May 15, 2024

Understanding Survivorship Bias

Bias

Understanding Survivorship Bias

“I don’t want to further my study. I am working to be a YouTuber/ influencer.”

“Attending college means spending four years for a degree and possibly accumulating education loan debt. But working as a Grab rider, I can start earning $2,500 to $4,000 a month, which is even higher than a fresh grad’s first job, with flexible working hours. I can sleep until whenever I want and work at night if I have extra energy.”

Survivorship Bias: A Brief Explanation

Survivorship bias refers to the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that survived some process and overlooking those that did not, often leading to overly optimistic beliefs. This bias is prevalent in many areas, including career decisions and job market perceptions. By only looking at successful cases, we ignore the numerous instances where similar efforts did not lead to success, creating a skewed perception of reality.

One of the most frequently cited examples of survivorship bias in modern times involves the success stories of company founders who dropped out of university. These narratives often create a misleading perception that leaving formal education is a common pathway to extraordinary success.

Famous Dropouts

  • Steve Jobs (Apple): Dropped out of Reed College after one semester. Co-founded Apple Inc.
  • Bill Gates (Microsoft): Left Harvard University to start Microsoft with Paul Allen.
  • Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook): Dropped out of Harvard University to develop Facebook.
  • Michael Dell (Dell Technologies): Left the University of Texas to grow Dell Technologies.

These stories are often highlighted because they are extraordinary and inspirational. However, they represent a tiny fraction of individuals who have dropped out of university. The vast majority of dropouts do not achieve such success and often face significant challenges in the job market.

Key Points to Consider:

Selective Reporting: Media and society tend to focus on the rare success stories while ignoring the countless individuals who do not achieve similar outcomes. This selective reporting can create an unrealistic picture of the likelihood of success.

Underlying Factors: Many of these successful dropouts had unique advantages such as strong networks, exceptional skills, or access to capital. Their success is often due to a combination of factors beyond just dropping out.

Broader Context: Most high-paying and stable jobs still require a degree. Higher education provides not only specialized knowledge but also critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and valuable professional networks.

Long-Term Stability: Dropping out of university can limit career progression and earnings potential in the long term. For every Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, there are millions who struggle without the credentials that a degree provides.

The allure of becoming a successful YouTuber or earning quick money as a Grab rider is strong. We often see stories of individuals who have gained massive followings and substantial income, but we rarely hear about the countless others who invested time and resources into their channels without achieving success. Similarly, while some Grab riders report earnings of $2,500 to $4,000 per month, these figures often reflect those who work long hours and manage to navigate the competitive and algorithm-driven environment effectively.

Gig work, such as food delivery, can indeed be lucrative in the short term, but it comes with its own set of challenges. Riders often face unpredictable earnings, lack of job security, and no benefits like health insurance or retirement plans. Additionally, the physical demands and risks associated with such jobs can take a toll over time. Many riders will then realize that their earnings have stagnated or even decreased due to market saturation and changing company policies​.

Long-Term Career Prospects

While gig jobs offer immediate income, they may not provide the same long-term benefits as a college degree. Higher education often leads to better job stability, higher earning potential, and more opportunities for career advancement. For instance, the average starting salary for a fresh graduate in Singapore can be around $3,300+ per month, with the potential for significant increases over time​.

Traditional careers often come with stability that gig jobs lack. Regular employment typically includes benefits such as health insurance, paid leave, retirement plans, and job security. These benefits are crucial for long-term financial security and overall well-being. One of the most significant advantages of pursuing higher education and a traditional career path is the potential for career progression. Starting in an entry-level position can lead to promotions, salary increases, and expanded responsibilities over time. This progression not only enhances earning potential but also provides opportunities for personal and professional growth.

For example, a fresh graduate might start with an entry-level position at $3,300 per month. With experience and performance, they can move up to mid-level roles, which could offer salaries around $5,000 to $7,000 per month. Senior positions can command even higher salaries and often come with greater decision-making power and influence within the organization.

Examples of Career Paths

Engineering: A graduate engineer might start with a salary of $3,500 per month. With experience, they can move up to roles like Senior Engineer, Project Manager, and eventually, Engineering Director, with salaries potentially exceeding $10,000 per month.

Finance: An entry-level financial analyst might start at $3,300 per month. Over time, they can advance to positions such as Senior Analyst, Manager, and eventually, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), with significant salary increases and greater responsibilities.

Healthcare: A fresh graduate nurse may start with a salary of around $3,500 per month. With experience and additional qualifications, they can advance to roles such as Nurse Manager or Director of Nursing, commanding much higher salaries.

To make informed career choices, it’s essential to consider both the short-term and long-term implications of different job paths. Understanding survivorship bias helps in evaluating the real odds of success and the sustainability of various career options.

In conclusion, while the immediate income from gig jobs and the inspirational stories of successful dropouts can seem attractive, especially when compared to the initial stages of a career requiring a college degree, it’s important to weigh these against the potential long-term benefits and stability offered by traditional career paths. Recognizing and accounting for survivorship bias can lead to more informed and balanced career decisions.

This article is written by:
Angel Lim @ Anradus Pte Ltd
Industrial & Organizational Psychologist
MTMA, MTPA, APAM

理解幸存者偏差 Survivorship Bias

“我不想继续我的学业。我正在努力成为一名YouTuber/网红。”

“上大学意味着要花四年时间拿到学位,并可能积累教育贷款债务。但作为一名Grab骑手,我可以开始每月赚取2500到4000美元,这比刚毕业的工作起薪还高,并且工作时间灵活。我可以随时睡觉,如果晚上精力充沛可以去工作。”

幸存者偏差:简要解释

幸存者偏差是指关注那些经历某个过程而幸存下来的事物,而忽视那些未能幸存下来的事物,常常导致过于乐观的信念。这种偏差在许多领域都很常见,包括职业决策和就业市场的认知。只关注成功的案例,我们会忽略许多类似努力未能成功的实例,从而形成扭曲的现实感。

现代最常被引用的幸存者偏差的例子之一是那些辍学后创业成功的公司创始人的故事。这些叙述常常误导人们认为离开正式教育是一条通向非凡成功的常见途径。

著名的辍学生

  • Steve Jobs(苹果): 辍学于Reed College,创办了苹果公司。
  • Bill Gates(微软): 离开哈佛大学,与Paul Allen一起创办了微软。
  • Mark Zuckerberg(脸书): 辍学于哈佛大学,创办了脸书。
  • Michael Dell(戴尔科技): 离开德克萨斯大学,创办并发展戴尔科技。

这些故事之所以被广泛宣传,是因为它们极其非凡且鼓舞人心。然而,它们只代表了辍学者中的极少数,大多数辍学者并未取得这样的成功,且在就业市场上往往面临重大挑战。

需要考虑的关键点:

媒体和社会往往专注于少数成功的故事,而忽略了无数未能取得类似成果的人。这种选择性报道会创造出不现实的成功几率。许多成功的辍学生拥有独特的优势,如强大的网络、卓越的技能或资本的获取。他们的成功往往是多种因素共同作用的结果,而不仅仅是因为辍学。大多数高薪且稳定的工作仍然需要学位。高等教育不仅提供专业知识,还培养批判性思维、解决问题的能力和宝贵的职业网络。辍学可能会限制职业发展和长期的收入潜力。对于每一个Bill Gates或Mark Zuckerberg,有成千上万的人因为缺乏学位而挣扎。

成为成功的YouTuber或通过做Grab骑手快速赚钱的诱惑很大。我们经常看到一些人获得了大量粉丝和可观的收入,但我们很少听到那些投入了大量时间和资源却未能成功的人。类似地,一些Grab骑手报告称每月收入在2500到4000美元之间,但这些数字通常反映了那些长时间工作并成功应对竞争和算法驱动的环境的人。

例如,外卖骑手的工作在短期内可能确实利润丰厚,但它也有自己的挑战。骑手们往往面临收入的不确定性,缺乏工作保障,以及没有像健康保险或退休计划这样的福利。此外,这种工作的体力要求和风险会随着时间的推移对身体造成负担。许多骑手会发现,由于市场饱和和公司政策的变化,他们的收入已经停滞甚至减少。

虽然外卖等零工工作能提供即时收入,但它们可能无法提供与大学学位相同的长期福利。高等教育通常会带来更好的工作稳定性、更高的收入潜力和更多的职业发展机会。例如,新加坡的应届毕业生的平均起薪可以在每月3300美元以上,随着时间的推移有显著增加的可能性。

传统职业往往具有零工工作所缺乏的稳定性。常规就业通常包括诸如健康保险、带薪休假、退休计划和工作保障等福利。这些福利对于长期的财务安全和整体幸福感至关重要。追求高等教育和传统职业道路的一个最显著优势是职业晋升的潜力。从入门级职位开始,可以通过经验和表现逐步晋升,获得加薪和更多的职责。这不仅提升了收入潜力,还提供了个人和职业发展的机会。

例如,一名新毕业生可能以每月3300美元的入门级职位开始。随着经验和表现,他们可以晋升到中级职位,工资可能在每月5000到7000美元之间。高级职位的薪资更高,且通常伴随着更大的决策权和影响力。

职业路径示例

  • 工程: 一名毕业工程师的起薪可能是每月3500美元。随着经验积累,他们可以晋升到高级工程师、项目经理,最终成为工程总监,薪资可能超过每月10000美元。
  • 金融: 一名入门级金融分析师的起薪可能是每月3300美元。随着时间的推移,他们可以晋升到高级分析师、经理,最终成为首席财务官(CFO),薪资显著增加,职责也更大。
  • 医疗: 一名新毕业的护士的起薪可能是每月3500美元。随着经验和额外的资格,他们可以晋升到护士经理或护理主任,薪资更高。
要做出明智的职业选择,必须考虑不同职业路径的短期和长期影响。理解幸存者偏差有助于评估成功的实际几率和各种职业选择的可持续性。
总之,虽然零工工作带来的即时收入和成功辍学生的励志故事看似诱人,尤其是在与需要大学学位的职业初期阶段相比时,但将这些与传统职业路径所提供的长期利益和稳定性进行权衡是重要的。认识和考虑幸存者偏差有助于做出更明智和平衡的职业决策。

这篇文章是由以下作者撰写:
Angel Lim @ Anradus Pte Ltd
Industrial & Organizational Psychologist
MTMA, MTPA, APAM