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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Emerging Science Note/Sibling Rivalry

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth's Jennifer Chu reports on research that shows first-borns come out on top.


CURWOOD: Just ahead: laughing all the way to good health. First, this Note on Emerging Science from Jennifer Chu.


CHU: When it comes to birth order, the saying, 'first is the worst, second is the best' doesn't ring true, according to a recent study. Census data on Norwegians aged 16 to 74 show that younger siblings tend to receive less schooling than their older brothers and sisters and are less likely to excel in the job market as adults.

For example, researchers found that when compared to first-borns, fourth born children got almost one year less schooling. Wages and employment status were also examined to determine a correlation with birth order. And researchers found that as adults, younger siblings ended up with lower paying jobs and mostly part-time work while first-borns wound up with higher pay and more permanent jobs. The study suggests that it's birth order and not the size of the family that matters when it comes to which siblings do better.

The reason for first-borns apparent advantage could be that they get more intellectual stimulation from parents early on in life. And, while popular notion has younger children benefiting by learning from their older siblings, scientists found just the opposite. First-borns appear to develop superior learning skills from teaching their kid brothers or sisters. Researchers believe these trends in Norway are applicable worldwide. So that, being first turns out to be not the worst, but simply the best. That's this week's Note on Emerging Science. I'm Jennifer Chu.



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