Want to Be a Presidential Nominee? Go to Harvard or Yale

Michael Medved suspects that as college degrees have become more common in the population as a whole, where one obtained that degree has become more important...

As Harvard and Yale have become more inclusive—increasingly opening their gates to students of diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds—degrees from these schools are granting admission into an increasingly exclusive club, Yale graduate Michael Medved argues in a USA Today column.

People holding degrees from Harvard or Yale make up less than two tenths of a percent of the national population, but they constitute 83 percent of the presidential nominees of the past 20 years, he writes.

He draws his conclusion from the fact that the last three presidents (Bush, Clinton, Bush) hold Yale degrees, and their opponents (Kerry, Michael Dukakis, LL.B. ’60, and Al Gore ’69) were graduates of Harvard or Yale. Of course, the presumptive Democratic nominee this year, Barack Obama, J.D. ’91, also has a Crimson connection; his opponent, U.S. Senator John McCain, is an exception to the pattern, as is 1996 GOP nominee Bob Dole. Medved's sample is exceedingly small, but his number crunching produces interesting results nonetheless.

While the “old boys’ club” stereotype would lead one to conclude that a degree from Harvard or Yale opened such doors in the past, Medved points out that the nation’s 16 pre-Civil War presidents include just two Harvard graduates (John Adams and John Quincy Adams) and no Yalies. More recently, the quarter-century from 1963 to 1988 had but one presidential nominee with a degree from either school: Yale law graduate Gerald Ford.

Medved suspects that as college degrees have become more common in the population as a whole, where one obtained that degree has become more important:

A university education doesn’t necessarily make an applicant more qualified, but it tells you something about his or her ambition and self-discipline.

Read the rest of the column here.

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