Anti-Feminists Are Bad at Math

In addition to being (per Matt Yglesias) generally silly, this alarmed reaction to female college attainment contains a basic mathematical error:

Still, the biggest reason we probably won’t see a lot more college-educated women walking down the aisle with their plumber is one we don’t like to say out loud: they want to have smart kids. Educated men and women are drawn to spouses they think will help them produce the children likely to thrive in the contemporary knowledge-based economy. That means high IQ, ambitious, and organized kids who will do their homework and take a lot of AP courses. The preference for alpha kids is the reason there is a luxury market for Ivy League egg and sperm donors. It also explains why, though we don’t have solid research distinguishing between elite and State U mating choices, Ms. Harvard will probably not accept a proposal from Mr. Florida State.

It’s true that academic standards at Harvard are higher than at Florida State. But Harvard is also much smaller than Florida State. The median SAT math score at Harvard is about 750; whereas the 75th percentile SAT math score at Florida State is only 650. But Florida State has almost 31,000 undergraduates whereas Harvard has only 10,200. The top 25 percent of Florida State constitutes roughly 7,700 students, for whom the lower bound SAT Math score is 650. That means that the median SAT score among top Florida State students (the precise numbers aren’t available) is probably up around 700. In other words, there’s actually a lot of cognitive overlap between Harvard students and the equivalent-sized subpopulation of top students at Florida State.

This is, moreover, an extreme example. Harvard is not only the most selective university in America but it’s also unusually large for a selective university. Florida State isn’t even the most selective public university in Florida. Dartmouth, for example, has 4,200 undergraduates with a median SAT Math score of about 730. The University of Florida has 33,600 undergraduates with a 75th percentile SAT Math score of 690. The 4,200 students in the top half of the 8,400 students in the top quartile at the University of Florida are probably at least as smart as the 4,200 students at Dartmouth. So for every Ms. Dartmouth, there’s a just-as-smart Mr. University of Florida to be found.

Addendum: I am reliably informed that Harvard College actually only has about 6,600 undergraduates. Not sure why the big discrepancy with NCES statistics. Anyway, this strengthens my point.

Return to Top