The Educational Backgrounds of American Business and Government Leaders: Inter-Industry Variation in the Recruitment of Executives

Colloquium | February 7 | 3-4 p.m. | Evans Hall, 768 Library Evans Hall (newly renovated)

 Steven G. Brint, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Public Policy, UC Riverside

 Center for Studies in Higher Education , Department of Sociology

Join the conversation, as Steven G. Brint, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Public Policy, UC Riverside will discuss, "The Educational Backgrounds of American Business and Government Leaders: Inter-Industry Variation in the Recruitment of Executives". Sociological work in the tradition of C. Wright Mills and E. Digby Baltzell has assumed that recruitment into corporate and government leadership is strongly concentrated among graduates of elite private universities. This tradition has influenced the work of more recent theorists such as Pierre Bourdieu and Anthony Giddens and has appeared most recently in the ethnographic work of Lauren Rivera. In this seminar, based on a paper by Sarah Yoshikawa and Steven G. Brint, they develop a new approach to conceptualizing industrial sectors in the United States based on whether firms manipulate symbols or the material world and the extent to which they employ comparatively high proportions of workers with advanced degrees. They examine the educational backgrounds of nearly 4000 top corporate executives and government officials drawn from 15 sectors (including government). The findings are indicative of corporate and government leaders being drawn disproportionately from elite private institutions, at three to four times what would be expected at random, but leaders from these educational backgrounds nevertheless account for only 18 percent of the sample. Firms in sectors that employ relatively high proportions of workers with advanced degrees and are primarily engaged in the manipulation of symbols, such as media and finance, are significantly more likely to recruit from elite private institutions. Firms in sectors that employ relatively low proportions of workers with advanced degrees and are primarily engaged in the manipulation of the material world, such as construction and energy, are significantly less likely to recruit from elite private institutions. Multivariate analysis indicates that these relationships hold when controlling for firm size, firm location, executive position, and gender.

 cshe@berkeley.edu, 510-643-9212

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