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Harvard Family Incomes Treble National Median


A survey of students in Social Science 125, "The American Economy: Conflict and Power," suggests that the median income of Harvard students' families is three times the national figure.

Samuel S. Bowles, assistant professor of Economics, polled the 163 students at the first meeting. "The sample is sufficiently large to establish its main conclusions," Bowles said yesterday.

The survey shows that:

* The median annual income of the students' fathers is $20,970 while the national median in 1966 was $6,918.

* The mean, or average, of the class fathers is $35,811; the national mean for males 45-54 in 1969 was estimated by the course staff from census figures as $8,324.

* 93.80 per cent of the incomes of the students' fathers exceed the national average.

* 93.82 per cent of those fathers went to school longer than the national average. The mean number of years of schooling for the students' fathers is 16.8; the national average for males 45-54 is 10.7 years.

"The figure fo rthe 45-54 age group is used because most of the students' fathers fall into this category and comparisons are therefore more relevant," Bowles said.

"The Harvard figure, if anything, is an underestimate, because students rarely know their fathers' income," Bowles said. "Students usually don't know about stock and property earnings," he said.

Bowles said that there were a number of family incomes in the survey above $100,000 and a few below $5000.

"Most students, when asked, say that they are middle class," Bowles said. "This survey shows that in fact students' families are on the whole wealthier and better-educated, and are basically upper class," he said.

"The survey provides an economic lesson about the tie between education and income," Arthur MacEwan, instructor in Economics and head of the course, said. "There is such a difference between the distribution curves for Harvard and those for the national averages that it is difficult to get them on the same graph," he added.

Bowles said that the purpose of the survey was to explain basic statistical concepts and to provide an indication about the class structure of universities, a topic which will be discussed later in the term.

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