The Equality of Opportunity Project gathers amazing data on the incomes of college graduates and their families. The New York Times provides an overview and this summary (pdf) of Williams data. Day 3 of 5 on this topic.

The central point about socio-economic diversity that I have been making for more than a decade is that there is no evidence that Williams is more economically diverse now than it was 30 years ago, and probably even 50 or 100 years ago. It is embarrassing how often the Williams administration (names like Payne, Schapiro, Hill, Falk and Dudley come to mind) claim that we are more economically diverse and how quickly naive reporters like David Leonhardt of The New York Times are to believe them. Recall the question that I have suggested for years:

In 1998, the 426th poorest family at Williams had a family income of $63,791. What is the family income of the 426th poorest family at Williams today? How has that number changed over the last two decades?

If the Record were a competent paper, or David Leonhardt were a competent reporter, than this is the question that would be asked. It/he isn’t, and so we have been left with just my rants. But now we have data!


Summary: Williams did not become (meaningfully) more economically diverse between the classes of 2005 and 2013. Eyeballing the chart, it looks like about 19% of the students in the class of 2006 were from families in the bottom 60% of the income distribution. For the class of 2013, it was 20%. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Recall my analysis from 2008:

We can see that there is no evidence that the socio-economic diversity of Williams has increased in the last decade and some circumstantial evidence that it has stayed the same.

The EOP proves that I was right. There was no good evidence that economic diversity had meaningfully increased at Williams between 1998 and 2008. The EOP data, which goes through the class of 2013, shows the same thing.

More importantly, we know that the same trend has continued up through the class of 2021, as we discussed on Monday. In fact, this sure seems similar to the data we know for the class of 1998.


1) The above chart is drawn from this collection, which shows the trends for various cuts of the income distribution. There is no perfect single measure of income inequality. Other charts, like that for the percentage of students from the top 20%, might put Williams in a better light. But even these charts, to the extent that they show changes in the direction of more economic diversity, show incredibly small changes, perhaps even within the appropriate confidence intervals.

2) We are being fast and loose with many of the relevant details. The numbers we studied in 2008 were based on all the students at Williams over the years between 1998 and 2008. In other words, each number was provided for all 2,000 students on campus in a given academic year. The EOP data is, I think, based on birth year, which provides, at best, an imperfect mapping to graduation class.

3) We should try to get our hands on the underlying data for Williams and some other peer schools. Any volunteers? Any readers with connections to Chetty et al?

4) Any predictions as to whether or not US News will use this data in its next set of rankings? Should it?

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