The Academic Majors of the Top 1 Percent


Can an academic major determine future riches? At all? Well, maybe. According to a piece at the New York Times’s Economix blog by Robert Gebeloff and Shaila Dewan:

We got an interesting question from an academic adviser at a Texas university: could we tell what the top 1 percent of earners majored in?

According to the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey, the majors that give you the best chance of reaching the 1 percent are pre-med, economics, biochemistry, zoology and, yes, biology, in that order.

Other majors on the list include physiology, art history and criticism, international relations, accounting, and area, ethnic and civilization studies.

What do these things have in common? Well, nothing. This kinda random distribution suggests that it’s more likely that the majors don’t really have much to do with college students’ “chances of reaching the 1 percent.”

Any person’s chances of reaching the top 1 percent are actually very, very low (unless his parents are members of the top 1 percent). This is true whether he majored in finance or women’s studies, or even if he never graduated from college at all.

In truth, getting to the top 1 percent requires what appears to be a combination of luck, creativity, hard work, and inherited wealth (not to mention a very regressive tax policy).

One’s academic major probably doesn’t have much do to with this at all. The major might help you get your first job after college. After that it’s pretty much up to you. [Image via]

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer