they observe that firstborn girls

…are most likely to succeed, says the observing Scientific American.

Bossy, know-it-all older sisters everywhere now have something else to lord over their younger siblings: Researchers have found that firstborn girls are the most ambitious and successful children in their families.

A slew of real life examples appear to back this up: Beyonce, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Sheryl Sandberg are all firstborns. Oldest children are 16 percent more likely to excel academically than younger siblings, according to scientists from the University of Essex in the U.K.

This is especially true for girls: eldest daughters are an additional four percent more likely to go on to higher education than eldest sons—the next most successful sibling type.

Oh. That makes sense. Except when it doesn’t.

It concludes this way:

Firstborns may be successful because they suck up a greater share of their parents’ resources. Oldest children naturally get a period of exclusive attention simply by being first. And the special treatment continues even after other children arrive: Think about all the perks firstborns get to make sure they don’t feel upstaged by the new baby (I got a trip to Disney World when my sisters were born).

The extra attention may translate into greater intelligence. In a 2007 study, for example, firstborns scored about three points higher on IQ tests than their younger siblings. If the firstborn had died in childhood, however, the second born took on the mantle and scored as high as the true firstborns—suggesting that the difference in intelligence isn’t necessarily innate.

It’s not all bad news for younger siblings. Birth order expert and visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Frank Sulloway has proposed that siblings compete for parental favor and investment by adopting different roles within the family. If the firstborn is the brain, the second child may be the sporty one or the actress. And in Bu’s study, the longer the spacing between kids in a family, the smaller the gap in siblings’ educational achievement.

Yes, I basically quoted the whole article for you. You’re welcome. I see that the Atlantic got in on it, too, now, with basically the same article.


Yes, I’m a firstborn girl, then the brother, then the baby sister. I’ve been thinking actually about how all of us , for the first time in our lives, are all not working. We are all a big mess of non-success. We’ve all gotten off the wheel for different reasons. Me? I just couldn’t take it anymore. I stopped working last October. It didn’t make sense to continue, even though I could do it electronically. But it would be taking advantage, since the main work is in the summer, and I had decided that I could not do that another year. I’m too old to put in that amount of time and it became too much. Yes, I’m not too old. It just felt too much and it was not a sign of succeeding.

You see, I missed the ambitious part mentioned above. It just never caught.

My brother? He was supposed to retire in June, but thought that now would suffice, and I’m really not sure why. We’ve competed all our lives for our parents’ love/attention by not competing. We always chose different fields completely in every way. He played tennis; I didn’t. Okay, we both swam, but that’s a good thing, right? I guess after I chose to be more involved in Judaism, that meant that he could not have a part of that.

Now it becomes clear.

But our baby sister? She didn’t choose not to work; it chose her. And then I chose, and my brother followed. That’s really how it went.

So our ambition went in different directions. She had the most; then our brother chose nursing to quell his (really unreasonable) guilt for not knowing that our mother was about to have a stroke. Yes, guilt is powerful. But our parents never pushed me to have a career; just “make sure you can pay your own way”, was what my father said, in different words. So a job was just a way to help pay the bills and that was always enough for me.

Of course, I didn’t need a magazine to make me aware of the irony; I know how statistics work. I also know that I’m an introvert, my brother is probably also, and our sister is not. That makes a huge difference in ambition. Or perhaps in action.

Yes, the article came up on my feed just a little while ago, but also it’s been on my mind, the fact that none of us siblings are employed at the moment. It has been reinforced also by the process of my filling out an application for a summer program that asks for such information (about me, not my siblings).

It looks like this (partially):

Psychiatric care? No__

11. Present Occupation –Unemployed temporarily

Occupation: preschool teacher; program administrator

I feel sheepish about this; not guilty; not motivated enough to do something about it. But wait–I am!

I have no problem thinking about reinventing myself. 

I am actively writing a book now. 

(Funny thing; so is my brother. He would probably think mine is as nonsensical as I think his is. But we won’t discuss.)

Let’s just say it’s about growing up. I have eight chapters well-defined with a lot of research done and being done. That’s a good direction, don’t you think? And I think that I’ve gone on to higher education of my own.



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