Ivy League Professor Stunned To Learn What Her Students Think The Average U.S. Worker Makes Per Year
When a professor at Wharton Business School asked her students what they thought the average American worker makes, their response demonstrated her Ivy Leaguers still had much to learn.
According to the 2021 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the average American worker makes closer to $51,480.
Nina Strohminger teaches legal studies and business ethics at the prestigious Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania–which is ranked by U.S. News as the No. 2 business school in the nation.
Strohminger was dumbfounded after one of her students said they believed the average American worker made $800K.
No, Wharton students, the average U.S. worker does not make $800,000https://trib.al/97jaHpz— MarketWatch (@MarketWatch) 1642730072
"I asked Wharton students what they thought the average American worker makes per year and 25% of them thought it was over six figures," she wrote on Twitter.
"One of them thought it was $800k. Really not sure what to make of this (The real number is $45k)"
I asked Wharton students what they thought the average American worker makes per year and 25% of them thought it was over six figures. One of them thought it was $800k. Really not sure what to make of this (The real number is $45k)— Nina Strohminger (@Nina Strohminger) 1642646435
By Thursday afternoon, her tweet received 100,000 likes and nearly 20,000 retweets.
Satisfied at seeing her tweet go viral, she further explained that the miscalculation was not exclusive to Wharton students–whose full-time tuition costs $80,432 per year.
She added that many people tend to underestimate the average annual salary in America and the degree to which wealth inequality exists.
"A lot of people want to conclude that this says something special about Wharton students— I’m not sure it does," she wrote in a follow-up tweet.
"People are notoriously bad at making this kind of estimate, thinking the gap between rich and poor is smaller than it is."
A lot of people want to conclude that this says something special about Wharton students\u2014 I\u2019m not sure it does. People are notoriously bad at making this kind of estimate, thinking the gap between rich and poor is smaller than it is.— Nina Strohminger (@Nina Strohminger) 1642685150
This was indeed why I asked bschool students: I was curious if they were as biased as everyone else. Further reading: https://tinyurl.com/45cefuwt\u00a0 and https://tinyurl.com/dxpumce5— Nina Strohminger (@Nina Strohminger) 1642685150
Strohminger's viral tweet sparked some impassioned responses, with many of them commenting on the privileged background of Wharton students lacking insight.
We wanted to know how much money the average American makes each year. So we asked a group of students at the Wharton business school.— New York Times Pitchbot (@New York Times Pitchbot) 1642708868
Methinks a bunch of Wharton students might have had a slightly different experience with relation to familial wealth growing up than the average American as well.https://twitter.com/ninastrohminger/status/1483992827482804224\u00a0\u2026— Nat Burroughs (@Nat Burroughs) 1642782627
The average Wharton students' parents probably do make $800k per year...https://twitter.com/NinaStrohminger/status/1483992827482804224\u00a0\u2026— John Lundin \ud83c\udf0a (@John Lundin \ud83c\udf0a) 1642778386
Only wealthy people think the gap between rich and poor is smaller than it is. Ask any poor person.— Extra Smith (@Extra Smith) 1642686430
This is why the wealth gap is so toxic to our society. The rich literally have no concept of how anyone actually lives. And most people I've met do not make even 45k a year. |:— Embersign (@Embersign) 1642666100
and the annual average income in west philly where Wharton is located is $34,579https://twitter.com/ninastrohminger/status/1483992827482804224\u00a0\u2026— Maggie Hart (@Maggie Hart) 1642685758
Don't you think business students at Wharton should have to do one of those simulations where they have to live like people on 45k for a week? A reality show? That's my pitch. You can take it, if you want.— LLStephens (@LLStephens) 1642658728
I think you could deduce from this that there are a lot of legacy admits at Wharton. (Notable ones: the Trump kids, including Ivanka who, when told that libertarian and liberal were not the same thing, replied, 'I'll take it under advisement'")https://twitter.com/NinaStrohminger/status/1483992827482804224\u00a0\u2026— Elizabeth Spiers (@Elizabeth Spiers) 1642678718
It tells me that these Wharton students grew up in privilege and never experienced an eviction notice.— Sandra Bucciero (@Sandra Bucciero) 1642686202
USA Today said what makes an "average American" was debatable but noted how income was measured based on the total for a household, given that some workers are part-time or they take time off at a moment's notice to tend to urgent matters.
Estimates from Jeffrey Wenger, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corp., indicated you are middle class if your median household income for 2020 was from $50,641 to $135,042.
The article noted this kind of estimate was "typically calculated by taking two-thirds of the median household income for the lower bound and twice the median for the upper bound."