Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The careers of the educational elite

The life cycle, the educational outcomes and the labor market of US households have been amply studied. Results are generally well established, for example that the gender gap has considerably narrowed, that the college premium has continued to rise and that female labor supply has increased a lot but is now stagnating. Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz have undertaken a new kind of analysis, studying the outcomes of Harvard graduates.

Why would we care? This is only a very small fraction of the population, not representative at all, and way out in the tail of the distribution. For one, they are over-represented among the decision-makers in the United States, and thus their personal experience influences their perception of what happens to others. Second, the education of the elite is typically heavily subsidized (privately or publicly), thus it is important to understand whether it is worth it.

This is an ongoing project, so not all questions have been answered yet. But the Harvard And Beyond Project website already offers a glimpse of some of the answers Goldin and Katz may have. Here are some results I found interesting.

  1. The vast majority have pursued graduate degrees after their BA at Harvard. This proportion has increased for females and has remained stable for males. In the most recent cohort (1990 graduates), two thirds went for a graduate degree. In other words, for most, even a degree from the most prestigious program is not sufficient.
  2. Harvard graduates earns a lot 15 years after graduation. For those with full time jobs, the median is at $112,500 for women and $187,500 for men. The gender gap is considerable, even after controlling for labor supply.
  3. They marry later and have much fewer children than the general population.
  4. They barely have any non-employment spells. Even among women who had children, over half never had an non-employment spell of more than six months. Penalties in earnings are severe for time off, especially among MBAs.

Thus if we have made much progress to reduce gender gaps and pregnancy penalties in the general population, the same cannot be said for the elite.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Of the Harvard Ought Threes, three per cent have children now. dave.s.