Why Attend an IVY League? Median Family Income for Harvard Undergrads Triple National Average, Brown at the Top

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Raj Chetty

CAMBRIDGE, MA–The median family income for Harvard undergraduates is $168,800—more than three times the national median, according to a recent study as reported by the Harvard Crimson.

“With an average student at the 79th income percentile, Harvard’s median family income was the third-lowest in the Ivy League: Brown, with a $204,200 median family income, ranked first. The national median household income in 2015 was $55,775, according to Census data,” Harvard Crimson said.

The study also ranked Harvard first in the Ivy League, but below most other colleges, in its enrollment of undergraduates from low and moderate-income families.

Raj Chetty

Among the twelve “Ivy League and selected elite colleges”—which also include M.I.T., Stanford, Duke, and the University of Chicago in the study—Harvard had the eighth largest proportion of students from the top 1 percent, with 15.1 percent of its undergraduates coming from households making over $630,000 per year. Students from this socioeconomic bracket were most strongly represented at Dartmouth, filling over one-fifth of the student body, reported Harvard Crimson.

Raj Chetty , John N. Friedman, Emmanuel Saez, Nicholas Turner, and Daniel F. Yagan  conducted the analysis, using anonymous tax and attendance records to evaluate thousands of colleges.

“Broadly, we’re interested in an era where more and more people are concerned about the American Dream fading,” Chetty, a Stanford economics professor who previously taught at Harvard, said as quoted by Harvard Crimson. “Lots of people are very frustrated that they can no longer get ahead or do better than their parents did, for example.”

Harvard Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons  credited Harvard’s recent financial aid initiatives for the University’s relatively greater representation of low income students compared to the rest of the Ivy League. Harvard Crimson quoted Fitzsimmons as saying that the launch of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative and membership in the American Talent Initiative and Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success has helped expand access to low- and moderate-income students.

“Families with annual incomes of $65,000 or less do not pay anything toward the cost of their child’s Harvard education,” Fitzsimmons wrote in a statement. “And one in five undergraduates is from a family with annual income of $65,000 or less.”

Still, the study ranks Harvard among the worst colleges nationwide at enrolling lower-income students. With 4.5 percent of students from the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution, Harvard ranks 2011th out of the 2395 schools for its proportion of low-income students, according to Harvard Crimson. (IANS)

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