October 26, 2009

Changes in Forbes 400 from 1987 to 2009

The Forbes 400 is the most fun of the many rankings published by magazines these days, because individuals rapidly ascend and descend due to changes in fortune. In contrast, most of the other lists are forced to generate some excitement by arbitrarily changing their standards. For example, the US News and World Report list of top universities would be wholly stagnant if they didn't constantly shuffle their rules. For example, one year Cal Tech suddenly vaulted to #1, because the editors had changed the rules to benefit Cal Tech. The next year, Cal Tech had dropped considerably because the rules were changed again. Similarly, Golf Digest's Top 100 Golf Courses list has always featured Pine Valley as #1, except for brief periods when they fiddle with the methodology.

But the Forbes 400 is fun each year, because people really do rise and fall while the methodology stays the same. For example, casino king Sheldon Adelson came out of nowhere to peak at #3 in 2007, but is now down to 26.

But that turnover makes comparisons of two separate years a little tricky because different sectors come in and out of fashion. Nonetheless, comparing Nathaniel Weyl's ethnic breakdown of the 1987 Forbes 400 to one based on Jakob Berkman's work on the 2009 Forbes 400 seems reasonable. Race / History / Evolution Notes has the 1987 and 2009 figures here.

For example, Italians are up and Armenians are down. (Keep in mind that these are just estimates, and there are lots of complications in the way of coming up with perfect counts.)

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

"... one year Cal Tech suddenly vaulted to #1, because the editors had changed the rules to benefit Cal Tech. The next year, Cal Tech had dropped considerably because the rules were changed again."

They only dropped to #4. But the change in weighting factors was pretty dramatic in order to accomplish that.


Alan said...

Would love to see some year-by-year graphs on this data. It would say more than a thousand essays on evolution of modern America.

Anonymous said...

I know a guy on the Forbes 400 list - he claims they way way underestimate his wealth, which is almost all in private holdings. I imagine that's the case for a lot of privately-held wealth.

Anonymous said...

I like to see a list of he 400 poorest people in America--not who doesn't have the cash--there's lots of people with zero--, but who owes the most...

jody said...

their rankings of sports team values are more fun.

the values do move around every year, and it's interesting to see how much money each made or lost, and who owns the team, and how many times you would have to win powerball to buy random team x, and so forth.

Steve Sailer said...

"400 poorest"

At some point, Cullen Davis, the oilman who murdered his 11-year-old stepdaughter and then was successfully by my old boss Racehorse Haynes, was noted by Forbes for having the biggest negative net worth -- something like $-850,000,000.

Freddy said...

One less member of the Jewish faith on the list:

Anonymous said...

If the financial collapse of September 2008 taught us anything, it's that there isn't a whole lot of difference between being having a very large positive net worth and having a very large negative net worth - it's the absolute value of the thing which determines whether you have access to the corridors of power.

Ain't fiat money grand?