When Forbes first began listing the 400 richest Americans in 1982, they counted only 13 billionaires. This Fall they counted so many, 300 U.S. billionaires were considered too poor to make the Forbes 400, meaning 700 in total. That’s probably an underestimate since billionaires have probably become too frequent for one magazine to count, but we’ll go with it.
Typically, Forbes reports that about 2/3rds of America’s super rich are self-made so let’s say 462 self-made U.S. billionaires. And I estimate about 93% are white males, so that’s about 430 white male self-made billionaires in America.
I estimate there are 232 million Americans old enough to be billionaires (the combined population of the Silent Generation to Generation Y, inclusive), and of these 67 million are white males. Thus becoming a self-made billionaire is about a one in 156,000 level achievement for white men, and the median white self-made billionaire is around the one in 312,000 level among white male self-made wealth. That’s equivalent to a normalized Z score of +4.53.
As noted in my last article, using the 0.16 correlation between IQ and net worth gives absurd results, it’s much better to think of self-made billionaires as people with super high permanent incomes. Among white men, the correlation between IQ and permanent income is 0.45, thus the expected IQ of a self-made white billionaire (0.45)(4.53 SD above white male mean) = 2.04 SD above the white male mean.
On a scale where all Americans have a mean IQ of 100 with an SD of 15, the white male mean and SD is 101 and 15.6 respectively, thus 2.04 SD above the white male mean equals IQ 132 (U.S. norms).
Even though this analysis was based only on white males, white males are about 93% of all U.S. self-made billionaires so it’s a good estimate of U.S. self-made billionaires in general. Even if you think the 7% of billionaires who are not white males would drag the average down, you have to keep in mind that a huge percentage of the “white” men are actually Ashkenazi which might drag the average up.
Further confirmation that the average IQ of U.S. self-made billionaires is around 130 comes from anecdotal evidence. The highest self-reported (old) SAT scores of any self-made billionaire are 1590 to 1600 (Bill Gates and Paul Allen) which equates to an IQ of about 170 on the pre-1995 scale and it’s difficult to imaging any elite being smarter than Bill Gates. The lowest self-reported SAT score of any gazillionaire is 500 (Bill Cosby) which equated to an IQ of 83. However my research shows that prior to the 1980s, black Americans scored 1.5 SD below whites on tests of reading and math, instead of the much more validated 1 SD gap on official IQ tests observed since WWI. Adjusting for this brings Cosby to about IQ 90.
Of course Cosby was technically never a billionaire, but he was worth $340 million in 1994 which is likely equivalent (in percentile rank) to being a billionaire in 2022.
Thus it seems reasonable to assume the IQs of U.S. self-made billionaires range from 90 to 170, and the mid-point of this range is 130, just as predicted from linear regression.
Based on her reading and math skills at age eight, I estimate Oprah has an IQ of 140. About 10 points higher than even the average self-made billionaire. This makes sense because unlike most self-made billionaires who come from an upper class background, Oprah overcame poverty, classism, weightism, colorism, and sexism to become the most worshipped billionaire on the planet, and thus needed to be more adaptable.
More importantly, while most self-made billionaires scored super high only on life’s IQ test (money), Oprah scored at the one in a million level on both life’s IQ test (money), and neurology’s IQ test (1884 cc brain size).
Scoring at the one in a million level on the two most Darwinian IQ tests (money AND brain size) shows much more intelligence than scoring Mega level on just one, hence she’s 10 points above even her self-made billionaire white male peers.
You can tell just from looking at her she’s the smarter than even most white self-made billionaires and was destined to spend decades of her life on the Forbes 400. As Donald Trump noted, nobody has more “it factor” than Oprah.
It is interesting to ask what Elon Musk’s IQ because in recent years, he overtook Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos as the richest person in the World (at least on paper). Of the 67 million white American men old enough to be billionaires, Musk is number one suggesting his permanent income has a normalized Z score of +5.53 and given the 0.45 correlation between IQ and permanent income among white men, a white male IQ Z score of 0.45(5.53) = 2.49 is expected. Given that white men have a mean of 101 and an SD of 15.6, this equates to IQ 140.
Of course this prediction tells us little about Musk’s IQ, but tells us a lot about the mean IQ of people who have been the richest American. When I think back at others who have held that title, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, Sam Walton, Musk seems around the middle of the pack so 140 is plausible. His math IQ is probably above 150 but his verbal IQ seems below 120. Kind of the opposite of Oprah.