Jamie Prince Guneratnam | Student ID: 2067526

how educated are our billionaires

This project seeks to investigate if there are obvious links between extreme wealth and education- with a primary focus on billionaires and education at the undergraduate level. Is an undergraduate degree crucial for achieving exorbitant amounts of wealth? Do countries with more educated populations produce more billionaires?

Let us first look at the trend in wealth over the years. Both the number of billionaires and the share of total net worth held by the top 1% show an upward trend. Adjusting Chart 2 to begin in 2008, we see the trend in both charts are very similar.

Source Colab Data Code

Source Colab Data Code

Data the charts were obtained using Python in Google Colab- linked in the Colab buttons. Chart 1 used a scrapper to easily save data from Wikipedia tables into a CSV file. Chart 2’s data was obtained using a loop that batch downloads data from the FRED API in JSON format.

Looking at degrees.

Next, I gathered data from an article published by Forbes on the most popular degrees studied by the richest in the US in 2021 to create a bar chart with inline data. Interestingly we see a larger number who have dropped out of university than those who did not attend at all.

Source Code

With that, I wanted to see the proportions of billionaires who had an undergraduate’s degree. To do this, I selected the 5 countries with the highest number of billionaires in 2021 and gathered data on the 10 richest individuals of each country. The majority in all countries had obtained at least an undergraduate degree. Although this is a very small sample size, it may still prove to be consistent. The US portion tells us 70% of the billionaires had a degree while Chart 3 tells us 80% with a 291 sample size.

In addition to the 5 countries, I thought it would also be interesting to look at the 10 richest women. It’s worth noting 9/10 of the women obtained their wealth from their family or late husbands.

Source Data Code

I ran into some issues scrapping the data used in Chart 5 as the site protects itself from mining. However, upon inspecting the page source I noticed that all the data needed was visible in ‘divs’. To circumvent this, I saved the HTML of the page externally and uploaded it to my GitHub repository and ran my codes through that instead. I was then able to obtain and clean all the data I wanted using the Python scrapper linked.

Source Colab Data Code

Selecting the same 5 countries, I was able to see which industries brought the most wealth in 2021 and in the selected countries.

Looking at correlations.

Linear Regression

Now to understand the relationship between the number of billionaires and the education level, I carried out regressions using Vegalite. I ran the same regressions using regplot Seaborn linked above.

Colab 1 Colab 2 Data Code

The percentage of the population over 25 that had completed at least short-cycle tertiary was used as my measure of a country’s education level. It and the GDP per capita data were obtained from the World Bank. This data was challenging to chart. However, I was able to simplify it with the use of pandas. Compiled from various online resources and learning material from the course, Colab 1 was used to obtain WB data on all countries and years while Colab 2 gathered selected countries and years data. Data on the total number of billionaires from each country uses the same Wikipedia scrapper in Chart 1. Data was combined using pandas and Microsoft Excel to contain the 3 indicators from 2015-2020 in 60 countries.

Missing data on education attainment was coded as 0 and filtered in Vegalite to be excluded from the chart. I also used Vegalite’s transform function to show educational attainment to percentage.

From the charts, we do not observe a clear trend in the number of billionaires and the education level of the country along with a low R squared value. However, there exists a clear trend with National Income- measured as GDP per capita, which is another way to look at wealth. We see a clear positive correlation.

In conclusion.

Addressing the two main questions at the beginning, it would seem the majority of billionaires do in fact have an undergraduate degree. However, we cannot view this as causal. As for the second question posed, we cannot conclude that countries with more educated populations produce more billionaires. But, there seems to be a positive correlation between wealth and education.

To take this research further, it may be interesting to look at the difference in education for billionaires in different geographical regions. From Chart 4, I believe billionaires in Asian countries are less likely to have tertiary education compared to western countries. As alluded to earlier, it may also be interesting to look at how many of the world’s wealthiest come from already wealthy families.