Do Harvard Admissions Favor Jews?

The claim that Harvard admissions favor Jews is contested at length in this article.

To make such a claim, an essential number that’s needed is the portion of students who are Jewish. The population, whether undergraduate or graduate, has to be spelled out first. This number is not available. The Ron Unz study says it’s 25%. He got that number in 2012 or so from Hillel. Hillel disclaims it, saying it’s based upon a local Hillel estimate. He also used a scale-up method involving Jewish-sounding names.

This question cannot reach firm conclusions without knowing how many Jews are actually being admitted. We also need to know details about the total population from which Harvard draws admissions.

Hillel International has a list of the top 60 schools by Jewish undergraduate population. Harvard is #60, and the percentage is given as 12 percent (803 students). We do not know how this number was obtained. This is a bit less than half of the 25% number used by Unz. However, this number finds support by a different method of assessment that comes up with a 10-11 percent figure. This method replicated Unz’s scale-up method.

Other factors are at work that influence the findings: “First, the geography. Typically over 40% of Harvard College students come from New England and the mid-Atlantic, a group of states that includes 48% of American Jews but only 21% of the white population.” Second “Unz’s estimate of 6% Jewish National Merit Scholar semifinalists is too low…”

I spent 4 years at Harvard College(1958-1962). The student body wasn’t 25% Jewish. Maybe it was 10-12%. It’s very hard to for me to imagine that Harvard in the decades that followed admitted 2.5 times as many Jews for whatever reason, such as pressures upon it. That high a number would place Harvard in a category like some New York schools. This seems to me implausible. Just hearing of a 25% number made me suspicious. A lengthy background in research and statistics is a factor in my skepticism about accepting claims, and it’s why I searched the internet a bit and wrote this blog.


7:16 pm on November 13, 2018