Best and Worst Months To Be Born If You Want To Be the Boss

  • Share
  • Read Later
David L Ryan / The Boston Globe / Getty Images

Mitt Romney as Chief Executive of Bain Capital, Nov. 10, 1993.

There’s been much research and writing over the years about the positive and negative affects of birth month on various aspects of life, few as well known as Malcolm Gladwell‘s 2008 bestseller Outliers: The Story of Success. Now comes word that having been born at certain times of the year might help or harm your chances of becoming a boss. (Which means, once again, that it’s all your parents fault if you fail!)First things first, for those unfamiliar with what is variously called the “relative-age effect,” “birth-date effect,” “month of birth bias” or “season of birth bias”: The basic idea is that kids born just before the cutoff date for an academic year or sports age division are at a disadvantage because they can be nearly a full year younger than some of the other children in their group. As a result of being intellectually or physically less mature, the theory goes, such kids are less likely to excel from the outset, which makes it less likely that they’ll get the particular kind of attention and feedback that tends to flow towards high achievers. Similarly, they’re less likely to be chosen for leadership roles, such as speaking at assemblies or captaining a team.

That brings us to a new study published in the December issue of the journal Economic Letters, co-authored by Qianqian Du of Shanghai Jiao Tang University in China, Huasheng Gao of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and Maurice D. Levi from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. Knowing that most academic year cut-off dates fall between September 1 and January 1—thus making kids born in the summer months most likely to be the youngest in their classes—the three researchers theorized that June and July babies would be less likely to grow up to become corporate CEOs, since those roles reflect a long journey of competition and achievement, which should be affected by the relative-age effect if it truly exists. (Outcomes for kids born in August, they speculated, would be affected by the decision of some parents to hold them back, making some the oldest in the next year’s class.)

To test their theory, the trio collected as much birth-date info as they could for the CEOs of S&P 500 companies between 1992 and 2009, eventually able to identify accurate birth days for 375 such suits. And wouldn’t you know it, their theory proved to be both true and statistically meaningful: After accounting for trends in U.S. births (more people are born in some months than others) and plain old randomness, the study authors found that the two months produced one quarter to one third fewer CEOs than you’d expect from a normal distribution of bosses across months. That is, although 8.16% of U.S. births happen in June, only 6.13% of CEOs were born in that month, while a mere 5.87% of CEOs were born in July, despite 8.75% of the U.S. population being born that month. Says Levi: “Early success is often rewarded with leadership roles and enriched learning opportunities, leading to future advantages that are magnified throughout life.”

Or, as Gladwell puts it in Outliers,”If you make a decision about who is good and who is not good at an early age; if you separate the ‘talented’ from the ‘untalented’; and if you provide the ‘talented’ with a superior experience, then you’re going to end up giving a huge advantage to that small group of people born closest to the cutoff date.”

All of which raises the question: If being born in June and July augurs poorly for your chances of landing in the corner office, what birth months are most likely to set you up for life as a big cheese? The answer suggests there’s something to the idea that the relative-age effect influences the ranks of CEOs. Four of the five months with the highest percentage of CEOs are within three months of at least some possible academic cut-off date from September 1 through December 31—meaning children born in those months have a higher probability of being among the oldest in their class. The top 5 CEO-producing months are: March (12.53%), April (10.67%), November (10.67%), January (10.13%), October (9.87%).

Alas, this doesn’t tell us much about the race for America’s CEO. Mitt Romney, a March baby, was destined at birth for the corner office, and he fulfilled that destiny several times over. President Obama, born in August, was surely one of the youngest kids in the 1966-67 Noelani Elementary School kindergarten class, but he seems to have gotten the attention and feedback he needed to fulfill his leadership potential.

13 comments
ThatguyfromGeorgiaNonottheState
ThatguyfromGeorgiaNonottheState

This subject is something I have personally researched and here is what I found. Most presidents on earth today and I mean overwellming MAJORITY are born either in JUNE or JULY. What I did was looked up list of all countries on Wikipedia and pasted that list into my excel sheet actually Apples Works it is an alternative to excel. So then I looked up who is running this country. In some countries there are just Prime Ministers so I only kept those and what I found was this. Most Presidents and Prime Ministers today or in 2013 I should say are born either in June or JULY. Do not overestimate the conditioning of the school system on people born in July. Most CEOs are not born in June and July? That's fine by me, because guess what? Most Presidents and Prime Ministers ARE. I am born on July 2nd 1977 and I take pride in this little research I conducted myself. I would love to share with anybody my excell list. In Fact it has birth dates of every president except for 2 or 3 who's birthday's I just count not find online but the rest I have sorted by the birth of their month and ABSOLUTE MAJORITY in JUNE AND JULY. If I had to choose between being a CEO of some crappy company or owning a country I choose the latter. I rest my case! I also did another study and guess what? People who are night owls are more successful in life than early birds or in betweeners. Nelson Mandela, Elon Musk, John D. Rockeffeler 1st billionair were all born in JULY, so was the Tesla the great inventor. Bye bye!!!

JamieCatherine
JamieCatherine

Statistically significant or not, I don't believe this is an accurate statement to make.  Though I am a September baby, and one of the youngest in my school's graduating class of 2013, I am in the top 10% of the class and plan on pursuing a career in medicine, a very competitive field.  Further, I don't think that this "relative-age effect" exists to the extend that the article contents: I have observed that the opportunities myself and my classmates have gotten has much more to do with our demonstrated ability than our age.  Many of the oldest in our class have struggled throughout school, and many of the youngest have excelled.

cmtrapolino
cmtrapolino

Correlation does not imply causation. Sorry, everyone. (Says the April baby.)

Liz
Liz

at which age when success people's proportion had been examined will prove that...there s no differece.....the differences are always occur when at 20-40 years old....

mal
mal

I would say this test was very conclusive as the "cutoff" was much later back when these CEOs were in school (most likely 12/31 back in the 1950s-1970s, when most started school).  One variable that needs to be considered is how old they were relative to their peers during their formative school years.   Therefore, an Oct-Nov birthdate may actually prove the opposite if the were among the youngest. 

LenSimpson
LenSimpson

Gary or Ron don't have a prayer, but oh!, what if they did?

sucorazon20101
sucorazon20101

Mark my words

Romney is loser

Nothing can change it

his billions nor his birth month

RealSeanJansen
RealSeanJansen

@cmtrapolino It means you're a loser, baby. Gee stop taking this so serious

CrimsonWife
CrimsonWife

@mal Yes, in most districts the cutoff didn't move to August/September until some time in the '90's or even 2000's. California and New York still have a late cutoff (though CA's is gradually being changed to September). So January through April makes sense, but October and November would've been among the youngest.

JamieCatherine
JamieCatherine

@CrimsonWife @mal Our school system still has a 12/31 cutoff. Lucky for me, otherwise I would be a year behind where I am right now!