Monday, September 18, 2006

Ivy League CEOs

Today's Wall Street Journal reports that American business is not elitist:

'Any College Will Do'

The college diplomas of the nation's top executives tell an intriguing story: Getting to the corner office has more to do with leadership talent and a drive for success than it does with having an undergraduate degree from a prestigious university.

Most CEOs of the biggest corporations didn't attend Ivy League or other highly selective colleges. They went to state universities, big and small, or to less-known private colleges....

Some 10% of CEOs currently heading the top 500 companies received undergraduate degrees from Ivy League colleges, according to a survey by executive recruiter Spencer Stuart. But more received their undergraduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin than from Harvard, the most represented Ivy school [with 9 CEOs].

Interesting spin. You could turn the numbers around and tell a different story. My very rough guess is that about 1 percent of college graduates have degrees from Ivy League schools. So that 10-percent figure means that an Ivy League graduate is about ten times more likely to become a CEO than is an average college graduate.

Of course, the better chances for the Ivy League grad are largely a selection effect rather than a treatment effect, as discussed in this old article by Alan Krueger.