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Summer babies found less likely to be CEOs

Oct. 23, 2012
Courtesy of The University of British Columbia
and World Science staff

Ba­bies born in March and April may be al­most twice as likely to be­come cor­po­rate chief ex­ec­u­tives as ba­bies born in June and Ju­ly, new re­search sug­gests.

Re­search­ers sam­pled 375 chief ex­ec­u­tives from For­tune 500 com­pa­nies and found that peo­ple born in March and April rep­re­sented 12.53 per­cent and 10.67 per­cent of the sam­ple, re­spec­tive­ly. But peo­ple born in June and July rep­re­sented only 6.13 per­cent and 5.87 per­cent re­spec­tive­ly.

School sched­ules probably ex­plain the dif­fer­ence, the in­ves­ti­ga­tors said: it turns out great­er cor­po­rate suc­cess went to those who, as chil­dren, were the old­est in their clas­ses. A re­port on the find­ings ap­pears in the De­cem­ber is­sue of the jour­nal Eco­nom­ics Let­ters.

“Sum­mer ba­bies un­der­per­form in the ranks of CEOs as a re­sult of the ‘birth-date ef­fec­t,’ a phe­nom­e­non re­sulting from the way chil­dren are grouped by age in school,” said Mau­rice Le­vi of the Uni­vers­ity of Brit­ish Co­lum­bia, a co-author.

In the Un­ited States, cut-off dates for school ad­mis­sion fall be­tween Sep­tem­ber and Jan­u­ary. The re­search­ers de­ter­mined that the ex­ec­u­tives born be­tween June and July were the youngest in their class dur­ing school, and those in March and April were the old­est. This took in­to ac­count chil­dren born in months close to the cut offs who were held back or ac­cel­er­ated.

“Older chil­dren with­in the same grade tend to do bet­ter than the youngest, who are less in­tel­lec­tual­ly de­vel­ope­d,” said Le­vi. “Early suc­cess is of­ten re­warded with lead­er­ship roles and en­riched learn­ing op­por­tun­i­ties, lead­ing to fu­ture ad­van­tages that are mag­ni­fied through­out life.”

“Our study adds to the grow­ing ev­i­dence that the way our educa­t­ion sys­tem groups stu­dents by age im­pacts their life­long suc­cess,” said Prof. Le­vi. “We could be ex­clud­ing some of the busi­ness world’s best tal­ent simply by en­rol­ling them in school too ear­ly.”


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Babies born in March and April may be almost twice as likely to become corporate chief executives as babies born in June and July, new research suggests. Researchers sampled 375 chief executives from Fortune 500 companies and found that people born in March and April represented 12.53 percent and 10.67 percent of the sample, respectively. But people born in June and July represented only 6.13 percent and 5.87 percent respectively. School schedules probably explain the difference, the investigators said: it turns out greater corporate success went to those who, as children, were the oldest in their classes. A report on the findings appears in the December issue of the journal Economics Letters. “Summer babies underperform in the ranks of CEOs as a result of the ‘birth-date effect,’ a phenomenon resulting from the way children are grouped by age in school,” said Maurice Levi of the University of British Columbia, a co-author. In the United States, cut-off dates for school admission fall between September and January. The researchers determined that the executives born between June and July were the youngest in their class during school, and those in March and April were the oldest. This took into account children born in months close to the cut offs who were held back or accelerated. “Older children within the same grade tend to do better than the youngest, who are less intellectually developed,” said Levi. “Early success is often rewarded with leadership roles and enriched learning opportunities, leading to future advantages that are magnified throughout life.” “Our study adds to the growing evidence that the way our education system groups students by age impacts their lifelong success,” said Prof. Levi. “We could be excluding some of the business world’s best talent simply by enrolling them in school too early.”