clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The NYT wrote more about Harvard last year than all community colleges combined

Congratulations, Harvard graduates! You will get written about a lot
Congratulations, Harvard graduates! You will get written about a lot
Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

According to the internet this week, whether or not you should send your kids to Ivy League colleges is the biggest debate of the moment.

It should go without saying that this is a debate about outliers. In fact, just about every selective college you can name — Ivy League or not — is an outlier. Just 20 percent of private, nonprofit colleges accept fewer than half of their applicants. That means the percentage of students attending such colleges is in the single digits when you look at American higher education as a whole.

But any journalist knows that people love to read about the Ivy League, and the New York Times now has a neat tool that shows just how much. Here's how much Harvard, Princeton and Yale have been written about over the Times' history, compared to any community college in America:

Screen_shot_2014-07-23_at_5.55.27_pm Obviously the Ivy League colleges produce a disproportionate number of important people, so it makes sense that they're mentioned pretty frequently in the Times' pages. (And this doesn't just include articles specifically about the colleges, but any mentions of them in profiles, obituaries,  and — probably notably — wedding announcements.)

But still, a reminder seems in order: Fewer than 30,000 students total attended Harvard, Yale and Princeton combined last year. 7 million attended community colleges.

Books tend to have the same bias, according to Google's Ngram Viewer:

Update: It's been brought to my attention that Google Ngrams can tell if words are capitalized or not. I've updated the graph, which shows that books have the same bias as the Times.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.