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"It's a Geek's World," Reports

TaxProf in quoting Undergraduate Degree Ranking by Starting Salary (plus median mid-career salaries). Yes, it is.

Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
"Starting Employees: These are full-time employees with 5 years of experience or less in their career or field who hold a bachelor's degree and no higher degrees.

For the graduates in this data set, the typical (median) starting employee is 25 years old and has 2 years of experience."

Hm. I would have thought "starting salary" would have been the first year out of school.

Also, not factored in are people who graduated but couldn't find jobs in their field.
9.8.2009 8:02pm
FantasiaWHT:
I wonder if that "median salary" is only for people who didn't get an advanced degree? My sense is no, that it includes people who eventually got an advanced degree.

But I feel vindicated... I've always said teachers make about the lowest amount of money for any job that requires a 4-year degree.
9.8.2009 8:03pm
Curt Fischer:
From the "methodology" section of the payscale.com study:


Careers that require advanced degrees, such as law or medicine, are not included.


What to make of this? "Social work degree holders of the world, do not despair...just ready your law school applications!..." (?)
9.8.2009 8:13pm
Crunchy Frog:

But I feel vindicated... I've always said teachers make about the lowest amount of money for any job that requires a 4-year degree.

A 4-year degree in Liberal Arts (w/Education credential) or Education (for those states/colleges that have such a major) isn't good for anything else. Ditto English or History, unless you plan on going for a Masters (or JD) in something useful.
9.8.2009 8:16pm
zywotkowitz (mail):
Non-geeks take heart. The geeks reach the peak of their earning potential after 5 years of experience and increasingly unwanted after the age of 40.
9.8.2009 8:27pm
Malthus:
Why is it that we get our POTUS, SCOTUS and COTUS, not to mention almost all lawyers, from way down on the list? We are a country truly led by idiots.
9.8.2009 9:08pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
I expected and predicted this. The US must turn back towards production-- the creation of value-added exportable products that people want, and will pay money for. This means fewer lawyers, teachers, social workers, political scientists, historians, etc. If you want to sell airframes on the world market you need engineers of all kinds as well as some physicists, chemists and mathematicians. If we somehow think this is low level or "geek work" that should be out sourced then the US will become a Third World Country.

Those salaries are a good sign.
9.8.2009 9:15pm
Bama 1L:
This chart is based upon PayScale Salary Survey data for full-time employees in the United States who possess a Bachelor's degree and no higher degrees and have majored in the subjects listed above.

In other words, there's really nothing to this chart.
9.8.2009 9:20pm
Ben P:

Why is it that we get our POTUS, SCOTUS and COTUS, not to mention almost all lawyers, from way down on the list? We are a country truly led by idiots.


Earning Potential is definitely /= intelligence.

The reason behind this graph is pretty plain. If you cut out advanced degrees, the engineering fields always come on top because they're the most "career ready" of any 4 year degree.

What exactly is someone going to pay you to do if you have a history or poli-sci, or philosophy, or international relations degree?

I would say those degrees are "vocational" but that carries negative connotations. An engineering degree is vocational in the same sense a JD or an MD is, and in the sense a pure biology or chemistry degree isn't. (notice, which you don't see in the top 10, but is the degree of choice of most pre-med students.)
9.8.2009 9:20pm
Pro Natura (mail):
I'm fascinated by how little things have changed in the past forty years. I got my BA in physics and math in 1969. All four job offers I got right after graduation had salaries within a few hundred dollars of $10K. Allowing for inflation, that just about exactly matches the average of $51K for new physics graduates now.
9.8.2009 9:29pm
Malthus:
Well Ben P, earning potential may have nothing to do with intelligence, but don't you think it strange that almost none of our leaders have majored in anything but humanities fluff and yet the vast majority are circumcised?

There are world leaders, like Thatcher and Merkel, who have distinguished themselves in hard science involving hard undergrad courses who have not been so mentally and physically mutilated.
9.8.2009 9:50pm
Anon21:
Malthus:
Well Ben P, earning potential may have nothing to do with intelligence, but don't you think it strange that almost none of our leaders have majored in anything but humanities fluff

No, it doesn't strike me as strange at all. Public service, like most careers in a free society, is a self-selected occupation. People who express a strong interest in hard sciences are likely to not particularly want a career in public service, so obviously fewer of them will end up in leadership positions.

and yet the vast majority are circumcised?

physically mutilated.

This is just too strange to really respond to. Is this metaphorical, or what?
9.8.2009 9:58pm
jellis58 (mail):
Economics is the only one Im suprised to see on the list. What exactly are these high paying jobs for people with undergraduate economics degrees? I myself have one from UCLA but went straight to law school instead of trying to find a job. I didnt think there was that much out there for someone with just a BA in Econ. To be honest I dont know how four years of using math to prove that a society of 2 people with such and such preferences and resorces avialiable will produce 6 cocanuts and 3 frisbees prepared me for anything.
9.8.2009 10:26pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Earning potential not equal to intelligence? Where does that come from? Arthur Jensen provides data that positively refutes that notion. The higher the IQ the higher socioeconomic status. See Bias in Mental Testing, Fig. 3.1, p. 44. The Detroit Free Press.

The book The Bell Curve also provides data that shows more intelligent people have higher incomes.
9.8.2009 10:28pm
Ben P:

Well Ben P, earning potential may have nothing to do with intelligence, but don't you think it strange that almost none of our leaders have majored in anything but humanities fluff



Well, there's a few others.


13 medical doctors (including a psychiatrist), three dentists, three nurses,
two veterinarians, two psychologists, an optometrist, and one pharmacist... two physicists, two chemists, a biomedical researcher, a biomedical engineer, a geologist, and a microbiologist
9.8.2009 10:31pm
Ben P:

Earning potential not equal to intelligence? Where does that come from? Arthur Jensen provides data that positively refutes that notion. The higher the IQ the higher socioeconomic status. See Bias in Mental Testing, Fig. 3.1, p. 44. The Detroit Free Press.

The book The Bell Curve also provides data that shows more intelligent people have higher incomes.w


....that's what I said, but that's pretty clearly not the way I meant it. This graph only equates undergrad degree choice and median earning potential, while excluding anyone with a higher degree. What I meant was that there's probably not anywhere close to a straight correlation between undergrad degree choice and intelligence.

I was responding to the implication that anyone not in some sort of engineering program is some sort of "an idiot."
9.8.2009 10:38pm
AJK:


Well Ben P, earning potential may have nothing to do with intelligence, but don't you think it strange that almost none of our leaders have majored in anything but humanities fluff


No, I don't think it's strange at all. Do you really think that Margaret Thatcher's chemistry courses were better preparation for political leadership than, say, Reagan's sociology classes?



and yet the vast majority are circumcised?


Is this supposed to be anti-semitic, or are you just crazy?
9.8.2009 10:46pm
Malthus:
Ban P,

Doctors, nurses and pharmacists don't count. I know: I had the job of teaching them what we call "baby physics" (no calculus) in college so they could qualify for their medical schools.

So there are 8 scientists who have the foggiest understanding of math, economics, and science among 535 in Congress. Do you not see a problem there?
9.8.2009 10:49pm
jellis58 (mail):

dont you think it strange that almost none of our leaders have majored in anything but humanities fluff and yet the vast majority are circumcised?




Malthus wins the prize for the weirdest post Ive ever seen on VC. circumcised? WTF?
9.8.2009 11:08pm
Bartman:
Non-geeks take heart. The geeks reach the peak of their earning potential after 5 years of experience and increasingly unwanted after the age of 40.

Uh, wrong. But feel free to keep repeating it to yourself if doing so gives you comfort.
9.8.2009 11:30pm
Malthus:
Well Jellis,

You could throw a rock on the parliaments of Europe or Japan and you wouldn't hit a circumcised legislator ignorant of math and physics. Here, on the other hand, it would be virtually guaranteed. So much for "diversity."

[same thing applies for the respective High Courts, not to mention heads of state]
9.8.2009 11:36pm
FC:
Malthus,

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
9.9.2009 1:16am
Anon21:
Malthus:

You could throw a rock on the parliaments of Europe or Japan and you wouldn't hit a circumcised legislator ignorant of math and physics. Here, on the other hand, it would be virtually guaranteed. So much for "diversity."

Even setting aside the bizarre circumcision fixation, I'm having a very hard time seeing how this is relevant. If you threw a rock at the CDC, you wouldn't hit anyone with a sophisticated understanding of tax policy. So much for "diversity"!

These people serve different functions, which call for different kinds of knowledge and expertise. If politicians are called upon to make judgments regarding sophisticated issues of math or physics, they can always consult with experts. And besides, what would you suggest the alternative is? Dragoon top graduates of physics programs into politics, a career for which most of them presumably have no aptitude and less interest? Or are you just bemoaning an entirely predictable, entirely unavoidable, and entirely acceptable state of affairs?
9.9.2009 1:27am
jellis58 (mail):

Well Jellis,

You could throw a rock on the parliaments of Europe or Japan and you wouldn't hit a circumcised legislator ignorant of math and physics. Here, on the other hand, it would be virtually guaranteed. So much for "diversity."


I stand more confused than ever. what on earth does being circumcised have to do with anything? Are you saying circumsised legislators should be excepted to know more about math and science than non-circumsised ones but dont in our country? Or are you trying to say that circumsised legislators in the USA come from humanities backgrounds in greater numbers than the non-circumcised ones while it is not that way around the world? In either case, why is that relevant to anything? Do you use "circumsised" to simply mean jewish, in which case you are doing a good bit of stereotypying (although im at a loss as to exactly what trait your trying to attach to jews). If ou mean "Jewish" instead of "circumsised" then your statement "the vast majority are circumcised" is plainly false (and its false whether you mean legilators as a whole or legislators with no background in math, science, medicine, engineering etc.) If you litterally mean cicumcised I now wonder how exactly you know that the vast majority are circumsised. Have you checked? (;

Do you not know what circumsied means? That seems unlikely becasue you decribed it as pyshical mutilation. Or are you just some troll who is getting a chuckle out of us trying to figure out what on earth you mean? I vote for the final posibility.
9.9.2009 1:45am
jellis58 (mail):
or do you maybe mean to say that americans suffer from some bizzare form of antisemitism where they will only elect a jew if he is not versed in the hard sciences? I think that exhausted all possibilities of what you might mean. I still am leaning towards troll explaination untill you clarify.
9.9.2009 1:52am
jellis58 (mail):
Also Id like to ask again if anyone has any idea why Economics is high on list. What jobs are for someone with a BA in econ that are not to say a poli sci major. I dont know what its like elsewhere but the things we learned in economics at UCLA were not I imagine very useful to buisiness. The concepts were theoritical and abstract which would be useful in academia or as a professional economist but a more advanced degree is required for those jobs. Or is there some corralation between being an econ major as an undergrad and going to grad school? I did notice there were quite a few of us in law school.
9.9.2009 2:01am
jellis58 (mail):
nix my final thought. I just saw on the site that: "Starting Employees: These are full-time employees with 5 years of experience or less in their career or field who hold a bachelor's degree and no higher degrees"
9.9.2009 2:04am
jellis58 (mail):
excuse also my lack of commas and muliple posts.
9.9.2009 2:05am
Mike McDougal:

Why is it that we get our POTUS, SCOTUS and COTUS, not to mention almost all lawyers, from way down on the list? We are a country truly led by idiots.

People who plan on going to law school don't need a career-ready undergraduate major. Moreover, more vocational majors like engineering can harm a law school applicant's chances because those majors tend to be stingy with high grades.
9.9.2009 2:28am
Cornellian (mail):
You have to get to number 21, marketing, before you reach a major that is not extremely math-centric and even marketing is going to require quite a bit of math.

Being really good at math is much harder than being really good at English, and that gets rewarded accordingly. If the survey inspires more people to go into the sciences rather than law, banking and accounting, so much the better.

Being really good at English counts for something though. In that regard, I see that a philosophy major does much better than the social science majors, such as psychology and sociology. Trying to figure out what Kant or Nietzsche is talking about is a lot tougher than anything you'll find in the typical sociology or psychology text. If you can read that, you can read anything.
9.9.2009 2:48am
Mark N. (www):
Actually, this survey was sort of counterintuitively positive on humanities degrees for me. It looks like, with nothing but a 4-year history degree, by mid-career you can expect to be making $70k. That's not too bad, really. Now I'm personally a computer scientist, but were my passion history, I would be willing to pursue it for a mere 25% reduction in salary, especially since both salaries (the median history and the median CS) are solidly in the upper part of the income distribution.
9.9.2009 3:01am
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9.9.2009 3:02am
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9.9.2009 3:03am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Students who major in the quantitative sciences are taught (or should be taught) the basics of problem solving. This includes how to "divide and conquer." You break up a problem into simpler component parts and then solve each part and put the whole thing back together. The final solution might look complicated, but its actually very simple. Mathematicians in particular always try to reduce the problem to something previously solved. Most liberal arts majors are wholly ignorant of this way of thinking. As such they often have trouble grasping the essentials of a situation.
9.9.2009 3:18am
Ricardo (mail):
Medians obscure the outliers, though. Based on my experience the best way to make a really outsized salary is to go into sales. Those guys can make hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars based on commission or running their own businesses. All you need are exceptional people skills. You can major in music or medieval literature for all anyone cares.

The dirty secret in finance is that many high-earning brokers or investment product salesmen are actually pretty clueless about finance or economics. They know more than the average person but that's it -- like the people in the computer section of Best Buy.
9.9.2009 5:13am
egd:
While I haven't been able to find any links (quickly), isn't this a simple supply and demand issue?

There are a certain number of jobs available to new graduates that require skills taught in engineering - control systems, electronics, dynamics, thermodynamics, etc. There are a lot more jobs available to new graduates that don't require any specific skills. The ratio of engineers to engineering jobs is probably a lot closer than the ratio of college graduates to non-engineering jobs.

While I'm sure there are jobs that do require, for example, a bachelors degree in Comparative 20th Century Film Studies, the ratio of students to jobs is probably a lot higher.

That doesn't necessarily mean that an engineer is smarter than a humanities student, but that the market has more demand for electrical engineers than for English majors.
9.9.2009 8:44am
egd:
...that is, any links discussing the percentage of graduates in "math-centric" fields vs. other students. Nor have I found links discussing the breakdown of the current (last decade or so) job market.
9.9.2009 8:47am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Bartman, it's true that after 40 engineers have trouble finding work. Until my current contract began, I'd been out of work for 24 of the preceding 72 months. I'm paid an hourly wage, so I'd probably be in the survey, even though I'm a contractor (job-shopper -- my paycheck comes from an agency I've never met because my employer would rather pay them about 80% on top of what I get instead of giving me benefits. It was supposed to be 3 months temp-to-perm.) I'm in my mid-40s, and have only a 4-year Applied Math degree from a school that would qualify as Ivy and having an accredited engineering program. My hourly rate is about 20% more than I was getting 20 years ago, and I was close to accepting a contract at that same rate.

By excluding those who go on for advanced degrees (law and medicine especially), and ignoring career path (a liberal arts degree can lead to a highly paid Wall Street job, or a life as a gradual student) the survey is barely more useful than a survey of lottery winners. A regression study might be possible: I am a 16-year-old with this HS GPA/SAT/extra-curriculars, with interests in ____, (or an 18-year-old freshman at this college) how can I best maximize my earnings and/or happiness? And how long will I have to defer my peak earnings? And how much risk am I willing to face?
9.9.2009 9:00am
Ben P:

Doctors, nurses and pharmacists don't count. I know: I had the job of teaching them what we call "baby physics" (no calculus) in college so they could qualify for their medical schools.


Having an MD Sibling and still Pre-Med sibling, the answer to this is that they take non-cal physics because even one grade below a B can keep them from getting into med-school.

If I worried about getting bad grades I wouldn't go off and take upper level math classes that weren't related to my course of study any more than I'd sign up for a 400 level foreign language class that I didn't know the language in.


And for the record, I had a minor (almost a major, which would have been a third along with History and Econ) in Computer Science, which included taking Cal 2, DEq and Discrete Math. My only experience in the difference in grading in those classes and my other science classes was that once I did the necessary work to understand the topic it was easier to get good grades than in my liberal arts classes, where I could BS my way to a B, but getting an A depended on the whims of the professor.
9.9.2009 9:05am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Ben, general rant about rewards and motivation. I had no idea why I was there. For 12 years my goal had been to get to the next level, and maybe also to learn stuff (I did take 3 maths and 2 sciences my senior year in HS). Then for a while my goal was to get into med school. After that went away (I believed them when they said I was ready for Orgo and 3rd-term Calc my freshman year -- good Achievement test knowledge gives no indication of whether one is ready for the university method, or sleep-away college at all) and I'd forgotten about learning, or getting honors grades, I worked on getting enough "Gentleman's Cs" to graduate, to the point where my last term I needed two classes to complete my major, which would also give me enough credits to graduate, so rather than taking two electives pass-fail, I took only those two classes, lest those electives get in the way of graduation. (My father would say if I'd cared that much I'd have given up pinball and $7/hour bus driving, but like I said, I had no idea what I was there for.)
9.9.2009 9:25am
pdxbob:
"That doesn't necessarily mean that an engineer is smarter than a humanities student, but that the market has more demand for electrical engineers than for English majors."

...but perhaps engineers are better at understanding the difference between 'avocation' and 'vocation'.
9.9.2009 9:46am
Bama 1L:
Of dividing a problem into discrete parts, A. Zarkov says:

Most liberal arts majors are wholly ignorant of this way of thinking.

That is unfortunate, because research in the humanities and social sciences involves doing exactly that. If you can't do it, you are doomed.

If the problem is that most undergraduates have no idea what research is, then I agree. History majors, for example, seem to think that they are going to learn stories about the past that everyone knows or else found neatly written with a quill pen, whereas in fact they should be given tools to model and explain the past. The problem may be that people take history (or literature or philosophy) for granted and don't see it as a series of solutions to problems.
9.9.2009 10:49am
Random3 (mail):
In the realm of undergraduate degrees, engineering and hard science degrees are way way harder to earn then most of what passes these days for a liberal arts degree. And you actually learn some non-perishable knowledge to go along with it. The airplane has to actually be able to fly. It's much tougher to pollute an engineering curriculum with PC indoctrination stuff. Employers are of course aware of these facts, and judge that people with engineering degrees actually might have learned something and maybe even have had to work pretty hard. These salaries just reflect those facts.
9.9.2009 11:04am
A. Zarkov (mail):
On the whole I find people from a liberal arts background, and this includes most lawyers (but not the patent kind), can't think in a quantitative fashion. They simply don't have the tools to do it.

For example we constantly hear that American students don't score as well as Asian students on international exams. Therefore the US economy will not be competitive in the future, so we must spend more money on education. That conclusion is based on median scores. But the median doesn't matter that much. It's the high scoring students who will go on to make the economy competitive. If people understood the Pareto Principle, also called the law of the vital few, they would reject the flawed reasoning used to pump up the education budget. When you compare the upper quartile American scores against the upper quartile from other countries, you will find Americans do very well indeed. We don't have an education problem, we have an underclass problem. The students from the underclass drag down the average score. In other words, the distribution of scores is bimodal and not the usual single mode Bell Curve. If the scores were really Bell Curve distributed then the average (along with the standard deviation) would define the upper quartile. To understand all this, a person needs to be able to think quantitatively.

A legislative body filled with innumerate lawyers and liberal arts majors won't be able to make intelligent policy decisions. They will continue to spend more and more money on education to little affect on American competitiveness.
9.9.2009 11:32am
yankee (mail):
OK, so engineers earn more than artists and social workers. No news here. Seriously, does anyone major in English or "fine arts" because they think it will maximize their earning potential?
9.9.2009 12:44pm
AJK:

Employers are of course aware of these facts, and judge that people with engineering degrees actually might have learned something and maybe even have had to work pretty hard.


I don't know that that's really true. I'm sure a company looking to hire an engineer is going to think that someone with an engineering degree is a better candidate than someone with an art history degree, but I'm skeptical that the advantage translates to other lines of work. Do engineering students find it easier to get a job at McKinsey?
9.9.2009 1:03pm
Mikeyes (mail):
A.Zarkov sez:

"A legislative body filled with innumerate lawyers and liberal arts majors won't be able to make intelligent policy decisions. They will continue to spend more and more money on education to little affect on American competitiveness."

You realize, of course, that right now half of our students are below average and that something must be done.
9.9.2009 1:22pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
OK, so engineers earn more than artists and social workers. No news here. Seriously, does anyone major in English or "fine arts" because they think it will maximize their earning potential?
People who aren't good in math?
9.9.2009 1:26pm
Random3 (mail):


Employers are of course aware of these facts, and judge that people with engineering degrees actually might have learned something and maybe even have had to work pretty hard.

I don't know that that's really true. I'm sure a company looking to hire an engineer is going to think that someone with an engineering degree is a better candidate than someone with an art history degree, but I'm skeptical that the advantage translates to other lines of work. Do engineering students find it easier to get a job at McKinsey?


As Darth Vader famously said: "Search your feelings. You know it to be true!"

I don't have any statistics to back up my assertion, but my life experience tells me that it is usually true. I do think there are still plenty of liberal arts majors that are very worthwhile - by that I mean that they are 1) difficult to earn and 2) require mastery of useful knowledge. But there are now an awful lot that don't really meet those criteria, whereas engineering pretty much always does.
9.9.2009 3:28pm
traveler496:
I too am disturbed by what I perceive as the scientific illiteracy, innumeracy, and general unfamiliarity with systematic clear thought, of our government leaders.

The third of these is always important. The first two are not only important but of increasing importance as technological progress accelerates.

I'm reminded of what someone said in a different context about some category of scientifically illiterate people 20-30 years ago: "They are in this century, but they are not of this century."
9.9.2009 4:08pm
A.C.:
There are loads of different ways to major in music. Some people may choose it as an easy major for those who are bad at math. But some go to Juilliard and bust their behinds in a field they take very seriously. I suspect that the average starting salary obscures a fairly broad distribution.

There are two ways to go about ALL the arts, humanities, and stereotypically girly subjects. It's possible to approach all of them in a serious, career-oriented way. That typically involves the more intense, reputable undergraduate programs and very possibly graduate school. Lots of weeding out happens along the way, so students probably have an idea of their odds of making it as a concert violinist, novelist, or whatever. Those who go about it seriously but don't quite hit the mark make perfectly good law and business students. You might compare them to the solid, A- grad students in the sciences who know they don't have the passion for research that would get them tenure.

But it's also possible to enjoy yourself in a not-so-demanding undergraduate program in these fields before getting a regular office job that doesn't require a degree. I don't think anyone majors in engineering or the hard sciences this way.
9.9.2009 5:14pm
Splunge:
I don't believe for a moment that anything about an education in physics or engineering that makes you a more capable person. That's just silly intellectual snobbery.

Instead, I think these majors are just a crude intelligence filter. You can't be average or below-average intelligence and pull off a major in physics or chemical engineering. The quantitative math demands will kill you.

And then, it's hardly surprising that anything that preferentially selects for smarter people will result in differential earnings.

Well, I guess it might be surprising if you're the type who was forced to drop out of physics.
9.9.2009 7:27pm
markm (mail):
Splunge: It's probably willingness to work hard more than just intelligence. Every day in my first year of engineering school, I would get several 5 to 10 page homework assignments. That is, they required 5 to 10 pages of drawings and detailed calculations if you did them right. Otherwise, you'd probably never get done. Being a math genius would help you pick the right approach, but you still had to deal with all the details. (And yet, these homework problems were still drastically simplified compared to any real-world design problem.)

Any one who persevered through that - and the first year weeded out at least 2 out of 3 would-be engineers - is going to be a valuable employee whether or not his specific knowlege and skills are relevant. On top of that, the engineering graduate also has knowledge and skills that are in chronically short supply.

Here is still another reason engineers get good jobs:

David Chesler (mail) (www):
Ben, general rant about rewards and motivation. I had no idea why I was there.

That's true of many, many college students, but not of engineering students. No one works like that without a good reason.

Maybe what's surprising is that engineers aren't much better paid, but there are factors that limit many of us. First, engineers are often terrible salesmen, somewhere between socially inept and Asperger's syndrome. Second, often they care more about the job than the pay. There are many exceptions - but usually they shift to management at mid-career. There are plenty of multi-millionaire engineers, but very few of them still spend most of their time engineering.
9.9.2009 9:05pm

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