Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Back to the beginning

My first substantive post on this blog was about a question that was asked in 1950:  "If you had a son of college age and he could enter any college or university in the United States and you had enough money to send him, to which one would you most want him to go?"  Harvard took first place, which wasn't surprising, but Notre Dame was second, which was (at least to me).  I speculated that its high standing was because a lot of Catholics wanted their (hypothetical) son to go to a Catholic college.  It came back to mind this semester when I wanted an example to illustrate the point that the difference between Catholics and Protestants used to be a lot more important in American society than it is today.  So I broke the top choices down by religion:

Protestant           Catholic             Jewish

Harvard 7.6%         Notre Dame 24.3%     Harvard 18.2%
Yale 6.2%            Harvard 7.9%         Chicago 7.8%
USMA 2.6%            Yale 3.5%            Columbia  6.5%
Michigan 2.5%        MIT  3.5%            NYU 6.5%
Illinois 2.4%        USMA 3.2%            Cornell 3.9%
MIT 2.4%             Michigan 2.6%        Notre Dame 3.9%
Columbia 2.0%        Berkeley 2.3%        CCNY 3.9%
Minnesota 1.9%       Fordham 2.3% 
Berkeley 1.8%        Columbia 1.8%
Ohio State 1.8%      Cornell 1.8%
                     Penn 1.8%

The general pattern was what I expected, but I wasn't ready for the degree to which Notre Dame led among Catholics.  Among Protestants, the top choice (Harvard) had less than the combined totals of #2 and #3; among Catholics, Notre Dame had more than the combined totals of the next six.  

The University of Chicago was the second choice among Jewish parents, and was just off the top ten among Protestants, but was chosen by only one Catholic parent.  I don't know enough about the history of that university to offer an explanation.  

Notre Dame was tied for fifth choice among Jewish parents, and was among the top 15 among Protestants.  That could have been because of academic reputation, but football may also have been a factor.   Notre Dame had been national champions (according to the AP poll) in 1943, 1946, 1947, and 1949.  Most of the people answering the survey had not attended college themselves, and probably didn't have much information to base a response on, so some may have said Notre Dame simply because it was a name that they knew.  However, even if Notre Dame's standing was boosted by football, Catholic parents clearly had a strong inclination to favor Catholic colleges (Fordham was also in the top 10, and Boston College just missed).  

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