Harvard banners hang outside Memorial Church on the Harvard University campus.
Photo by Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Anne Fisher
September 23, 2014

Graduating from Harvard is no guarantee that anyone will become a billionaire. But, apparently, it doesn’t hurt.

Fifty-two living billionaires hold a degree from the school, almost twice as many as those who graduated from second-place University of Pennsylvania, with 28 billionaire alumni. The other universities in the top 10, in descending order: Stanford, NYU, Columbia, MIT, Cornell, USC, and Yale. The U.K.’s Cambridge University is the only school outside the U.S. to make the list. Eleven of its recent grads are worth $1 billion or more.

Didn’t go to any of those schools? Cheer up. The ranking is part of a detailed new study of the world’s billionaires, by WealthX, a market research firm that helps businesses reach ultra-rich consumers, and UBS, whose wealth management arm handles a big chunk of their money. The report points out that, although 68% of billionaires hold at least a four-year degree, a sheepskin “is not a prerequisite to then go on and amass a billion-dollar fortune,” since one in three billionaires either never went to college at all or didn’t stick around to finish.

More fun facts about the super-rich: The United States is “the billionaire capital of the world,” the report says, with 515 citizens with net worth that exceeds $2 billion. That’s more than three times as many as second-place China, with 157. Although China has the largest percentage of billionaires (89%) who describe themselves as “self-made.”

Worldwide, only 20% of billionaires inherited their dough. Another 20%, like Donald Trump, inherited a small pile and turned it into a big one. Well over half (60%), like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, started from scratch.

With 96 billionaires, New York has the most of any city, followed by Hong Kong with 75, Moscow (74), London (67), and Mumbai (30). San Francisco and Tokyo are each home to 20. Houston has 14.

These folks’ global average net worth is $3 billion (the U.S. average is $4 billion), of which 18%, or $545 million, is in cash or other liquid assets at any given time. Their ranks are growing. So far this year, the WealthX report says the billionaire population has grown by 7% compared to what it was in 2013, and it has reached a record-high 2,325. At the same time, their combined wealth jumped by 12%.

The nice thing about having a few billion dollars is the way it lets you ride out little bumps in the road like, for instance, a global economic calamity. While Americans’ average income has stagnated over the past few years, the uppermost tier of the 1% are doing pretty well. “Since the financial markets bottomed out in March 2009 following the financial crisis,” notes the WealthX report, “the total wealth of billionaires has more than doubled, to $6.5 trillion—more than the GDP of every country except the U.S. and China.”

Recession? What recession?


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