The Cosmopolitan Leaders Dataset

The Cosmopolitan Leaders Dataset

How does pre-office experience living abroad affect a leader’s foreign policy behavior in office? Does cosmopolitan experience make a leader more peaceful?

We collect data on the pre-office foreign experience of leaders between 1875-2015 using the Archigos 4.1 leader list (Goemans, Gleditsch, and Chiozza 2009). While the data gathering is ongoing, we have collected data from over 140+ states and 2,518 leaders in every region of the world.

Temporal Coverage


Geographical Coverage
143+ States

Figure 4 displays the top 30 host countries for prospective foreign leaders. As one might expect, the top hosts of these future leaders are the European great powers and the United States. The US has been the top host between 1875 and 2015, with 365 foreign leaders having resided there at some point before taking office. France is a close second, hosting 310 potential leaders, while the United Kingdom has hosted 274 future leaders. Russia (including the Soviet Union) and Germany have hosted 159 and 124 foreign leaders, respectively. Many of these future leaders have pursued higher education or professional training in these host countries. World-renowned institutions in the US, UK, France, Germany, and Russia, such as Cambridge, Harvard, Humboldt, and Moscow State University, offer prestigious academic programs and access to global elite networks, attracting aspiring leaders from around the world. International metropolises like New York, London, Paris, and Berlin also serve as hubs of economic and political dynamism, attracting ambitious entrepreneurs, revolutionaries, and political activists. In a sense, the ability to attract and host future leaders demonstrates the soft power of these countries.


A stellar group of research assistants from University of Wisconsin–Madison, University of California – Los Angeles, and University of California – San Diego worked on the data project. Their work has been invaluable: Anne Katherine O’Neill, Xin Wu, Drew Witte, Jordan Kallio, Tongtong Zhang, Xin Yang, Chris Goodelle, and Claudia Mena.