Harvard University enrollment by race

By looking at the entire U.S. population by race, we should get a picture of what the racial makeup of a large university like Harvard would look like. At least, that should be the case in a roughly equal society, where all races have similar resources and opportunities.

The racial makeup of the country is not reflected in the student body at Harvard. And it should be reasonable to expect that it would, considering the sample size. Harvard’s 2018 undergraduate enrollment was nearly 10,000.

In the table below, Black and Hispanic students are both under-represented at 8% (versus 13.4% of the overall population) and 11% (18.3%). Of note, non-Hispanic White students are also under-represented at 41% (versus 60.4% of the overall population). Asian students are markedly over-represented at 18% (5.9%). There is also a higher proportion of multi-race students (6% versus 2.7% of the U.S. population).

However, the first table may be somewhat misleading, as the Other category contains such a large percentage (16%). The majority (12%) of that group is “non-resident aliens”. That is, foreign students attending Harvard. There are also 3% of students who are listed as “race/ethnicity unknown”. Including both of these groups in the racial/ethnic calculations makes the data less comparable to the overall U.S. population.

In the second table below, I’ve adjusted the data to eliminate the effect of foreign students and the students for whom race/ethnicity is not known. After that adjustment, all percentages rise, bringing Black, Hispanic, and White student numbers closer to the overall U.S. population, but still below. The proportion of Asian students and multi-race students rises further after this adjustment.

Harvard University undergraduate enrollment by race, fall 2018

Black 8.0%
White 41.0%
Asian 18.0%
Hispanic 11.0%
Multiple races 6.0%
Other 16.0%
Source: Department of Education

Harvard University undergraduate enrollment by race, fall 2018 (adjusted)

Black 9.4%
White 48.2%
Asian 21.2%
Hispanic 12.9%
Multiple races 7.1%
Other 1.2%
Source: Department of Education. Adjustment calculations made by author to remove foreign students and students for whom race/ethnicity is unknown.

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