Study Links Wealth and Power to Elite Universities


New research on the link between wealth and education has characterized the persona most likely to succeed – highly educated, cognitively able and intellectually gifted. Smarter, more educated people tended to be wealthier, gave more and had wider, wealthier and more powerful social networks.

The study, conducted by Duke University research scientist Dr Jonathan Wai and Wealth-X research director David Lincoln, examined 18,245 hand-curated Wealth-X dossiers of ultra high net worth individuals with systematic education and other baseline demographic information drawn from its database.

It unpacked how education and ability related to religion, ethnicity, political affiliation, relationship status, country, industry, leadership, gender, net worth, giving and network power. It also examined whether gender, religion, ethnicity or network power differences existed in ‘the right tail of wealth’ – the top 0.003% of the world’s population.

The conclusion demonstrated the value of cognitive ability and elite education in generating expertise to attain extreme wealth.

Entitled “Investigating the Right Tail of Wealth: Education, cognitive ability, giving, network power, gender, ethnicity, leadership, and other characteristics”, the study being published in the Intelligence January/February 2016 journal edition questioned the extent to which people in ‘the right tail of wealth’ were highly educated and cognitively able.

Internationally the assessment was made based on the QS World University Rankings and considering the top 10 schools within each country.

Elite education often a foundation

Evidence suggested elite education may be a foundation for developing expertise in wealth and power generation. The study showed elite education and ability were associated with greater wealth, the willingness to give and network power.

Women were underrepresented and female CEOs had to be better educated and more cognitively able to reach the company’s higher echelons. On the other end of the scale, Jewish individuals were over-represented by a factor around 234.

Men and billionaires – defined as having more than US$1 billion in net worth – donated the most, but women and ultra high net worth individuals were more willing to give more of what they had.

African Americans and self-made women had the highest network power, being connected to more influential people, but both African Americans and Caucasians were similarly educated and cognitively able. Politically, Democrats had a higher education and cognitive ability than Republicans.

Women were also twice as likely as men to have inherited their wealth and were most represented among company presidents and founders and least among CEOs and chairpersons.


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