November 28, 2012

Harvard / Yale degrees among Presidential candidates

Ron Unz's article on elite college admissions reminds me that they seem to be doing something right in terms of polishing up their brand names, which have never been glossier. For example, consider the Harvard or Yale degrees of the Presidential nominees of the two parties since 1900. 

From 1900 through 1984, I count 9 Harvard or Yale degrees  for 44 nominees, or 0.20 per candidate (and 5 of the 9 are members of the Roosevelt family).

From 1988 through 2012, I count 15 Harvard or Yale degrees for 14 nominees, or 1.07 per candidate. That's a lot!

1900: 0
1904: 1 (TR Harvard BA)
1908: 1 (Taft Yale BA)
1912: 1 (Taft, not counting TR's 3rd party run)
1916: 0
1920: 0
1924: 0
1928: 0 (Al Smith never went to high school)
1932: 1 (FDR Harvard BA)
1936: 1 (FDR Harvard BA)
1940: 1 (FDR Harvard BA)
1944: 1 (FDR Harvard BA)
1948: 0
1952: 0 (Stevenson dropped out of HLS)
1956: 0 
1960: 1 (JFK Harvard BA)
1964: 0
1968: 0
1972: 0
1976: 1 (Ford YLS)
1980: 0
1984: 0
1988: 2 (Bush Y BA, Dukakis HLS)
1992: 2 (Bush Y BA, Clinton YLS)
1996: 1 (Clinton YLS)
2000: 3 (Gore H BA, Bush Y BA HBS)
2004: 3 (Bush Y BA HBS, Kerry Y BA)
2008: 1 (Obama HLS)
2012: 3 (Obama HLS, Romney HBS HLS)


Anonymous said...

Princeton has done well on the Supreme Court recently.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Bush 43 and Romney have Harvard MBAs?

Anonymous said...

This is a really, really, really depressing topic.

We are rapidly ceasing to be a nation of self-made men and are instead becoming a nation of effete, castrated mandarins, plotting furiously behind one-anothers' backs in an effort to seize the choicest sinecures in the Emperor's Forbidden City.

Me - I'm with Professor Williams - I don't want any part of it.

Anonymous said...

Barely related, but I was trying to find the earliest mention of Obama on Google and apart from articles on his appointment as HLR president, one of his early mentions is attacking The Bell Curve on NPR. It isn't hard to guess what he probably said, but as soon as I read that I thought about this site.

Ed said...

This really goes beyond the Ivy League degrees. The 1996 presidential election was the last one where both candidates weren't born into some sort of ridiculously privileged position.

This is a list of the major party nominees starting in 1988 that were born into an unusually wealthy family (one of the 1%) or a family whose members had held high political office. These are people who would have been members of the House of Lords or close relatives in the House of Lords under the British system that existed before the 1911 Parliament Act:

GHW Bush: son of a Senator, extremely wealthy family.

GW Bush: son of a President, grandson of a Senator, extremely wealthy family.

Al Gore: son of a Senator, wealthy family

John Kerry: wealthy family, married a heiress. Kerry was estimated to have been the richest man to have run for President up to that point (Romney probably surpassed him).

John McCain: son and grandson of Admirals.

Willard Romney: son of a Governor and CEO of a major corporation, extremely wealthy family.

That leaves Dukakis, Clinton, Dole, and Obama, so that is six out of the last ten nominees. But Steve has speculated, with some evidence, that Obama's family had CIA connections and in any case he father was a fairly important foreign politician. Maybe Obama should count for one half.

Of the eleven previous major party nominees, between 1952 and 1984 (Eisenhower, Stevenson, Kennedy, Nixon, Johnson, Goldwater, McGovern, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Mondale), the only one of the eleven who was an aristocrat was Kennedy. I think Goldwater's family owned a chain of department stores, and LBJ grew up poor but was the son of a state legislature who was a big deal in his county in Texas. Otherwise we are looking at pretty humble backgrounds, with none of the "tapping" in early life by the powers that be that characterized Clinton's life, and to some extent Obama's.

So yes this is a big difference. In nineteenth century Britain every Prime Minister, with the notable exception of Disraeli, seemed to come from either wealth or the titled nobility. In American history the only thing that comes even close is the Virginia Dynasty years in the early nineteenth century, when the Electoral College was still selected by the state legislatures.

Ed said...

On the link posted by Anonymous 4:57, though the legal case that secession is unconstitutional is surprisingly flimsy when one examines it, the fact that the one serious attempt at secession not only was crushed, but was justified by the need to preserve slavery, probably dooms the idea as a serious political option.

However, you would enjoy John Michael Greer's five part series about the fall of the federal government (it starts here:

Noah172 said...

Harvard and Yale dominate the Supreme Court, too -- eight of nine current justices (Ginsburg graduated from Columbia after transferring from Harvard). H&Y alumni have made a majority of the court since Kennedy's appointment in 1988.

And, as our Whiskey keeps reminding us, the Harvard WASP mafia dominates Hollywood (hard to type that without stopping to chuckle).


Ron Paul: BS Gettysburg, MD Duke

Pat Buchanan: BA Georgetown, MA Columbia (j-school)

Steve Sailer: BS(?) Rice

Walter Jones: BA, Atlantic Christian College

Calvin Coolidge: Amherst College

James Watson: BS Chicago, PhD Indiana

Will Saletan (Jewish liberal willing to admit genetic differences in IQ among racial groups; dubbed race-deniers "liberal creationists"): Swathmore

Peter Brimelow: BA U of Sussex (UK), MBA Stanford

Jared Taylor: BA Yale(!) (can't all be bad I guess)

Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr. (early 20th-c leader on immigration restriction): BA, JD, PhD Harvard (used to be a good place, it seems)

Albert Johnson and David Reed (co-authors of 1924 immigration restriction): Johnson, no college; Reed, BA Princeton (used to be a decent place), JD Pittsburgh

Anonymous said...

I hate the Korean rapper Psy, but maybe we can learn something from him. Call it Poli-Psy.

Just do it and go into politics or make some kind of political scene, and see what happens.

Anonymous said...

I'd always been a little fond of Al Smith (nice to see an old-school Democrat turn against the New Deal), but I never realized he didn't even get as far as high school. I'm much more impressed with him now, though certainly not surprised (my grandfather never made it past the 8th grade, but that didn't stop him voraciously reading the likes of Solzhenitsyn, Edmund Burke, and Plato).

Reyn Cooper said...

Herbert Hoover went to Stanford and was an engineer in China and Australia. I think he will probably be the last engineer to serve in the White House (maybe even one of the last with a real job).

Anonymous said...

"Herbert Hoover went to Stanford and was an engineer in China and Australia. I think he will probably be the last engineer to serve in the White House (maybe even one of the last with a real job)."

Wasn't Jimmy Carter an engineer?

Anonymous said...

"Wasn't Jimmy Carter an engineer?"


He had a general science degree from the Naval Academy, expressed an interest in nuclear submarines, and helped in shutting down a nuclear reactor.

Anonymous said...

The Gipper had one whale of a career - teen lifeguard to college football player and swim team captain to radio broadcaster to movie star to anti-bolshevik union head to General Electric spokesman etc etc etc.

The emerging neo-mandarin/neo-caliphate superstructure of elitist society just doesn't allow for a young man to live a life like that anymore.

In fact, it's essential for neo-mandarinism/neo-caliph-ism that young men NOT experience the transformational freedom of radically individualistic formative years.

Much better that they be placed in soft, squishy, metrosexual, cubicle-monkey unpaid internships - memorizing and regurgitating the most cutting-edge Frankfurt School propaganda & disinformation - than that they actually get out in the real world and learn to think for themselves.

Mencken said...

Could this be explained by degree inflation? We can think this through using totally arbitrary numbers to examine the idea.

Let's start of by saying that in 1950 there are 1,000 people going to college, of whom 1,000 are intellectually elite. Let's also say there are 10 colleges: HYP and everybody else. So each college takes on 100 students, and they are all elite. Therefore, a sheepskin from any accredited institution is sufficient indication of elite intellectual caliber.

Fast forward to 2000. Now Everybody Goes To College (TM). Let's say that we still only have 1,000 elite brains in the general college attending population, but 1,000 vanilla brains, for a total population of 2,000. Let's say we still have the same ten colleges, but each college now takes on 200 students. In this scenario, a sheepskin alone no longer has a 1-to-1 correspondence to an elite brain -- in fact, there is a 50% chance that the sheepskin holder possesses a vanilla brain.

Now, let's imagine that the administration of HYP is clever enough to realize the value of signalling elite brains. So they campaign to get the smartest students in the country. This makes the 600 students enrolled at HYP the elite of the elite. A few years later, a couple other schools -- call them Cornell and Brown -- might notice that this is working well for HYP, and decide to get in on the action. These schools also begin to campaign for the best and brightest, but since HYP already has brand recognition, they wind up with the the second tier of the elite. Regardless, these five schools would now have the original 1,000 elite brains, while the other schools would have the 1,000 new vanilla brains.

(In effect, it looks like HYP+CB gained prestige, while everybody else lost prestige. Perhaps prestige is by nature a zero sum game. But that's a digression.)

I think this logic illustrates that merely inflating the college attending population and diluting its quality would be enough to explain the rise of HYP in particular, and the ivies in general. Perhaps someone else has the time and inclination to try this idea out with actual data.

Anonymous said...

And when you add candidates for vice-president to the mix. Even more Yale/Harvard connections. Bush Sr in 1980 and 1984, Cheney kicked out of Yale twice, 2000 and 2004, Lieberman 2000 Yale Law School, Estes Kefauver 1956 Yale Law School,

Pat Boyle said...

The first serious education study I can remember reading was from the National Merit Scholarship people. They had done some sort of analysis of variance study of why Harvard graduates (or other graduates of elite schools) were smarter than graduates from other more ordinary colleges.

Notice I said said smarter - as in doing well on an IQ test - not more knowledgeable - as in doing better on a test of acquired facts.

The results were clear. Teaching or facilities made no difference. They explained none of the variance. The only factor that accounted for being smart when you graduated was if you were smart when you matriculated. Harvard produces superior graduates because - and only because - it only accepts superior attendees. Or at least before Affirmative Action that was true.

This study effected me for the worse. I was asked by a classmate once while at San Francisco State why I hadn't chosen to attend Berkeley across the Bay. He said I was smart enough to get into this world famous university, so why would I then choose to attend what had originally been just a teacher's college?

I probably chose SF State because I realized that I could learn just as much there as at UC. And that was probably true. At SF State you were taught by professors whereas at UC Berkeley you usually were taught by a TA. The world famous professors taught only graduate school students or attended to their publications.

What I didn't count on was the superstition that attaches to elite schools. I spent many years trying to prove to hiring authorities that despite the fact that I went to a second rate school I was, in fact, first rate myself. It would have been so much simpler to have accepted the longer commute and have gone to UC.


beowulf said...

Richard Nixon would have added one to 1960, 1968 and 1972 but for his father's poverty and his brother illness.

"Harvard and Yale both offered him scholarships, but Harold's struggles with tuberculosis and the Nixons' tenuous financial position during the Great Depression forced Richard to remain close to home."

beowulf said...

"Harvard produces superior graduates because - and only because - it only accepts superior attendees"

I didn't see this before I posted, but Nixon's career certainly advances this theory.