American Jewish families in the 20th century valued education. A popular joke defined a “Jewish dropout” as “a boy who didn’t get his Ph.D.” The joke has been cited in print since at least 1967.
“A Jewish fetus is not considered viable until it graduates from medical school” is a similar joke.
17 May 1967, The Evening Times (Trenton, NJ), “Grandfather Getting A.B. Degree” by Sharon Bertsch, pg. 17, col. 3:
“Maybe I’ll be a Jewish dropout. Do you know the joke? That’s someone with an M.A.”
(Morris Bressler, a Jewish grandfather completing a degree at Rutgers University.—ed.)
The Passionate People:
What it Means to be a Jew in America
By Roger Kahn
New York, NY: Morrow
So many get advanced degrees that a Jewish dropout has been defined as an M.A.
According to a Jewish saying, a Jewish dropout is a boy who didn’t get his Ph.D.
Google News Archive
18 December 1979, Kentucky New Era (Hopkinsville, KY), “Fortune Cookie” (AP), pg. 2, col. 1:
Then there’s the definition variety: “A Jewish dropout is a boy who didn’t get his Ph.D.”
(A Jewish fortune cookie.—ed.)
How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household
By Blu Greenberg
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
As the borscht circuit joke goes: What is a Jewish dropout? One without a Ph.D.
The Jewish People in America
By Henry L. Feingold
Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press
Going to college became virtually universal among Jewish youth, and a Jewish dropout was now defined as a person with only a bachelor’s degree.
The New Joys of Yiddish:
By Leo Rosten
New York, NY: Crown Publishers
Jewish dropout: a boy who didn’t get his Ph.D. — Anon
Jewish dropout: A boy who didn’t get his Ph.D.
1:15 PM - 6 Jun 2009
At Adam Gopnik event: “I’m the only one in my family without a PhD. That’s known as being a Jewish dropout.”
6:49 PM - 10 Feb 2012
“If you’re a Jewish dropout, it means you get an MA instead of a PhD” - my dsoc prof
9:26 AM - 16 Sep 2014
“Jewish dropout: a boy who didn’t get his Ph.D. —ANON” http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/7193177-jewish-dropout-a-boy-who-didn-t-get-his-ph-d-anon …
1:05 PM - 28 Jul 2015
Welcome to My World:
A retired rabbi talks teaching, translating and interpreting God’s word
By Melissa Binder | The Oregonian/OregonLive
on October 05, 2015 at 5:03 AM, updated October 05, 2015 at 5:04 AM
The old joke is: “What’s the definition of a Jewish dropout?” And the definition is: “A kid without a master’s degree.” Education is among the highest values.