An Empirical Description of Billionaires

Andrew A. Anabila, Eunyoung Whang


We investigate why some countries such as the U.S. have more billionaires than others. And why some countries (e.g., China, Russia, India) have turned out increasing number of billionaires in recent years whereas some others (e.g., Japan) experienced decreases. To explain this phenomenon, we use country level factors (i.e., culture, economic development, and law and order tradition) and an individual factor (i.e., education). We use six aspects of Hofstede et al.’s (2010) culture variables to examine which dimensions of culture foster billionaires. To explain billionaires’ effort at the individual level, we examine the role of education in billionaires’ ability to accumulate and sustain their wealth in the future. Using 11,783 individual observations from annual Forbes “The World’s Billionaires List” from 1999 to 2013, we find that billionaires are bred not born: in cultures with more power distance, more individuality, less masculinity, and more long-term orientation, individuals have more chance to become billionaires and promote their wealth. In addition, the degree of individuals’ education affects their ability to create wealth as well as to sustain it in the future. Our findings have supports in literature on psychology, labor economics and signaling theory.

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Accounting and Finance Research
ISSN 1927-5986 (Print)   ISSN 1927-5994 (Online) Email:

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