What is the Most Common Subject Studied by American Billionaires?

Hint: It isn’t business, maths or physics

Malky McEwan


My guess would have been computing, as studied by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, but it isn’t. Both these bright sparks dropped out to launch their startups.

It’s not physics, accounting, or engineering either.

The answer is economics.

Elon Musk graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physics, but he also has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. Steve Cohen, Meg Whitman, and Bob Kraft all studied economics in college.

Warren Buffett studied business administration, but he attended the New York Institute of Finance to focus on economics. This gave him lasting financial insight.

The question is why?

What is it about economics that gives people the edge to go on and earn millions, or even billions, of dollars?

A Trip to the Coffee Shop

“Be warned,” he said. “If you take this course, you will never walk into a coffee shop and feel the same again.”

This self-assured lecturer had my son entranced. He had to decide which course of study to undertake. And the tweed coat with the salt and pepper beard was convincing.

Take a trip to any coffee shop and buy yourself a cappuccino and a slice of cake. Chat with a friend or read the paper. Your experience is what you see, touch, taste, and smell.

My son enjoys that too. But as a business graduate, he also looks at the staff processes and either finds fault or admires their efficiency. Most coffee shops are inefficient models, he tells me.

An economist sitting at the next table will have an entirely different experience. What she knows gives her a unique perspective.

Economists see the people around them as players in a game, a game that involves navigating through the negotiations and hidden meanings of our complex financial and commercial system.

They have studied money.