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Born to Lead? The Effect of Birth Order on Non-Cognitive Abilities


  • Black, Sandra E.

    () (University of Texas at Austin)

  • Grönqvist, Erik

    () (IFAU)

  • Öckert, Björn

    () (IFAU)


We study the effect of birth order on personality traits among men using population data on enlistment records and occupations for Sweden. We find that earlier born men are more emotionally stable, persistent, socially outgoing, willing to assume responsibility, and able to take initiative than later-borns. In addition, we find that birth order affects occupational sorting; first-born children are more likely to be managers, while later-born children are more likely to be self-employed. We also find that earlier born children are more likely to be in occupations that require leadership ability, social ability and the Big Five personality traits. Finally, we find a significant role of sex composition within the family. Later-born boys suffer an additional penalty the larger the share of boys among the older siblings. When we investigate possible mechanisms, we find that the negative effects of birth order are driven by post-natal environmental factors. We also find evidence of lower parental human capital investments in later-born children.

Suggested Citation

  • Black, Sandra E. & Grönqvist, Erik & Öckert, Björn, 2017. "Born to Lead? The Effect of Birth Order on Non-Cognitive Abilities," IZA Discussion Papers 10560, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10560

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Rita Ginja & Jenny Jans & Arizo Karimi, 2017. "Parental Investments in Early Life and Child Outcomes: Evidence from Swedish Parental Leave Rules," Working Papers 2017-085, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    2. Black, Sandra E. & Devereux, Paul J. & Salvanes, Kjell G., 2016. "Healthy(?), wealthy, and wise: Birth order and adult health," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 27-45.
    3. Sanni Breining & Joseph Doyle & David N. Figlio & Krzysztof Karbownik & Jeffrey Roth, 2017. "Birth Order and Delinquency: Evidence from Denmark and Florida," CESifo Working Paper Series 6330, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item


    birth order; personality; occupation choice;

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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