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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Elite Education

At Quartz, Jonathan Wai writes:
The following data in the graph below are taken from another research paper which can be found here (pdf). I looked at the educational backgrounds of US Fortune 500 CEOs, federal judges, senators, House members, attendees at the World Economic Forum in Davos (which included CEOs, journalists, academics, and people in government and policy), and the most powerful men and women according to Forbes. The blue bars indicate the elite school percentage (undergraduate or graduate school). The red bars indicate the graduate school percentage not included in the elite category. The green bars indicate those who graduated from college independent of the other two categories. And the NR/NC category indicates people who did not report or had no college.

elites and school

One might argue that the Fortune 500 CEO elite school percentage of roughly 38% is not very high. But this value should be taken in the broader context. Note the purple bars, which show that nearly everyone in the US elite graduated from college. This flatly contradicts the stories glamorizing college dropouts—such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg—who both were accepted by and attended Harvard. Next, it’s interesting to note that 44.8% of billionaires, 55.9% of powerful women, 63.7% of Davos attendees, and 85.2% of powerful men attended elite schools. Finally, 55.6% of the journalists who attended Davos went to elite schools. I conducted my own analysis of the data on The New Republic masthead, suggesting that roughly 64.2% attended elite schools. Data on the New York Times was not systematically available, but it is unlikely to be much different, and may even be more select given its reputation.

Based on census and college data, I estimate that only about 2% to 5% of all US undergraduates went to one of these elite schools. That makes all these US elite groups well above what you would expect in the general population. And this doesn’t even include the percentage who went to a “non-elite” graduate school.