Friday, June 22, 2007

Birth order

Birth order and intelligence. Is there a connection? What do you think?

MaryKate or Ashley?
Venus or Serena Williams?
Wilbur or Orville Wright?
Michael or Janet Jackson?
Prince William or Prince Harry?
Jeb or George W. Bush?
Paris or Nicky?

After nearly a century of debate, a large study just published in Science Magazine provides evidence that the first-born tend to be more intelligent.

Studies like this are tricky because they deal with many statistics that change quickly over time. For example, in the U.S. and Canada, as average family size decreased the proportion of first-borns went from 27% in 1960 to 44% in 1984. But I love science, it can explain so much.

Conventional wisdom, the other way to explain much but without the burden of science, holds that eldest children value order, rules, and structure, middle children tend to be outlandish and nonconformist to get people to pay attention to them, and the youngest are friendly, outgoing, and also manipulative. Only children try to become adults at an early age, and tend to excel both intellectually and emotionally, but they may not like to share.

If you're not the eldest, you can take heart: other studies have shown no correlation between intelligence and net worth. One possibility is that smart people place lesser value on money. Another is that being smart and working hard are two different things.

So who do the Science Magazine study results predict will be the more intelligent of our celebrity couples? Here are older siblings:

Venus Williams
Orville Wright
Michael Jackson
Prince William
Jeb Bush, and
Paris Hilton

Paris may be even smarter now after spending some time behind bars. But the study also says there is no good explanation behind the two point IQ advantage the eldest enjoys. Sometimes, even in science as in life or with Paris, we just can't find a reason for things.

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