How to Be a Billionaire, Revealed by Pareto Charts

Cody Steele 04 March, 2015

Forbes ranked the world’s billionaires for 2015 this week, which gives us a good opportunity to have fun with some data. After all, when you’re talking about billions, the most fun you can have is to see how big the number can get.

hundred dollar bills

If you copy and paste Forbes’ data directly, you’ll find it a bit messy for analysis. For example, the sources of wealth for the billionaires include Telcom, Telecom, Telecom Equipment, Telecom Services, Telecommunications, and Telecoms. And that’s after you make sure that the capitalization is consistent. My cleaning has not been too rigorous, but I think it’s enough to get started.

Who to Work For

Forbes ascribes the wealth most of the billionaires on the list to industries, but supplies company names for some of the more familiar brands. Among those that I recognized as brands, here are the companies that support the most billionaires:

Companies listed as the source of wealth for the most billionaire

Although Mark Zuckerberg is the face of Facebook, Facebook’s created 7 other billionaires in its lifespan. Of course, that’s still not as many as Cargill, but Cargill seems to have an unfair edge in terms of diversification. Cargill includes everything from Crisco Vegetable Oil to Black River Asset Management LLC among its products.

Where to Work

You might look to see where most of the billionaires are, but then you would probably see only that countries with larger populations have more billionaires than countries with smaller populations. A graph with harder-to-anticipate results comes when you look at the average wealth of the billionaires in a country.

Countries with the wealthiest average billionaires

If you expected to see the United States, China, and Russia, they’re absent from the Top 10 list of countries in terms of the mean wealth of billionaires in the country. Mexico, influenced heavily by the wealth of Carlos Helu, leads the list of countries where the mean wealth of billionaires is highest. Among these nations, France has the most billionaires with 46.

 What to Do

Different countries are stronger in different industries. Forbes lists the source of wealth for four Finnish billionaires as “Elevators” and for three French billionaires as “Cheese.” But worldwide, there’s a clear winner.

Industries cited as the source of wealth for the most billionaires

Employment numbers bode well for math and science jobs, but real estate is the industry that’s produced the most current billionaires. It’s not clear how many the Diversified category might add to any of the other sources, but I can imagine that many diversified billionaires make money from real estate and investments.

Wrap Up

So would being a realtor for Cargill in Mexico really put you on the path to being a billionaire? I’ll probably never be able to tell you from experience. But we can certainly dream.


I used pareto charts to show these data. If you're ready for more, check out how to explain quality statistics so your boss will understand.

The image of cash is by Amanda and is licensed under this Creative Commons license.