There are 2,325 billionaires on this planet.
Surprisingly, 35% of them don’t hold an undergraduate degree.
Unsurprisingly, those that do tend to flock to the Ivy League.
According to research firm Wealth-X’s Billionaire Census, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, and Yale are the schools with the most billionaire alumni.
Here’s its list of the 20 schools with the most billionaire grads:
So why do these elite schools attract individuals who create the most wealth?
Duke University researcher Jonathan Wai attempted to answer as much in a recent research paper called “Investigating The World’s Rich And Powerful.”
It’s clear that powerful people are overrepresented at top-tier colleges. Wai found that while only 2% to 5% of US undergraduates went to one of these super-elite schools, 44.8% of American billionaires did. And he believes it’s due to a mixture of personality and privilege.
So even if (Stanford-educated) billionaire investor Peter Thiel is telling you not to go to college, the stats suggest that you should if you’re trying to break into the billionaires club.
Wai provides three arguments as to why:
One could argue that, especially for billionaires, many of these people got a leg up in college admissions due to their parent’s wealth and influence. However, even among self-made billionaires, the percentage attending elite schools was not much different. Still, it is hard to completely rule out the possibility that this trend is, in part, about money and elite college attendance as a symbol of status for the ruling class.
Alternatively, it could be that many of the smartest people end up attending elite schools due to their high standardized test scores and other academic metrics. Maybe it’s not elite college attendance that matters as much as the personal traits they had before they even went to college. Following that theory, whether (Delta State University alum and UPS CEO) David Abney went to a state school or an elite school, perhaps he still would have risen to the top spot at UPS because of who he is.
Or it might be that the power of the networks, brand name, and quality of education that come with elite school attendance is why so many of these people ended up in such positions of influence.
For a deeper look into why elite colleges are so tied to cultural elites, read Wai’s full post.
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