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February 14, 2004

What runs in the family isnt success

Socialist Don Conley , also a director of the Center for Advanced Social Science at New York University has come out with some startling findings in his new book - "The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why".

Findings which will generate more debate and interest (and can also affect family planning) : -

- differences between families explain only 25 percent of the nation's income inequality; the remaining 75 percent is explained by differences between siblings

- middle offspring are less likely to receive financial support for their education and may do less well in school than their older and younger siblings. Unlike typical first- and last-borns, he reasons, middle children never experience family life as an only child; instead, they are forced to compete with their siblings for money and attention.

- women are more likely to be as successful as their brothers if their mothers worked outside the home

NYT article on this refers to previous work on the lines of Birth Order theory. Frank J. Sulloway, a historian of science, published the controversial best seller "Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics and Creative Lives" (Pantheon, 1996). Book purported to show the Darwinian logic by which firstborns grow up to be rule-abiding conformists and political leaders, while later-borns become rebellious innovators and revolutionaries.

Though Mr. Conley is deeply skeptical of birth order theory, calling it "next after astrological signs as people's favorite folk explanation for why things turn out."

To get an idea how studies like this affect people, hear what Conley has to say about his own family - "thanks in part to his findings on middle-borns, he said, he was no longer considering having a third child".

February 14, 2004 in Dismal science | Permalink


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