Exciting news, firstborns! Science has proven what you’ve known all along: the oldest sibling is usually the smartest! The study, which was originally published in the Journal of Human Resources, discovered that oldest siblings typically scored higher on IQ tests than their younger counterparts. Read on to learn the details, plus find out some other scientifically proven advantages to being the oldest child!
How did science prove that the oldest child is also the smartest?
The study including data gathered by three different researchers from the Analysis Group, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Sydney. Together, they analyzed the data from the U.S. Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which tracked close to 5,000 kids from the womb all the way through age 14. They found that, on average, firstborn children displayed a higher level of aptitude compared to their younger siblings.
According to the data, firstborns performed better on cognitive tests (like reading, naming things, and picture vocabulary) at an early age; as early as one, in many cases. The gap between older siblings and their younger counterparts widened throughout toddlerhood and the preschool years, before finally leveling off once they reached elementary school age.
Why are older siblings smarter?
Along with analyzing the data from cognitive tests, the study also looked at the subjects’ environment, family life, and even their economic conditions. What they found really isn’t all that surprising. Basically, firstborns have an edge over their “competition” from the very beginning.
Studies found the moms take better care of themselves with the first pregnancy. That’s not to say that second-time moms are out there eating raw shrimp dipped in egg yolk while guzzling gallons of coffee. First-time moms just tend to be more hyperaware of their pregnancy. Firstborns also have their parents’ undivided attention, which means they have more opportunities to learn than their younger siblings.
Of course, this is just one study and the sample group is pretty small when you think about just how many older siblings there are in the world. Still, it’s a fun way to end an “I’m smarter than you” argument with your younger brother or sister!
What else are older siblings better at than their younger counterparts?
Along with potentially being smarter, science has discovered some other interesting things about being a firstborn child.
1. Firstborns tend to be more successful in their adult lives, making an average of a whopping $100,000 more a year than their younger counterparts.
2. Oldest children are also the hardest on themselves. Many have a very Type A personality, meaning they demand perfection of themselves and others.
3. Firstborns tend to be natural leaders. In fact, more than half of the presidents throughout US history were the oldest sibling in their family.
4. They also tend to be more creative than their younger counterparts, given the right conditions.
5. Firstborn children tend to be more cautious than their siblings. Basically, they’re less likely to take risks.
Younger siblings take heart, you have some advantages, too!
If you’re a younger sibling reading this and thinking, “Hey, no fair! What about me?” take heart! You have some distinct advantages over your big brother or sister!
1. Younger siblings take more risks than their older counterparts. While this translates to “they’re more rebellious” during childhood, in adulthood it could give you a competitive edge in the workplace.
2. You’re also more likely to be your own boss! Taking risks means big rewards, and while your older sibling is punching a clock, you’ll be out starting your own business.
3. Youngest siblings are the funniest, most likely because they have to find clever ways to compete for attention.
What about middle children?
The first bit of good news for kids smack-dab in the center of the birth order: scientists debunked the whole “middle child syndrome” myth. In fact, they discovered some great advantages to being born in the middle.
1. Middle children tend to be better negotiators. Some scientists say it’s because they’re used to not getting their own way, but a more positive way to look at it is that they’re used to negotiating truces between their older and younger siblings.
2. They also tend to be more compassionate, empathetic, and able to see all sides of an argument. That, in addition to other factors, helps them be the most emotionally stable of their siblings.
3. Middle children may even be more likely to change the world. They’re in good company with trailblazers like William Dell and Darwin, peacekeepers like Nelson Mandela, and civil rights champions like Susan B. Anthony.
So, yes, the oldest sibling may be the smartest, but every birth order has its own advantages that help make up for it!