Does being born first help in life? Yes, but just a little bit

Credit: iStock
Credit: iStock

An analysis of a longitudinal study that tracked 3,763 Americans across 50 years found no evidence that birth order is linked to the jobs we end up doing, though there does appear to be a small correlation between birth order and status attainment, which includes academic achievement.

The popular idea that first-borns follow more scientific paths and other children end up in more creative roles isn’t backed up by the data, the researchers found.

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Previous research puts forward two hypotheses: one is that children born later in a family try and find niches not already filled by the first-born child, so they end up taking more risks, and being more creative and sociable, which affects their career choices.

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The second idea is that first-born children are usually more intelligent and do better at school and in their careers because the kids that follow afterwards have less intellectual stimulation – there’s just not as much adult-to-child time to go around.


The number-crunching done by [psychologist Rodica] Damian and her colleague, psychologist Marion Spengler from the University of Tübingen in Germany, found no support for the first ‘niche-finding’ model and a small amount of support for the second ‘confluence’ model, albeit with question marks over the causality of the relationship.

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