast, and opting for colleges further south. (The Free Press)

Ivy League applications are down (Brown by 5%, Harvard by 3%, with a 17% early decision drop at Harvard). While Southern college applications increased by 42%, with public Southern schools up 62.4%.

We’re also seeing enrollment shifts at schools in the South: 

  • In 2023, 19% of Clemson’s students came from New York and New Jersey.

  • Over half of Elon University's students now come from northeastern states.

  • Nearly 50% of the University of Miami's undergrads in 2023 were out-of-state, mainly from New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Why’s it happening?

  • Atmosphere: Students favor Southern colleges for their more relaxed culture (Elite universities’ strict COVID-19 policies during the pandemic showed how uptight these schools can be).

  • Tolerance: Concerns over rising antisemitism, radical progressive politics and limited free speech at elite schools have driven some students to seek more welcoming Southern universities.

  • Cost-effectiveness: Southern schools are seen as offering better value with lower tuition and comparable career prospects, especially as the prestige of elite colleges declines.

Bubba’s Two Cents: The undercurrent of the Free Press’ report is that colleges are being punished for their failure to crack down on campus radicalism. And while there’s no denying that’s part of the story, there’s also a broader angle. America’s geographic power centers are starting to shift, with the South growing into a major economic hub.

2. The Great Phone Debate

There’s a major discussion happening right now about whether smartphones and social media are to blame for rising mental health issues in young people, particularly girls. (Norwegian Institute of Public Health)

The latest: A new study looked at the mental health effects smartphone bans had in 400 Norwegian middle schools.

  • There was a nearly 60% decrease in girls visiting psychological specialists for mental health issues after the schools banned smartphones.

  • Bullying dropped 46% among girls and 43% for boys.

  • Girls’ academic performance improved significantly, however, there was no effect on boys’ grades.

  • Smartphone bans boosted grades and mental health more for economically disadvantaged girls.

Why’s this issue getting so much attention right now? 

  • Part of it is the publication of a new book by Jonathan Haidt, an influential social psychologist and New York University professor.

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed a law barring kids under 14 from using social media.

  • Hospitalizations for self-harm among teenage girls jumped 143% since 2010, while for boys, the increase was 49%.

The decline in teen mental health seems to coincide with the widespread adoption of smartphones. Still, experts are divided on whether phones are the cause.

Eiko Fried, a professor of clinical psychology at Leiden University in the Netherlands: “[Large-scale studies] find no, mixed or only small associations. This means there is no concrete evidence that social media has negative effects on the mental health of many or most young people, and contrasts with some popular science accounts that are not grounded in facts. Another important caveat is that most studies are correlational and cannot tell us whether social media causes worse outcomes, or the other way around.”

Bubba’s Two Cents: The jury is still out on if smartphones caused the big teen mental health crisis, but whether they did or didn’t, it seems like keeping them out of schools is probably a good thing.

3. More Taxes

President Biden’s proposed increase on the capital gains tax is freaking some people out.

The fiscal year 2025 budget Biden released recently includes raising the top capital gains tax rate to 44.6% for high-income earners with taxable incomes over $1 million.

The main argument for such taxes is that they’re a fair way to address income inequality and fund essential services.

But critics say capital gains taxes would stifle entrepreneurship and growth while having a relatively minimal effect on revenue.

  • One study estimated that raising the top capital gains tax rate to 39.6% for those earning over $1 million could decrease long-run GDP by 0.1% and result in the loss of about 15,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

Biotech CEO Zach Curie: “I can't think of any idea that would disincentivize investing in long term technology (and any long term wins) more.”

Bubba’s Two Cents: This highlights a common theme in politics in recent years: those who are more concerned about fairness versus people who prioritize growth and prosperity. From calls to “tax the rich” to DEI, a lot of these political and cultural clashes boil down to whether you think a) fixing inequality is a more pressing concern than prosperity and b) the best way to solve the issue is to get the government involved.

4. Immigration Temperature Check

It wasn’t that long ago Donald Trump’s hardline solutions for curbing immigration were viewed as edgy and extreme, but now many Americans are getting behind at least some of these measures. (Axios)

A new Axios Vibes/Harris Poll survey finds 51% of U.S. adults support mass deportations of undocumented immigrants.

  • That includes 68% of Republicans and almost half (42%) of Democrats.

  • 45% of Latino Americans endorse mass deportations.

Perhaps most shocking is the large share of Americans that support ending birthright citizenship, which is guaranteed under the 14th Amendment.

  • 30% of Dems and 46% of Republicans want to do away with birthright citizenship.

Bubba’s Two Cents: Harris Poll chairman Mark Penn told Axios, the American public is sending a clear message to politicians: “Get this under control.” The GOP generally wants to cut off new immigration and even send people back, while the Democrats basically want to process immigrants more efficiently with more resources. But the message “get this under control” suggests that there is a limit to how many immigrants the American people will tolerate. What that number is, we don’t know, but we’re headed there faster than ever.

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