Do you feel like you’re struggling at work? Blame your birthday. New research from England finds that people born in August are 20% less likely than September babies to excel in school and attend top universities — and the problems don’t end there. As one of the report’s authors told the Guardian, “This suggests that August-born children may end up doing worse than September-born children throughout their working lives, simply because of the month in which they were born.”
The researchers looked at data from the records of 48,500 British children and teenagers. The findings are shocking: August babies were significantly likelier to attend vocational school, they displayed lower “socio-emotional development,” and they were 2.5 times as likely as September babies to say they’re “always unhappy” in school. Teachers were 2.5 times more likely to assess August-born students as below average in math. To top it off, August kids were twice as likely to report being bullied.
So if the calendar year determines our lives with such potency, what’s the explanation? “I told you so!” your high school BFF is thinking. “Astrology is REAL.” Well, no. The most plausible explanation has to do with age cut-offs for school entry: Children born in August are the youngest in English classrooms. Almost a year behind some of their peers, developmentally, they often struggle to keep up. Not always, of course, but enough to make a serious statistical dent that lasts into the workplace. Another of the authors said the effect was big enough to worry the government, which “should be concerned about the wider educational experience of summer-born children, who appear to be at a disadvantage in terms of their wellbeing as well as their test scores.”
Similarly, research a few years ago found that August babies are way overrepresented in American professional baseball. Why? Because July 31 has traditionally been the cutoff for youth baseball leagues, so kids born in August grow up being the oldest kids on the field, and reap the advantages.
Obviously birthdays don’t determine everything about career success, but the findings are strong enough that the implications are startling for those of us with summer birthdays. But don’t despair. Warren Buffett, Martha Stewart, and Barack Obama are among those born in August who haven’t seemed to be held back by the calendar.