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How birth date affects future success

Researchers in the US have made further connections between when you are born within the academic year and the chances of dropping out of school.

MALCOLM GLADWELL POINTS  out in his book Outliers that older students and athletes perform better than their younger peers in school and sports because they have a distinct maturity advantage.

Now there’s more evidence that the day you’re born affects how successful you’ll be.

In a new working paper, Birthdays, Schooling and Crime, Duke University researchers Philip Cook and Songman Kang found through tracking five groups of children from a North Carolina public school in the US that the test scores of older students were indeed higher (and in some cases, significantly higher) than those of their younger peers in the same grade.

Those born just after the cut date for starting school are likely to outperform those born just before in reading and math in middle school, and are less likely to be involved in juvenile delinquency. On the other hand, those born after the cut date are more likely to drop out of high school before graduation and commit a felony offense by age 19. We also present suggestive evidence that the higher dropout rate is due to the fact that youths born after the cut date have longer exposure to the legal possibility of dropping out.

Here’s a closer look at reading scores for a group of students in the study:

And their math scores:

The implications of the data go well beyond this snapshot. Not only are students likely to perform similarly in high school and beyond, but high performers are likely to have more confidence and other positive personality traits that make them more likely to succeed later in life.

- Aimee Groth

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