This is very informative. Thank God for/God save us from the Internets. This information might well answer the question: what happens to those "left behind" at Harvard in a terrible market. I wouldn't instead say those at the "bottom of the class" or the "unemployably socially awkward" or the "f'ups," or some combination of those, because you never really know what happened. Maybe someone overshot, or had something go terribly wrong during OCI, or had a major family issue, of thought they wanted to do PI but eventually decided on Quinn
, or puked at a firm event during 1L summer (or the first 2 things I mentioned) - in a big class any of these things can and will happen. But it's not likely they happen that much more today than a few years ago. Fewer jobs mean fewer "stretches" by employers, even at Harvard.
However, my takeaway, as an old guy who recruits at Harvard is, basically, positive. So, almost everyone can get a "real" job, eventually, with help from the school safety net that has always quietly existed at all of the top schools. It's being noticed now, which is easier given the new transparency coinciding with a bad economy and more school-created and funded gigs. One thing is clear: looking at a sample that is large enough from which to draw reasonable conclusions, this group of jobs is not "Harvard material," generally speaking. While some are quite good, top-to-bottom it is far from representative of what you'd expect to see for the run-of-the-mill HL grads and not probably in the game plan for most of these people. I would suggest that there is a correlation between not doing well as an applicant and getting one of these school-funded jobs, which surprisingly to me seems to be open to debate even after the leg work from Mr. Gunn to pull actual results.
My impression is that, historically, the top-school safety net was borne of pride and obligation, not a perceived need to game the system or keep up with the other guy for US News purposes. But that might not be the case today. Don't know. But if you needed the insurance at Harvard or Yale, you probably would have really needed it at Fordham, and it wouldn't have been there. In that limited sense, the dubious "full employment" data for the top 10 or so schools is actually somewhat relevant for the very risk-averse.
Edit: to clarify, I am only addressing the topic of the many new
school-funded jobs. I am sure that plenty of these jobs, before and during the recession, were desirable and "legit" however that is defined. But there have always been some school-sponsored positions that were what I called a safety net. Common sense (plus the job review above) suggest jobs addressing that purpose have expanded. There have always been some people at the margin everywhere, and the margin has moved.