Monday, April 21, 2008

The Wealth Trajectory ... In Animation and Other Places

The New York Times had several interesting points about wealth and the distribution thereof in its Sunday newsprint edition:

... It's a great time to be rich ... Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics and Emmanuel Saez of the University of California [report] ... that one out of every 10,000 American families has income in excess of $10.7 million. These lucky duckies number less than 15,000. Put together, they could all fit into a modest-size town. (We could call it Aspen or Nantucket.)

What’s more, the superrich have been getting an increasing slice of the economic pie. In 1980, the top 0.01 percent of the population had 0.87 percent of total income. By 2006, their share had more than quadrupled to 3.89 percent, a level not seen since 1916 ...

[T]he government’s Current Population Survey, which covers about 50,000 households and is best known for producing the monthly unemployment rate. Like ... tax return data, the C.P.S. also shows rising inequality. From 1980 to 2005, the earnings of the 90th percentile full-time male worker increased 49 percent more than the earnings of the 10th percentile worker. Among full-time female workers, there has been a similar divergence between high and low earners ...

At this point you're thinking: "Oh goody. Hulett's doing another "class warfare" post. About how The People are getting shafted, about what dungholes the dripping-with-money elites are."

Uh, no.

As I've gotten older, I've moved past a lot of that crap, because it's pointless to whine about it. The only things that work are actions you take, either political or personal, to remedy inequality. And since political action can be lengthy and endlessly frustrating, it's often better to work on the personal.

One of the better things you can do for yourself on that micro personal level is getting a good education.

... Simply going to college and graduate school is hardly enough to join the top echelons with Lloyd Blankfein and Bill and Hillary Clinton. But neither is education irrelevant. If Mr. Blankfein had left the New York public school system and gone directly to work, instead of attending Harvard College and Law School, most likely he would not be the head of a major investment bank today.

If the Clintons had been content with high school diplomas and not attended Georgetown, Wellesley, Oxford and Yale, they most likely would not have reached the White House and Senate, and it is a good bet that they would not now be getting multimillion-dollar book deals and $100,000 speaking dates. A top education is no guarantee of great riches, but it often helps.

What I've seen in animation is, those with better educations end up having the skills that lead to more lucrative career opportunities. For instance, director John Musker went to Northwestern and Cal Arts. John Lasseter, Brad Bird and Joe Ranft were also Cal Arts alumni (maybe there's a trend here?)

Star animator Fred Moore made it on a high school education and a few Chouinard Art Institute night courses, but most ordinary mortals today need more. Computer software programs can't be mastered via two months of night school.

While it's true that a good education isn't the only solution (benevolent fortune and persistent networking help too), knowledge and command of your craft is the single most important element you can do for yourself. Or as the Times says:

... Maybe educational levels are like Willie Wonka’s chocolate bars. A few of them come with golden tickets that give you opportunities almost beyond imagination. But even if you aren’t lucky enough to get a golden ticket, you can still enjoy the chocolate, which by itself is well worth the price.


Anonymous said...

"One of the better things you can do for yourself on that micro level is getting a good education."

Getting a good education on a 'micro level'?!

Do I really even need to point out what's wrong with that statement?

Anonymous said...


My dream in the early 90's was to break into the video game industry as an artist. A video game magazine at the time recommended that would-be artists run out and get a computer science degree. At the time, programmers often doubled as artists.

So, I ran out and got a bachelor's degree in computer science. When I graduated in the late 90's, however, the landscape of the video game industry had changed. Artists and programmers had separated into two distinct groups. An artist with a computer science degree fit into neither camp.


That said, I did not waste four years of my life on that degree. The programming skills give me more options to solve problems than other 3D artists have at small VFX studios, since I can code my way around issues.

So, a college degree did improve my chances in the VFX industry.


Jen :^)

Anonymous said...

time for kids to hit the books!


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