Elites. They’re all over the news these days. But who are they and what do we know about them? An excellent new study, Who Rules the World? A Portrait of the Global Leadership Class, takes a systematic approach to answer these questions. At its heart lies a new database, the Global Leadership Project (GLP), which covers 145 nation-states and 38,085 ‘leaders’, each of whom is given biographical information. In total, the database has approximately 1.1 million data points. Academics at several leading institutions, John Gerring, Erzen Oncel, the late Kevin Morrison, and Daniel Pemstein, then sliced and diced this data to arrive at a compelling picture of today’s leadership elite.
Who Are Counted As The Global Elite?
They look at the country’s top political leader, the political executives, cabinet ministers, executive staff, party leaders, assembly leaders, supreme court justices, and members of parliaments. They also include unelected leaders such as monarchs, religious leaders, military leaders, junta leaders, CEOs of important companies, and NGO leaders.
So What Does the Typical Member of the Elite Look Like?
Male (81% of the total), married (91%), and on average 55 years old. They speak roughly two languages, with over one third speaking English. They are normally university educated with almost half educated in the West. Their most common degrees were in Economics/Business/Management or Law. The majority had white collar jobs or political backgrounds before entering the leadership elite. Typically, they earn thirteen times more than national average.
Chart 1: Education of Political Elites
What About the Leader at the Top?
The top political leaders tended to be older (on average 61), and more of them were male (92%) and could speak English (59%). They tend to be educated abroad, rather than domestically. Also, they are likely to have studied Economics/Business/Management (35%) more than any other subject (next is law at 17%). They are as likely to have political backgrounds as white collar backgrounds.
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