The USA’s top 400 wealthiest are more meritocratic and less likely to have inherited their money than those in 1982, claims a report.

The report, Family, Education, and Sources of Wealth among the Richest Americans, 1982-2012 written by Steven Kaplan of the University of Chicago and Joshua Rauh of Stanford, looked at the Forbes top 400 from 1982 until 2011.

The authors concluded that the top 400 is now more likely to include the middle class university educated than it was in 1982.
Then 60% were from already wealthy backgrounds, in 2011 the number had dropped to 32%.

In addition the report found just 5% of those in the top 400 had no university education, compared to 17% in 1982.

The report puts this down to the rise of technology and finance as a source of wealth.

In 1982 the two dominant wealth sources for the top 400 were real estate and energy, usually from inherited businesses.

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In 2012 the positions have become reversed the report found, with 17.8% of the businesses run by the top 400 having a strong technology component.

In addition the study found that the number of individuals who were the first to run a business in their family had risen from 40% in 1982 to 69% in 2011.

However being born into poverty still holds as many people back as it did in 1982, claims the report. Just 20% of the top 400 came from this background, the same level as 1982.

The rise in technology as a source of wealth the report claims has been helped by individuals like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sergey Brin of Google.