Lay prestige is mostly a regional thing, and regional preferences greatly influence hiring trends. Go to any market, and you can find a school whose lay prestige belies its ranking(s).
Try going to California and telling people UCLA and USC aren't really top-10 schools. Try telling people in Austin, Houston or Dallas that Texas isn't waaaaaay better than Georgetown or Cornell. Try telling people in the Southeast that Duke and Vanderbilt aren't really top-5. Try telling Chicagoans that Northwestern really isn't just as good or better than U-Chicago and Michigan.
Regional Lay Prestige Theory works for lower ranked schools, too, especially the ones that absolutely dominate their home markets. And you can rationalize it, because the only schools able to secure their grads employment in such markets are essentially T14 schools.
For example, you can understand why people in Seattle might think U-Washington and Seattle-U are grossly under-ranked and underrated (note: they are not the same thing). The only other grads working in Seattle come from essentially top-10 schools, so Seattleites believe UW and SU must be on par with those schools. They don't understand why it would be hard for someone from Ohio State, for example, to work in Seattle if it were just as good as a school.
Miami, Florida and Florida State have plenty of prestige in their market(s), and they dominate in the same way. As a general rule, only HYS, CCN, and Duke and Vanderbilt get work there.
In the D.C./MD area GWU equals Georgetown.
BC equals BU in Boston. Moreover, Bostonians perceive BU and BC as being top-20 schools who are only ranked lower because the rankers don't want Boston schools to dominate.
In the midwest (outside of Chicago and Michigan), WUSTL and Notre Dame are going to have prestige rivaling the Chicago schools and U-Michigan.
Last edited by PDaddy
on Sun Jul 31, 2011 7:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.