Who Rules America?  By G. William Domhoff, University of California at Santa Cruz

Power Elite Database

About the Power Elite data

This searchable database and the associated analyses are based upon a 2010-2011 dataset originally compiled from multiple sources (described below) by sociologist Clifford Staples of the University of North Dakota, and a 1935-1936 dataset compiled by Bill Domhoff and Adam Schneider.

Subsets were then carved out for various methodological reasons:


  • v2.0: The data used in the Mills/Domhoff 2023 paper. This includes the top 50 financial and top 200 non-financial corporations (as listed by Fortune), plus 4 policy-planning groups and 2 foundations.
  • v2.1: An expanded version of the Mills/Domhoff data; it contains the full Fortune 500 along with 4 policy-planning groups and 2 foundations.
  • v1.0: The full set of data used in the Domhoff/Staples 2013 paper. This includes the complete Fortune 500 corporations, plus 6 corporate policy groups, 34 think tanks, 54 foundations, 19 presidential commissions, and 47 universities. Also included are seats on 1,947 smaller corporations' boards which were held by the people in the top corporations and policy groups.
  • v1.1: A streamlined version of v1. It includes the full Fortune 500, plus all corporate policy groups (except the CED), all foundations, and all think tanks, but omits presidential commissions, universities, and non-Fortune 500 corporations.
  • v1.2: A further trimmed-down version of v1. It includes the full Fortune 500, 3 corporate policy groups, 21 selected think tanks, and the top 25 foundations.


  • v2.0: The data used in the Mills/Domhoff 2023 paper. This includes the top 50 financial and top 200 non-financial corporations, plus 4 policy-planning groups and 2 foundations.
  • v2.1: An expanded data set with the same top 50+200 corporations, plus the top 10 investment banks, 6 policy-planning groups, and the top 20 foundations.
  • v1.0: The original un-trimmed data set: The top 50+200 corporations, 19 investment banks, 33 other corporations, 6 policy-planning groups, and 98 foundations.
  2010-2011 1935-1936
Corporations: Top 500* or 250 250 496 496 496 496 250 250 250
Corporations: other 1,947 10 52
Corporate policy groups (BRT, NAM, etc.) 2 2 6 5 3 2 3 3
Think tanks (CFR, Brookings, etc.) 2 2 34 34 21 2 3 3
Foundations 2 2 54 54 25 2 20 98
Presidential commissions 19
Universities 47
total # of organizations 256 502 2,603 589 545 256 286 406
Full database (includes full membership of policy groups and think tanks)
people 7,151 9,092 12,641 10,622 9,818 3,246 3,432 4,326
seats 8,052 10,664 19,551 12,876 11,765 4,281 4,625 5,802
"Directors-only" database (includes only the leaders of policy groups and think tanks)
people 2,609 4,635 7,958 5,930 5,312 2,795 3,005 3,934
seats 3,166 5,778 13,857 7,352 6,624 3,664 4,008 5,185
* In the 2011 data, this is the Fortune 500; however, four corporations had been recently acquired by other F500 corporations, and their directors were replaced by those of the acquiring companies. The acquired companies' boards are excluded because they would be exact duplicates.

Download the data

If you're interested in doing your own analysis using the 2010-2011 Power Elite data, you are welcome to download the raw files. Each file is a .zip archive containing three plain-text files: "people.txt" simply lists all of the people and their seats/memberships (one membership per line), and "organizations.txt" contains metadata about the organizations. "combined.txt" is a combination of the two files: it's a list of people and their seats, with some information about the organizations (category, business sector, rank) included.



Source materials, 2010-2011 data


The 2010 list of Fortune 500 companies was published in July of 2010 (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune500/2010/). Director names for each of the 500 companies were compiled from company websites or annual reports from the first half of 2011.

Think Tanks

The names of the trustees of the top 50 think tanks in the U.S. (as determined by GoToThinkTank.com via a survey of scholars, think tank directors, journalists, policymakers, and donors) were obtained from the think tanks' websites. As in the case of the six business groups, the year 2012 was used so that new CEOs and corporate directors for the year 2011 would have time to join one or more of these boards.

A few think tanks were dropped because they did not have a governing board separate from the university bureaucracies of which they are a part, or because the composition of its governing board is mandated by law. Others were removed because they were deemed to be not very influential in the grand scheme of things.

Directors vs. full membership

Some of the policy-planning groups have very large membership rosters; for example, the Council on Foreign Relations had over 4000 members in 2010! When searching the database, you have the option to exclude these "ordinary" members and include only the leadership (the "Directors," "Trustees", or "Members of the Executive Committee") of these groups. Note that two think tanks (Aspen Institute & NBER) have large rosters but no clearly defined leadership group; when doing a directors/leadership-only search, those groups are excluded entirely.

The Corporate Policy Network

The governing boards (or membership) of six business groups were included. Names were compiled in September 2012 from the organizations' websites as follows: The Business Council (TheBusinessCouncil.org, "Active Members"); The Business Roundtable (BusinessRoundtable.org, "Members"); The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USChamber.com, "Board of Directors"); The Conference Board (Conference-Board.org, "Trustees"); The Committee for Economic Development (CED.org, "Board of Trustees"); The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM.org, "Board of Directors" as of September 2012). The year 2012 was used so that enough time had passed for those who became CEOs or joined boards in 2011 (or were new members of the Forbes 400 in 2011) to have become members of one or more of these groups.

Directors vs. full membership

Five of the corporate policy groups (all except the Conference Board) have very large membership rosters, and — as with the think tanks — you have the option to include only the leadership in your searches.


The search for relevant foundations among the tens of thousands of foundations began with the 1,307 foundations that awarded 10,944 grants to 46 selected think tanks between 2003 and 2012. After determining that 90% of the grant money given to the think tanks came from the top 100 foundations on the list, the focus was narrowed to a selected list from those top foundations. The names of their trustees for 2012 were obtained from the Foundation Directory Online (fconline.foundationcenter.org).

Presidential Commissions

To identify those individuals from the corporate/think tank/foundation network who also serve on Federal Advisory Committees, the names of the 226,019 people who served on one of these thousands of committees in 2009, 2010, and 2011 were downloaded from the Federal Advisory Committee database (fido.gov/facadatabase). More than 70% of these people were scientists, scholars, or government officials who served on scientific peer review panels and various intra-governmental committees. The focus was then narrowed to the Presidential Commissions that reported to the White House, to keep the study manageable.


Starting with a list of the top colleges and universities (ranked by the size of their endowments, from NACUBO.org), the trustees of 47 of the top private colleges and universities on the list were obtained from their websites. Not only are these private universities and colleges likely to be of greater interest to members of the power elite than public institutions, but the boards of public universities often contain many mandated government officials.

The Wealthiest Americans

In 2012, Forbes published its list of the "400 richest people" in the United States for 2011 (http://www.forbes.com/forbes-400/list/). As it happened, a minimum net worth of $1 billion was required to make it onto the "Forbes 400" list in that year.

Source materials, 1935-1936 data

[Coming soon]

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