Monday, April 28, 2014


“What do Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg and Beyonce have in common?”

I've been thinking of better answers for this question ("Their favorite movie is Center Stage"; "They strongly dislike 69") but here it is: they're all firstborn. From the Guardian:

If you are the eldest child and female, you are statistically more likely to be the most ambitious and well-qualified of all your family.

The study followed 3,532 people in 1,503 sibling groups, and found specifically that "firstborn girls were 13% more ambitious than firstborn boys," and that the "probability of attending further education for firstborns is 16% higher than their younger siblings." (I wonder how much the latter number has to do with the allocation of parental resources?) Also: all 12 men who have walked on the moon are firstborns.

I like this study because I, like Beyoncé, am a firstborn girl, and I greatly value any occasion that enables me to use the phrase "I, like Beyoncé" in a sentence. I've also always been less laid-back than my younger brother. Anyone else have anecdotal sibling evidence to confirm?

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rebecca the brave

Jia, I can confirm this WILDLY using (the anecdotal) science (of my own life). What I would like to know is if other people share my unconscious preference for other eldests or AT LEAST middles as friends/lovahs/etc. With friends who are youngests, I start trying to herd them/tie their shoes.

Miss Kitty Fantastico

@rebecca the brave I'm the firstborn in my family (literally, my entire family - I'm the oldest cousin on both sides) and just now realized that I've only ever dated other firstborns. My partner is the oldest in his family and so were both of my college boyfriends.

This is weird, right?


@rebecca the brave: Madeline, I'm also the firstborn in my entire family (though one older cousin came into the family by marriage when I was 4), and I have also only ever dated firstborns/only children. Not sure if there's a kind of firstborn radar, or if confidence, ambition, and intelligence really do run from the top down, but there it is.

For anecdotal evidence: I am definitely more qualified and ambitious than my younger siblings (save possibly for my dad's son; he is kind of obsessive about fitness and going into military service), but still haven't really made much of myself in comparison to, like, most of my friends (also generally firstborns).

rebecca the brave

@rebecca the brave I don't think it's weird! I have noticed from talking about this with friends that the preference for same-in-order seems more common in first borns. My (admittedly few) youngest friends are like "whaaaaat no, i have no idea what my friends' birth orders are, you nut." First borns! WE ARE THE WORST(/BEST).


@rebecca the brave My friends are disproportionately first-borns (as am I). I haven't noticed a pattern in people I've dated beyond the fact that not a one has been an only child. (I have only a handful of only child friends, too.)


@rebecca the brave Interesting! I've always thought I have a textbook first-born personality, but my friends are mostly the youngest in their families. That's so weird! Also, I have dated 3 people: One oldest, one youngest and currently a middle child.
But yes, I am definitely more driven, responsible, and qualified than my 3 sisters.


@rebecca the brave Yup. I'm an older sibling but also the oldest grandchild on both sides, and within my family structure I'm kind of my generation's leader. My need to exercise those qualities (i.e., be all bossy-big-sis) are fulfilled within my family context, so most of what I am drawn to among my peers is relatability and kindredness. ("How's your brother?" "Oh, you know, STILL trying to figure out what he wants to be." *Sigh* "Youngers, amirite?")

Like @calamity says, nearly no one I socialize with is an only child (off the top of my head I can think of two people total), but I've noticed that the younger-sibs I hang with tend to have large age gaps from their siblings such that they spent significant portions of their childhoods as the only children at home. That gap seems to function as a reset button that gives them a fair number of "firstborn" qualities.


“What do Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg and Beyonce have in common?”

They all earn less than men in equivalent positions?


@stuffisthings YOU WIN.


Further anecdata include both me and my sweetie. Our respective younger brothers both are less ambitious/driven and have fewer credentials to their names (which I assume is what they mean by well-qualified). Also we are more neurotic, but that's neither here nor there.

Interestingly (well, to me at any rate), tiny sisterstonefruit is pursuing a degree that I think will technically make her more well-qualified than I am.

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@stonefruit I'm going to be a huge rain on this parade and say go tiny sister stonefruit! As a youngest child, I guess I sometimes feel for the Eli Mannings of this world.


@Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that) You're not raining on any parade! I think it's great that she's going for this degree, and I do enjoy a statistical anomaly. :)

Also we are Jewish so of course everyone is excited to have a doctor in the family. (She is getting a PhD, she is absolutely going to be a doctor, end of story.)

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

I guess I'd have to look at my extended family, since my eldest sibling is a brother.

One set of cousins: Two girls. The eldest only recently started a new career outside of waitressing, which she did for about two decades. She didn't want to work in any sort of office environment even though she had that sort of work available to her after she finished school. She does have a very strong type A personality, though, and got married young because that's what she wanted, and makes her own decisions instead of hemming and hawing over them like a lot of the women in my family tend to do. In the last few years, she's shown a lot of ambition, probably more than her younger sister, who doesn't really seek recognition or promotion, but just wants to put in a good day's work and enjoy what she does.

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)
Oh and in my further-extended family, the eldest daughter is the only of her siblings (and quite a few of her first cousins) who didn't become a schoolteacher and went into finance. She left the suburbs and worked in the city for a while, so that was a pretty big jump considering everyone on that side of the family sticks close to home.


I'm a middle, but my daughter, who's six, is a classic driven, ambitious, confident oldest girl. Naturally she bosses her bro around (age 2), but also, if there's a gathering of peers, she's the Queen. I am 100% OK with that, although I feel responsible for teaching her to use her powers for good instead of evil. Heh.


My older sister definitely anecdotally confirms this. She (first born, 6 years older than me) has 2 bachelors degrees, a masters and a PhD, has worked on projects that involve feeding the world and curing cancer, and I (second and youngest child) work for a company that sells juggling equipment. I also have a degree in doodling.

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