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Census and Sensibility

   
LAST spring Penn began asking alumni what they've been up to in the decade since the previous University-wide census, and they responded by the thousands. In addition to being an updated source of addresses and telephone numbers, the 1998 census provides a window into Quakers' diverse post-graduation lives.
   Out of 208,000 alumni whose addresses could be determined, 114,000 participated -- a 54 percent response rate, compared to the 32 percent projected by Harris Publishing, the company which handled the census.
   Alumni also sent in 10,000 resumes, numerous published works, and long letters. "They talked a lot about how Penn had shaped their lives and had helped them become the person they were," said Alexis McCann, C'79, the associate director of development information services who managed the project. "Many wrote really touching personal stories about how Penn had made a difference in their lives."
   Others were not so content, complaining, for instance, about the crassness of quizzing alumni on their household income and net worth, or charging that the University had become either too conservative or too politically correct. "We're not all (as Penn grads) trust-funders, investment bankers or neurosurgeons," wrote one alumnus in response to the questionnaire. "Many, if not most, of us are out there doing the laundry, cooking the meals, helping our kids with their homework, scraping by with the bills, and struggling mightily to live our lives with purpose and conscience. Penn apparently has no knowledge of this reality. None."
   Based on those who filled out the biographical portion of the eight-page census, here are some lesser-known facts about Penn alumni:
Number of alumni married to other alumni: 20 percent of married respondents
Most frequently listed country of origin outside the United States: India
Most frequently listed personal interest: travel
Top five occupations: physician, attorney, educator, consultant, manager
Bottom five occupations: factory worker, police officer/ detective, flight attendant, inspector, laborer
Source of most alumni's second degrees: Temple University
Average household income: $25,000-$99,000
Most common type of non-Penn volunteer activity: religious
Penn sport listed as number one interest: rowing
Actual responses to the census question on occupational specialty: herbs, yams, collards; money laundering; equine acu-puncture; companion animal; surgeon general; clown.
   

   
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Copyright 1999 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 2/18/99