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Birth Order & Achievement

February 2, 2011

Birth order has a limited effect on academic achievement.


Sibling rivalry…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Today’s Why Is It question comes from listener Christine Nichols of Goose Creek, South Carolina. She wants to know if birth order has anything to do with how well a person does in school. We asked Brian Powell, a sociologist at Indiana University. He says there’s a difference between academic performance – how well you do in school – and academic attainment, which is how far you get in your education.

BRIAN POWELL (Indiana University):
The evidence at this point indicates that there’s some benefit to be a first-born when it comes to academic performance and some benefit to being a last-born for academic attainment.

That’s because families tend to be better off once their oldest kids have moved out, leaving more money to send their last child off to college. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.