An Ivy League degree won't boost your salary much compared to a good state school, a study finds. You're just more likely to have an elite-sounding job.


According to a recent study by economists at Harvard-based Opportunity Insights, attending a good state school instead of being accepted into an Ivy League university is unlikely to significantly impact future earnings. The study compared the estimated future earnings of students who were wait-listed by Ivy League schools but later attended one of nine flagship public universities. The findings revealed that attending an Ivy League school only increased graduates' projected income at age 33 by an average of 3%, which was considered a small and statistically insignificant impact. These results align with a 1999 study co-authored by Princeton economist Alan Kruger, which concluded that students who attended more selective colleges did not earn more than their counterparts who were accepted and rejected by comparable schools but attended less selective colleges.

Both studies suggest that the quality of the student, rather than the school they attend, is a better predictor of future earnings. While there may be debates about affirmative action and legacy admissions limiting opportunities for underrepresented students in Ivy League schools, these findings indicate that the benefits of attending these schools may not be as significant as perceived.

However, it's important to note that attending an Ivy League school does offer certain advantages. The study found that attending an Ivy League school increased a student's chances of reaching the top 1% in income at age 33 by 59%. Additionally, it roughly tripled the likelihood of working for a prestigious or elite employer by the age of 25 and doubled the odds of attending a highly-ranked graduate school by age 28. These factors may explain why some Ivy League graduates end up in top-earning positions.

To increase their chances of admission to an Ivy League school, the researchers found that having extremely wealthy parents dramatically enhanced a student's likelihood of acceptance. Among applicants with the same ACT or SAT scores, students from families in the top 1% were 34% more likely to be admitted than the average applicant, while those from families in the top 0.1% had double the chances of getting admitted.

The study primarily focused on students who entered college between 2010 and 2015, and income projections at age 33 were based on current income, employer data, and graduate school information.

Overall, while attending an Ivy League school may not significantly impact average future earnings, it can increase the likelihood of achieving high incomes and accessing prestigious job opportunities. 

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