There are many factors that go into high educational and occupational achievement, including hard work, motivation, and luck. But how important is talent? Specifically, how likely were global innovators and leaders intellectually talented or gifted when younger? This paper reviews retrospective data on multiple US samples (Total N = 11,745), including Chief Executive Officers, federal judges, politicians, multi-millionaires and billionaires, business leaders, elite journalists, and the “most globally powerful men and women”, examining to what extent these groups were in the top 1% in general intellectual talent in youth, also examining their educational backgrounds. About 50% of these leaders were in the top 1% of our indicator of ability, so overrepresented by a factor of about 50. Elite education, and especially the impact of Harvard, was notable, suggesting that in addition to talent, elite education and networks were important. These data suggest that various occupations may draw from different levels of intellectual giftedness. Based on this data and a synthesis of prior literature, concrete policy recommendations for gifted education are provided. We recommend a policy focus on talented low income and disadvantaged students, who are greatly underrepresented among these leaders of US society.
Jonathan Wai & Heiner Rindermann(2017)What goes into high educational and occupational achievement? Education, brains, hard work, networks, and other factors,High Ability Studies,28:1,127-145,DOI: 10.1080/13598139.2017.1302874