t’s common knowledge that success is two-parts hard work and one-part luck. But what about smarts? Are the world’s richest people really the most intelligent people around?
Pretty much, yes, according to new research by Duke University’s Jonathan Wai, sent to Business Insider and first reported by CNBC’s Robert Frank.
Wai found that within the top one per cent of smart people, the smarter you are, the richer you are.
Overall, billionaires tended to be the smartest people. Some 45% of them are part of the top 1% of smart people. That compares to 39% of not-billionaire Fortune 500 CEOs; 41% of Senators, and 40% of federal judges.
Tech billionaires and those who made their money from investments seem to be the smartest of all. Wei found that 63% in tech and 69% in finance were among the brainpower elite.
Billionaires who made their money in fashion and retail, food and beverage weren’t as brilliant. About one-quarter of them were brainiacs.
Wei came to these conclusions by looking at the colleges these people attended. If they went to one of 29 “elite colleges,” there were considered to be among the top 1% of smart people. These schools require high test scores for admittance and that indicates very high intelligence, he reasoned.
You can argue that this is a pretty flawed way to measure intelligence. It automatically filters out smart people who didn’t attend elite colleges and automatically assigns a high IQ to those were accepted because their parents were alumni, or they got an athletic scholarship. Wai acknowledges that flaw but says those two exceptions balance each other out.
Interestingly, this research runs counter to a study done in 2007 by Jay Zagorsky, at Ohio State University.
Zagorsky’s study found no correlation between wealth and IQ. It looked at people who did well on the Armed Forces Qualification Test and how their wealth grew over time. While smarter people did earned bigger salaries, they were no more likely to become super rich over time than those with an average IQ.
So maybe the answer to the question of wealth and smarts is this: It won’t automatically make you a billionaire but it certainly helps.
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