The World Elite Database (WED) project is an international consortium of scholars working together to develop a new standardized data regime to study, and share data about elites across the world. It aims to solve the problem of comparability and heterogeneity in the study of national power structures, and to foster a cooperative community of scholars interested in studying elite populations systematically. 

Comparable datasets are the prerequisite for establishing patterns of regularity, suggesting counterfactuals, and formulating ideas to be tested. This requires social scientists to agree upon common selection criteria, to collect publicly available information in similar fashion, to apply identical coding schemes, to share the same methods for data analysis and, to develop routines for ensuring high quality data that recognizes the institutional particularities of different national and regional contexts. 

WED Methodological report

WED selection criteria

WED combines four interlinked selection criteria to define positions of economic power. 

  • The first criterion has been instituted by financial-market operators: the chairpersons and chief executive officers (CEO) of the publicly-listed companies that compose the main stock index in a given country.
  • The second criterion consists of the chairpersons and CEOs of other non-listed very large companies as they are listed by the business press.
  • The third criterion also relies on another predefined subgroup of economically-powerful individuals presented by national media: the patronyms ranked in rich lists.
  • To fourth criterion is about the “coproducers of the game” and selects the positions of leadership among elected politicians is and top bureaucrats, interest groups (business organisations, lobbies, unions) and key intermediaries (e.g. management consultants, corporate bankers and lawyers), as well as institutional investors, from which the legal framework of economic activities and business practices are shaped.  

WED Selection Criteria


Within WED you will find the following information:

  • Biographical data on the members of the economic elite (gender, age, place of birth, nationality, etc.).
  • Socio-economic origins
  • Wealth of individuals as communicated in the media.
  • Educational background (university education, educational institution, type of degree, discipline, etc.).
  • Career (position held, duration, in which company or organisation, etc.)
  • Variables on the most important companies on the national economic scene (market capitalisation, turnover, number of employees, etc.).

WED Codebook

Data Management Policy

World Elite Database is dedicated to upholding the highest standards of data protection and ethical research practices. Committed to compliance with data protection laws, we prioritize the security of all data collected and processed as part of our research endeavors. We adhere to the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) principles, ensuring that our data management practices are transparent, efficient, and conducive to maximizing the value and usability of our research outputs. We aspire to adhere to the principles of “open research” leveraging open-source data management solutions – such as Heurist – to foster transparency and collaboration. We envision providing visualization tools to journalists and citizens, empowering them to intuitively explore the characteristics of economic elites and promoting broader societal engagement with our research findings.

WED Data Managment Policy