This article reports that Harvard has 2,964 alumni worth $200+ million, with a total wealth of $622 billion. These figures are staggering:
- The university with the next highest figures (University of Pennsylvania) are ~2x less, and the figures for Yale (for example) are ~4x less.
- If you assume that Harvard has ~60 living classes of alumni, each of which has ~2,000 students, then the wealth per graduate coming from the alumni worth $200+ million alone is ~$5 million. Furthermore, the fraction of Harvard alumni with $200+ million is on the order of 2%. [Added: from here: "Of Americans, some 30,000 have more than $100m and 2,800 have more than $500m", so < 0.01% of Americans have that much money.]
Note that Bill Gates "only" has ~$75 billion and that Mark Zuckerberg "only" has ~$30 billion, so that they don't account for Harvard's decisive advantage over other universities.
What is going on here? Why would Harvard come out ahead by such a large margin? Its acceptance rate is smaller than those of Stanford, Yale and Princeton, but by no more than 25%. Moreover, this has been true historically
One can ask a similar question of University of Pennsylvania, which is significantly less selective than Yale and Princeton, but has a decisive advantage over them.
Some possible explanations for the discrepancy:
- Harvard selects students with higher expected earnings.
- Harvard selects students from families who are already wealthy (more than other top schools: the wealthy alumni are not self-made).
- Students who aspire to make a lot of money choose Harvard (over other top schools).
- Going to Harvard increases students' earning power (more than other top schools), for example, through better networking opportunities.
Regardless of which of these explanations hold, there remains a question of why they would hold.
Is Harvard a better choice than other universities for students who aspire to be wealthy than other top schools?