A few months ago an Economics Letters report revealed that people born in June and July are least-likely to become CEOs because of the “relative age effect,” or the idea that how old you are relative to your peers in school has lifelong implications on future success.
Now there’s more evidence that supports this theory.
In a new working paper, “Birthdays, Schooling and Crime,” Duke University researchers Philip Cook and Songman Kang found through tracking five groups of children from a North Carolina public school that the test scores of older students were indeed higher (and in some cases, significantly higher) than those of their younger peers in the same grade.
“Those born just after the cut date for starting school are likely to outperform those born just before in reading and maths in middle school, and are less likely to be involved in juvenile delinquency. On the other hand, those born after the cut date are more likely to drop out of high school before graduation and commit a felony offence by age 19. We also present suggestive evidence that the higher dropout rate is due to the fact that youths born after the cut date have longer exposure to the legal possibility of dropping out.”
Here’s a closer look at reading scores for a group of students in the study:
And their maths scores:
These results support the idea of academic “redshirting,” or the logic behind parents holding kids back a year before starting kindergarden so that they have more time to develop. Students who are older not only enjoy a maturity advantage but also a confidence advantage by default.It’s important to note that these research results are just one sample from a small U.S. population. There are of course many successful people who outperformed their older peers in school and beyond. Birth order and other factors also play a big role in future success.
On the other hand, the researchers who discovered that CEOs are least likely to be born in June or July report that:
“Our evidence is consistent with the ‘relative-age effect’ due to school admissions grouping together children with age differences up to one year, with children born in June and July disadvantaged throughout life by being younger than their classmates born in other months. Our results suggest that the relative-age effect has a long-lasting influence on career success.”
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