In 2011, researchers from the UK Office of National Statistics suggested that there was a link between birth month and career choice. In late 2013, the Institute for Fiscal Studies implied those born earlier in the academic year would enjoy greater academic and professional success later on. But what exactly is the cause of this, and can we really predict our children’s careers based on when they were born?
Statistical trends — such as February babies preferring artistic careers and May babies being more likely to have diabetes — are usually explained by the extent of exposure to sunlight in the womb. If the mother has low levels of Vitamin D, as is common in winter, her baby is more prone to certain characteristics or medical conditions like epilepsy (January) and asthma (December).
Outlook and prospects
Exposure to sunlight during the first few months of your life is also supposed to affect outlook and future prospects. Summer babies tend to be more optimistic than winter ones, and because of this positive attitude, are often more successful. This may explain achievements in certain areas of life, but when it comes down to specific careers, things are harder to make sense of, for example, why March babies being more likely to become pilots, and December babies, dentists.
Data has shown us that your month of birth has a significant impact on your schooling experience. Those born at the beginning of the academic year are almost a full twelve months older than those born at the end — and, at 6 or 7 years old, this makes all the difference. Older children are more likely to be better at sport, considering they’re often bigger and stronger than younger kids, and they’re also more likely to excel academically. This isn’t because they’re more clever or motivated. It’s because they have an extra year of cognitive development under their belts.
However, being good at something — like maths, or football — is likely to mean the child finds it more enjoyable, and is verbally encouraged by their teachers and coaches. It’s this belief in their abilities that means children born at the beginning of the academic year are more likely to find success later on.
Cycles of reinforcement
Whereas younger children may see their classmates doing better and assume that they’re just not meant for academia, older children are more likely to find themselves in a cycle of positive reinforcement, believing, and being told, that they are achieving. By the time they start secondary school, the age difference won’t matter that much, but the attitudes developed up to this point will matter a lot.
The good news is that by the time these children become adults and enter the world of work, there will be plenty of other factors in play (such as practice, new-found hobbies and talents, motivation and personal goals) that counteract the negative effects of being born late in the academic year. But, to a certain extent — and in combination with the amount of sunlight received as an unborn child and young baby — maybe this does help shape the rest of our lives.
About the author
David Richter is the marketing manager for Octopus HR, one of the UK’s leading providers of HR software. David is also the founder of HRmoz - an open source industry blog dedicated to human resource insight, advice, commentary and opinion.