Michelle Foley 7 min read 11th Grade, 12th Grade, School Spotlight

Harvard Diversity Statistics: An In-Depth Look

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With its wafer-thin acceptance rate and rich array of academic and professional opportunities, a Harvard degree is one of the most sought-after in the world.

 

Harvard recognizes that a wide-ranging population of scholars not only allows students to engage with a broader range of perspectives but also provides opportunities to traditionally underrepresented, underserved groups. In their view, diversity breeds innovation and strength.

 

In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into Harvard’s diversity statistics, exploring the school’s representation of various racial, ethnic, cultural, geographical, financial, political, and LGBT+ communities. Breaking down the school’s commitment to a well-rounded student body will help you best gauge how at home you’ll feel in Cambridge.

 

Overview of Harvard Diversity Statistics 

 

Ethnic Diversity

 

With a white undergraduate population of 37.1%, Harvard is diverse. See below for a complete breakdown of the college’s degree-seeking undergraduate ethnic composition.

 

Student Ethnicity

Percentage of Students

Hispanic/Latino 

10.9

Black or African American

8.9

White

37.1

American Indian or Alaska Native

0.2

Asian

21.4

Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander

0.04

Two or more races, non-Hispanic

7.8

Race and/or ethnicity unknown

1.4

Data from Harvard’s 2019-2020 Common Data Set

 

In addition to these populations, 12.2% of students are international.

 

For many students, faculty diversity is an important factor as well. With a white population of 59%, Harvard’s tenured faculty is moderately diverse, and with a white population of 38%, Harvard’s tenure-track faculty is diverse

 

Tenured Faculty

 

Faculty Ethnicity

Percentage of Faculty

Underrepresented Women (Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Native)

3%

Underrepresented Men (Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Native)

5%

Asian Women

3%

Asian Men

9%

White Women

21%

White Men

59%

 

Tenure-Track Faculty

 

Faculty Ethnicity

Percentage of Faculty

Underrepresented Women (Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Native)

5%

Underrepresented Men (Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Native)

8%

Asian Women

10%

Asian Men

12%

White Women

27%

White Men

38%

 

The Faculty Demographics Report showcases aspects of the diversity of Harvard’s faculty in greater detail.

 

Financial Diversity

 

The New York Times published a study in 2017 detailing the economic breakdown of students at Harvard and 2,136 other schools. Here’s Harvard’s:

 

Median family income

$168,800

Average income percentile

79th

Share of students from top 0.1%

3%

From top 1%

15%

From top 5%

39%

From top 10%

53%

From top 20%

67%

From bottom 20%

4.5%

Data from the New York Times

 

“About 1.8% of students at Harvard came from a poor family but became a rich adult,” the Times reports.

 

In stark contrast to most other Ivy or Ivy-adjacent schools, Harvard does not participate in Questbridge, a program which “matches” high-achieving first generation, low income (FGLI) students with top colleges. 

 

Despite a relative lack of financial diversity, Harvard is still a fantastic option for low or even mid-income students. Harvard is need-blind, meaning the applicant’s ability to pay isn’t considered in admissions, even for international students. In many cases, the school’s financial aid grant is so generous that it’s actually cheaper for students to go to Harvard than their state school.

 

Harvard is also no-loan, meaning students are not required to pay back any part of their financial aid award. This is done with the intention of meeting a student’s level of financial need without crushing student loan debt. 

 

Finally, Harvard meets 100% demonstrated need for all admitted students regardless of citizenship or immigration status. Harvard’s average need-based scholarship is over $53,000 and 55% of students received need-based aid in 2020.

 

Geographic Diversity

 

The Harvard undergraduate population represents all 50 states and over 80 countries. Admissions takes special effort to include students from diverse geographical backgrounds, taking students from public schools, private schools, suburbs, farmlands, and cities.

 

84% of Harvard undergrads are from out-of-state, not including international students, which make up 12.7% of all undergraduates and 12.3% of all degree-seeking undergraduates.

 

Harvard considers geographical residency in admissions. This means that they may give special consideration to students from underrepresented states or general geographic regions such as the Midwest.

 

Cultural Resources at Harvard

 

Harvard’s Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program provides educational outreach to middle and high school students. They aim to provide young people with information about Harvard and encourage them to apply.

 

Unfortunately, Harvard has no fly-in programs for low-income or multicultural students, and the pandemic has led to many alterations, postponements, and cancellations of these programs as it is. Fortunately, demonstrated interest via campus visits isn’t considered in Harvard’s admissions process anyways.

 

Multicultural Resources

 

  • The Harvard Foundation for Intercultural & Race Relations
  • Office of Diversity Education & Support
  • David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies
  • Harvard University Native American Program
  • Harvard College Office of BGLTQ Student Life

 

Black and African American Community

 

Performance groups

  • KeyChange (a cappella group)
  • The Harvard LowKeys (a cappella group)
  • Pan-African Dance and Music Ensemble
  • Omo Naija Dance Troupe
  • Kuumba Singers
  • BlackC.A.S.T.
  • BMF Step Team
  • Passus: Harvard College Step Team
  • Eleganza (Fashion Show)

 

Pre-Professional

  • Black Pre-Law Association
  • Harvard Society of Black Scientists & Engineers
  • Black Premedical Society
  • Harvard Africa Business and Investment Club
  • Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa

 

Cultural Groups

  • Black Students Association
  • Association of Black Harvard Women
  • Black Men’s Forum
  • Harvard African Students Association
  • Nigerian Students Association
  • Caribbean Club
  • Eritrean-Ethiopian Students Association
  • SoulFood- Harvard College Black Christian Fellowship

 

Asian American Community

 

Performance groups

  • Asian American Dance Troupe
  • Bhangra
  • Ghungroo
  • Deepam
  • Pre-Professional
  • Task Force on Asian and Pacific American Studies
  • Harvard College in Asia Program
  • Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations
  • Harvard College China Forum
  • Harvard US India Initiative
  • Organization of Asian American Sisters in Service
  • Asian Student Arts Project
  • Gaongil: Harvard College Modern Korean Studies Society

 

Cultural Groups

  • Asian American Association
  • Asian American Women’s Association
  • Asian American Brotherhood
  • Harvard Pan-Asian Council
  • Chinese Students Association
  • Harvard South Asian Association
  • South Asian Women’s Collective
  • South Asian Men’s Collective
  • Dharma (Hindu Students Association
  • Iranian Association
  • Half-Asian People’s Association
  • Japan Society
  • Harvard Korean Association
  • Korean International Student Association
  • Pakistan Student Association
  • Singapore, Indonesia & Malaysia Association
  • Harvard Khmer Student Association
  • Vietnamese Association
  • Harvard Philippine Forum
  • Thai Society
  • Taiwanese Cultural Society
  • Hong Kong Society
  • Asian American Christian Fellowship
  • Queer Asian and Pacific Islanders Association

 

Latinx Community

 

Performance Groups

  • Mariachi Veritas
  • Latin Band
  • Candela Latin Dance Troupe
  • TEATRO
  • Presencia Latina

 

Pre-Professional Groups

  • HACIA Democracy
  • Harvard Latinxs in Finance and Technology
  • Latinos in Health Careers
  • Latina Empowerment and Development Conference
  • Society for Hispanic Engineers
  • Palabritas (Latinx Literary Publication)

 

Cultural Groups

  • Fuerza Latina
  • Latinas Unidas
  • Latino Men’s Collective
  • Concilio Latino
  • RAZA (Mexican-American/Chicano Students Association)
  • Harvard University Brazilian Association
  • Colombian Students Association
  • Cuban American Undergraduate Student Association
  • La Organización de Puertorriqueños en Harvard
  • Harvard University Latinx Students Alliance
  • Harvard Organization for Latin America

 

Native American Community

 

Cultural Groups

  • Native Americans at Harvard College
  • Harvard College Hawai‘i Club

 

Multicultural Organizations

 

  • Harvard College SHADE (BGLTQ+ People of Color)
  • AMBLE (Aspiring Minority Business Leaders & Entrepreneurs)
  • Harvard Undergraduate Union of Mixed Students

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Plans to Improve Diversity at Harvard

 

Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences released a Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Strategic Plan spanning between through 2019 and until 2024. Their goals as stated exactly on the planning document are as follows:

 

  1. Demonstrate an institutional commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging through equitable and inclusive policies, practices, and an infrastructure that supports these initiatives. 
  2. Recruit diverse faculty, students, postdoctoral researchers, and staff with special attention given to increasing the number of females and underrepresented minorities within the SEAS community.
  3. Reduce/prevent instances of harassment or discrimination based on any aspect of identity; create clear, easily accessible processes for reporting without fear of retaliation.
  4. Create a welcoming and inclusive environment where individuals of all identities, backgrounds, and experiences thrive, have a strong sense of belonging, and achieve academic and professional excellence. 
  5. Prepare students, faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and staff to engage in intergroup interactions; apply diversity, inclusion, and belonging best practices; and contribute to a safe environment. 
  6. Develop metrics to assess and report School climate, demographics, and progress toward diversity, inclusion, and belonging goals.
  7. Improve disability equity and inclusion at SEAS through inclusive instruction practices and increased resources.
  8. Expand outreach programs and initiatives to engage the Cambridge and Allston communities in STEM education.

 

The details of the plan range from simple recommendations to significant policy changes. Initiatives like this one and others created by Harvard’s Inclusion and Belonging Task Force are made in response to diversity issues common to historically white and/or male universities. 

 

Many elements of the Harvard experience, like club selectivity, adjusting from high school to college academics, and even relating socially to certain peers is made more difficult by coming from an underrepresented background. Some students come from very privileged backgrounds, while others have faced great adversity. 

 

Harvard aims to address these issues by making all groups feel welcomed and celebrated on campus. That way, Harvard will become a school that embodies diversity in the truest sense of the world, filling its college years with both a vast variety of perspectives and a sense of home.

 

LGBTQ+ Inclusivity at Harvard

 

Harvard’s Office of BGLTQ Student Life provides a vast array of resources for LGBTQ+ students including gender inclusive housing, support groups, counseling, gender and sexuality workshops, and more! The Open Gate Foundation Grant provides funding to students seeking LGBT+ specific grants, fellowships, and scholarship opportunities through the Harvard Gender and Sexuality Caucus. In addition, Harvard hosts Qoffee with QuInterns, a project connecting students to BGLTQ Student Life interns through informative, supportive conversation.

 

Some of Harvard’s LGBTQ+-inclusive student organizations:

 

  • BAGELS: Harvard’s group for bisexual, gay, lesbian, trans, and queer Jews, their friends, and supporters.
  • Contact Peer Counseling
  • Harvard Aces
  • Harvard BGLTQ and Allied Students In the Sciences (HBASIS)
  • Harvard College SHADE
  • Harvard Queer Asian and Pacific Islander Association (HQA)
  • Harvard Queer Undergraduate Athletes Do Sports (QUADS)
  • QUADS: a social group concerned with connecting BGLTQ athletes with one another
  • Harvard Undergraduate BGLTQ Business Society (HUBBS)
  • One Queer Harvard
  • Queer Students and Allies (QSA)
  • Trans Task Force (TTF)

 

Harvard provides ample opportunity to report instances of mistreatment or discrimination either to Deans, Tutors, or Proctors or through an anonymous report form.

 

How Diverse and Inclusive is Cambridge, Massachusetts?

 

According to the 2014-2018 American Community Survey, Cambridge is of low diversity with a 67% self-identifying White population. The city’s ethnic breakdown is as follows:

 

Population Ethnicity

Ethnicity Percentage

Black

11

Asian or Pacific Islander

16.1

Hispanic

9.2

White

67

White and Non-Hispanic

60.8

Mixed Race or Other

6

 

If you’re interested in ethnic restaurants, you should have no trouble finding them in Cambridge; Asian, African, Central American, and Meditteranean restaurants are highly popular there, as are African and East Asian apparel and furnishing shops. Culture is alive and well in this city!

 

As a whole, the city leans center-left, and it’s pretty LGBT+ friendly. In fact, LGBT+ publication The Advocate named Cambridge “America’s third-queerest city” in 2016. Their study took more than population percentages into consideration; Cambridge’s openly LGBT+ past mayors helped tip the scale, as did its many LGBT-friendly and LGBT-owned businesses. In addition, the City of Cambridge GLBT Commission maintains a strong presence through hosting events and staying highly active in the city and broader Boston area. 

 

Is Harvard the Right Fit for You?

 

Of course, diversity is just one of many factors you’ll consider in building your school list. Location, student culture, and academic offerings will all come into play, to name a few. 

 

Our Harvard profile page showcases these factors and more to provide a clearer picture of the educational experience it offers. If you’re curious about your chances of getting in, you may be interested in our chancing engine. Unlike other solely stats-based chancing calculators, ours looks at your profile holistically, including both your quantitative stats and qualitative extracurriculars.

 

If you’d like to expand your school list, you may like our easy-to-use school search tool to sift through dozens of universities. Simply specify your preferences regarding location, class size, testing policies, and more, and we’ll find the best fits for you within our extensive database.

 

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Michelle Foley
Essay Breakdown Writer at CollegeVine
Short bio
Michelle Foley is currently taking a gap year before starting at Yale College in Fall '21, where she is considering majoring in Art, English, or Cognitive Studies while earning her Spanish certificate. In her free time, she likes to paint, run, and read!