The recent accentuation of elites in public and scholarly debate originates in the growth of the financial sector in the economy since the late 1970s. Linking trends of financial expansion to increasing economic inequalities, the concept of financialization has taken center stage in global media, while only incipiently in sociology. By subdividing the economic upper class, this study presents the first sociological contribution to the structuring of the Norwegian financial elite. Based on population-wide register data on complete birth cohorts from 1955 to 1990, various regression analyses are utilized to analyze the nature of the Norwegian financial elite in comparison to the industrial elite in the period 2003—2010. Drawing on international research, the attempt of the present study is to explore the level of consistency of the international scholarly characterization of a new financial elite and its claim about the prominence of new capital market intermediaries operating in, inter alia, investment banking, private equity, and hedge funds. Four research questions are posed: (1) Is the financial elite characterized by greater economic rewards than the industrial elite? (2) Does the financial elite follow different recruitment patterns and life course trajectories than the industrial elite? (3) What types of industrial capitalists exit the real economy and enter the financial sector of the economic upper class? (4) Are career trajectories from the industrial elite towards the financial elite associated with increases of income?
The scholarly assumptions about the "new" and prominent financial elite hold that a new group of economic actors-the capital market intermediaries-are extensively rewarded with high levels of pay and bonuses, exceeding the income of the "old" elite consisting of owners and salaried managers. Their income is argued to be self-made, and their titles are claimed to be achieved through schooling rather than parental inheritance.
It is argued that this picture inaccurately fits the description of the Norwegian financial elite. While the financial elite acquires greater earnings than the industrial elite, it is not characterized by extensive economic rewards when additional types of income are introduced. By extension, this points to the persistent importance of ownership income in the Norwegian upper class. The financial elite is found to recruit its members from the conventional managerial class to the same extent as, or even greater extent than, the industrial elite. However, distinctive recruitment to financial elite membership is found to be associated with various undergraduate level business degrees, or other types of elite education. Elite circulation from industry to finance within the economic upper class is found to be associated with undergraduate and elite education as well as long-term residence in Oslo. However, these trajectories are discovered to be unprofitable as they induce reductions of income compared to remaining in the industrial elite. It might be that the growth of the financial sector and the establishment of a Norwegian financial elite have contributed to a possible elite consolidation and facilitated the coming of a social class within the economic upper class, as both intra- and intergenerational mobility patterns are detected between the "old elite" and the "new elite". These matters should be researched further.
Overall, this thesis argues that there is little reason to suspect that the recent association between financialization and increasing economic inequality is the result of income concentration of capital market intermediaries in the Norwegian economy. In terms of economic inequality, it is the propertied part of the "old elite" who should be remembered in present-day financialized capitalism.
The present study supplements the broad sociological literature on concentration of economic power, as scrutinizing the specificities of the financial industry adds new insights into the structuring of contemporary Norwegian elites.