A July 2023 study from a think tank ironically hosted at Harvard, Opportunity Insights, shows that low-income students have terrible chances of being accepted into Harvard. The commitment of the "Ivy Plus" group of universities covered in this study shows that almost two-thirds of the student population comes from the top 20% of the wealth pool, while only 5% comes from the bottom.
The bias towards wealth seems colorblind, however, as affluent minorities are also far more likely to join the Ivy ranks than poorer people with similar ethnicities—these schools really like money.
Overall, 67% of Harvard's undergraduate population comes from "the top [20%] of the income distribution. Just 4.5 percent, meanwhile, come from the bottom 20 percent."
As seen in the chart below, this theme extends to minority communities as well, where a significant 71% of Black, Hispanic, and Native American students at Harvard originate from the highest socioeconomic quintile within their respective racial groups nationwide, according to Time.
"Furthermore," the authors write, "being admitted to an Ivy-Plus college dramatically changes children's life trajectories." If students want to join the one percent, become a U.S. Senator, or win a MacArthur "genius" grant, then they should pursue Ivy Plus schools, as graduates are disproportionately represented in these exclusive groups.
Because elite university graduates funnel into other elite institutions, the authors–who themselves are Ivy League economists–argue that reforming Ivy Pluses will diversify coveted leadership positions and awards. Their call to increase socioeconomic diversity is an admirable attempt to resolve the main issue with these schools: they're not meritocratic, and they're not diverse.
After all, merit, not wealth, should pave the way to the Supreme Court, major media outlets, or Fortune 500 C-suites.