Who are Ivy League degrees good for?
It looks like the same group of people whose representation in the elite group of US colleges and universities (not just Ivy but also public flagships (most notable public universities in a state)) has seen the greatest drop in decades, specifically the 35 years preceding 2017, the year, the relevant report came out in the New York Times. The analysis was conducted by the New York Times. The authors of that article are Haeyoun Park, Jeremy Ashkenas, and Adam Pearce.
This drop in the representations of blacks and latinos occurred in spite of affirmative action so…
Now I won’t dive deep into my view of affirmative action here. I will say that anyone who doubts whether I belonged at Princeton should look at my high school stats, test scores, and activities. I think, assuming you’re against affirmative action, you’d pause…immediately.
I knew someone, part Hispanic, at Princeton whose academic success I once ventured to ask him about. His GPA hit or hovered extremely close to a 4.0 when there; his graduating GPA was a 3.99. At a school that had a policy of grade deflation, i.e. a policy of cutoffs for As, etc. Thankfully, the policy was destroyed but only during my Senior Spring. He essentially responded: I’m not smart. I just work hard. Those were either his exact words or very close to them.
And he did.
He would purposely leave his books in the library when he wanted to eat dinner so that he would be forced to return to the library and finish studying. Most or all of the time I was a take-my-books-with-me-and-finish-studying-in-the-deceptive-comfort-of-my-dorm-room kind of gal.
Back to the failure of affirmative action. Black and latino representation at elite schools reached its lowest point since before I was born in spite of a policy whose goal was to increase our representation.
I do realize that the admissions process can hold Asians to a higher standard. I’m not Asian and I’m not going to dive deep into this level of the issue in this episode. I should probably note that this group is the most overrepresented according to the New York Times report. So, what do I plan to do in this episode?
Make the case for why that report by the New York Times is problematic. And let me state it right now. Research has shown that companies constituting greater racial diversity (and gender diversity) demonstrate greater innovation and yield greater economic returns. It is a BODY of research. Not one study. Done one time.
Now how exactly does this tie in with the drop in blacks and latinos at elite colleges. And again, I’m not in the school of thought that says everyone should attend an elite college because it’s an elite college. I personally have advised people to do so predominately because the financial aid would be better for them. To me that’s the first and most important level of value.
Anyway. How does the company stuff tie in with the dysfunctional affirmative action stuff?
So, just last year, a year after that NYT article, an article in the Atlantic by Derek Thompson, titled “Does it Matter Where You Go To College” showed that actual RESEARCH indicates that it does matter. Not if you’re rich, white, and male. BUT if you’re not rich, not white, and not male.
So let me first state what may be obvious to you: where those who’ve attended elite colleges end up: near 45% of American billionaires came from schools where incoming freshmen’s SAT scores averaged in the 1st percentile. Scores for any test have 98 other percentiles…
Not only them. Also over half of the list of Forbes’ most powerful people.
I’d like to stop for a sec here and note that not everyone who goes to an elite school is power hungry or strives for fame and greatness. I remember one person said to me at Princeton, and I’ll never or I hope I’ll never forget it, something along the lines of “I don’t want to be great. I want to be good.” By good she meant aware and socially conscious. Someone who seeks to do the right thing. Not the most glamorous thing.
I’m not sure she even likes me but I don’t think I’ll ever forget her.
Back to Billionaires and Forbes. The point is that a lot of power-wielding people have come from elite schools.
Why? Well, it doesn’t seem to do with the school itself.
Research shows that if two people have the same SAT scores and one goes to an elite school and the other doesn’t, then there won’t be any significant difference in their salaries later in life.
It looks like the individual, their own ability, outweighs whatever the school they went to provided.
But this research was looked at again and while the researchers found no change in the results for men there was a huge change for women—going to a school with a 100-point higher mean SAT score was correlated with a 14% increase in earnings.
Regarding minorities, another study in 2017 showed that lower-income students at a school like Columbia, an elite school, an Ivy, had a much greater probability of reaching the highest 1% of the earnings distribution.
So what did I conclude from all of these articles and studies? If the representation of minorities at elite colleges falls even more, then the companies and individuals that benefit from diversity and elite degrees, respectively could suffer economically and creatively. As a group, minorities and women would see decreased earnings. And companies who hire from that group may also see a hit to their innovation and profit muscles.
Blacks and Hispanics are responsible for a number of 21st century conveniences, among them the pen (László József Biró), the wireless phone (Roberto Landell de Moura), and the POTATO CHIP (George Crum is thought to be its creator).
Next time: burnout…millennial burnout…minority burnout.
Burnout articles and related book mentioned in this episode:
Anne Helen Petersen “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation”
Tiana Clark “This Is What Black Burnout Feels Like”
Robert J. Wicks “The Resilient Clinician”