First born and female? Congrats! Why being the eldest girl means you are more likely to succeed


If you happen to be a girl, as well as your parents’ firstborn child, then congratulations – you’re in good company.

Because according to a study, it’s no coincidence that some of the world’s most powerful women fall into that category.

The research shows that firstborn girls are statistically more likely to be the most highly qualified of all their family. They are 13 per cent more ambitious then firstborn sons, according to a study conducted by the University of Essex.

So J.K. Rowling, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Beyoncé – all the eldest children in their families – were born with a greater chance of becoming high achievers.

And while all eldest children are 16 per cent more likely to attend further education than their younger siblings, girls are 4 per cent more likely to have better qualifications.

But firstborn boys – such as Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W Bush – were next in line for success.

Lead researcher Feifei Bu said: ‘There are several possible explanations for the higher attainment and ambition of the eldest.

‘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 report – Sibling Configurations, Educational Aspiration and Attainment – followed 1,503 sibling groups and 3,532 individuals through the British Household Panel Survey and its successor, Understanding Society.

Even taking into account the parents’ education and professional status, the study found firstborn children were still 7 per cent more likely to aspire to stay on in education than younger siblings.

More than half of all Nobel prizewinners and US presidents have been firstborns.

The study looked at gender mix among siblings as well as the size of families – excluding twins and only children – and found there was no evidence that the sex of a second sibling made any difference to their level of aspiration.

However, it did discover that leaving an age gap of at least four years between siblings could improve the younger children’s levels of educational attainment.

Miss Bu told The Observer: ‘I would say that the larger the age gap between the children, the better their qualifications will be.

‘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.’

She added: ‘I’m the firstborn, of course. That is why I’m doing a PhD.’

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