​Firstborn Girls Are More Likely To Succeed Than Familial Underlings

Illustration for article titled ​Firstborn Girls Are More Likely To Succeed Than Familial Underlings

Good news for all you Marsha Bradys and DJ Tanners out there. A new study of 1,503 sibling groups and 3,532 individuals by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex has found that the first born girl in a family is statistically most likely to be the most ambitious and well-qualified in the family.


This doesn't necessarily come as a surprise. On top of confirming the complaints of underappreciated younger siblings everywhere, the study itself cites plenty of 'real-life' examples—Hillary Clinton, Beyoncé, Oprah, Sheryl Sandberg, and many others listed as Forbes' most powerful women are all firstborns. But it turns out that firstborn girls are actually 13% more ambitious than firstborn boys, being more likely to further their education qualifications.

As this study could prove to be prime material for a good ol' nature vs nurture in birth order debate (which is how I spend my Saturday evenings), lead researcher Feifei Bu has her own thoughts on what affects the sibling drive and success. Via the Guardian:

"There are several possible explanations for the higher attainment and ambition of the eldest," said Bu. "It could be that the parents simply devote more time and energy to them – it could be they are actually more intelligent. For me, I tend to lean towards the theory that parental investment is possibly at work here."

The study also found that the larger the age gap between siblings (starting from at least four years), the higher chance of those children attaining higher qualifications. Bu continues:

"It shows us how educational disparities exist not only between families but also within families," said Bu. "It is interesting that we observe a distinct firstborn advantage in education, even though parents in modern society are more likely to be egalitarian in the way they treat their children."

And the middle child syndrome of feeling left out? Not really a thing—apparently the study found no evidence of it. Of course no evidence of neglect all too perfectly feeds into the neglected middle child syndrome cycle. So don't fret Lady Ediths and Jan Bradys of the world. I believe you.


Or maybe people define success differently. Success doesn't always equate to money or fame or power. And it can be defined as being happy or being creative or helping people or any other number of things that are not represented here. So maybe some first born girls are more "ambitious" but it does not make them more successful. Because success isn't one thing. And not to use a personal example or anything, but I'm the youngest of three girls. And my eldest sister could probably be defined as the "most successful" as she has a high powered corporate job and she's married and she owns a house. But my middle sister is a dancer and an artist and she works three jobs and lived in the tiniest studio apartment with her boyfriend of five years. But she's happy and she is living the life she wants and she could never imagine another life for herself. And I'm a social worker who works with kids in foster care. And I make no money and I have three roommates, but my life is exactly what I want it to be because I get to help people everyday and fight for social justice. So studies like this are bullshit. We all define success differently. And equating success with money and power is incredibly limiting.