How Birth Order Can Affect Your Pay



birth orderMy wife just hit her third trimester.  With only a couple months left, she is excited to be in the final stretch of her pregnancy.  When pregnant with our first child, my wife craved junk food.  She was ravenous.  One time, she literally ate two Whoppers back-to-back.  I can’t make this stuff up.  


It wasn’t until recently that I learned about her fast-food addiction at that time.  She had paid for most of in cash, so I really had no idea.  When I found out, I was flabbergasted.  She has always been such a stickler for good nutrition.  But, I’ve learned that pregnancy cravings are real.


In her current pregnancy, my wife craves healthy food.  It is the polar opposite of her first experience.  She loves eating fruits and vegetables.  She has only had fast food once, and that was in her first trimester.  We are having another boy, so we are assuming he will just be a different kid since the pregnancy is so different!


That got me thinking.  Each child has their unique differences.  But I wondered– how important is birth order in regards to pay or career success?  Short answer from my research is a resounding very important.


First-Born Kids

Full disclosure: I am a first-born.  Accordingly, I couldn’t wait to delve into this research.  Overall, it seemed pretty accurate compared to my life.  So I’ll be curious to hear how it is applicable to everyone else’s as well.


First-Born Jobs & Pay

birth orderFirst-born sons are more likely than their siblings to achieve top managerial positions, such as CEO.  In addition, first-born sons are also more likely to score higher on personality tests designed to understand their leadership ability.  It makes sense.  They receive firsthand experience at home at leadership when interacting with younger siblings.  The leadership role that they have in their household later evolves into strong leadership in the workplace.


Not surprisingly, first-born children are the most likely of their siblings to earn six figures.  On average, first-born sons earn 1.2% more than the second son, and about 2.8% more than third son.  


First-born daughters earn about 4.2% more than second-borns, and about 6.6% more than third-borns.  In fact, research that shows first-born children, on average, have IQs that are three points higher than second-born children.  


First-Borns and Money

birth orderJerry Linebaugh, II, founder and CEO of JLine Financial says, “Firstborns handle money differently… They are viciously protective of making sure bills are paid on time and living within their means, which includes building savings and investments.”


Dr. Soroya Bacchus, a triple board-certified psychiatrist based in Los Angeles, claims that first-born children are “the most punctual about paying bills because they love to be seen as stable and dependable. They won’t let financial details like payment due dates and avoiding unnecessary over-the-limit fees fall through the cracks.”


Bacchus continues that first-born children are incredibly organized and as a result, “keep their finances in order.”


As a first-born child, I can definitely say “guilty” in this area. 🙂


Risk-Averse First-Borns

birth orderIn a paper written by Professors John Gilliam and Swarn Chatterjee, they found that first-born children are typically more conservative with their finances and much more risk-averse than their siblings.  They claim, “Firstborns are less likely than the later-borns to have a majority of their portfolios allocated in stock.”


Researcher Sven Michael Spira asserts in his paper, “But when they are optimistic, firstborns seem to act more on their bias in their portfolio choices. Firstborns also tend to engage more in stock picking.”


As my committed readers know, I advocate for a portfolio of passive index funds over selecting individual stocks.


First-Born Perfectionists

birth orderFinally, being first-born also means that you are more likely to be a perfectionist.  Depending on how you look at it, this can be a positive or negative attribute.  Derrick Kinney, a financial advisor with Ameriprise, says, “More often than not, being a perfectionist leads to burnout and giving up or setting unrealistic financial goals.  That may sabotage your finances.”


First-Borns and Occupations

First-borns can be found most commonly in jobs within the government, information technology, engineering, and science fields.


Middle-Born Children

birth orderInterestingly, boys with older sisters tend to behave more like first-born sons, showing greater leadership traits than those who have older brothers for siblings.  In a similar vein, my wife was a middle-born child, but since her older sister has special needs, my wife exhibited more of the first-born attributes.  


Middle-Born Jobs & Pay

Research shows that middle-born children are the most likely to hold entry-level jobs and on average earn less than $35,000 than their first-born siblings.


Middle-Born Familial Relations

birth orderBen Dattner, an adjunct professor at NYU suggests, “First-born siblings have an incentive to adapt to the family environment they were born into. There’s a niche in the family for the first-born sibling to be a culture carrier — an open slot for the position of good-family citizen.  Second-born children are born into a family in which somebody has already occupied the position of good student, good kid, carrier of a parent’s values.”


According to marriage and family therapist Lisa Bahar, “Middle children may fly under the radar screen at times and are more flexible, more apt to be open, take the centered approach, and sometimes (are) more balanced with money.”


Middle-born children may experience a bit of neglect along the way.  So is there any upside for them?


Middle-Born Problem-Solvers

birth order“Middle children are inventive, natural problem-solvers. They grow up thinking they can handle anything themselves, including money problems,” says Dr. Bacchus.


According to Business News Daily, middle-born children are innate savers, with almost 65% of the them contributing money to their savings accounts each month.


Middle-Born Peacekeepers

birth orderMiddle-born children are typically the peacekeepers in the family.  As a result, they are most likely able to get along with everyone, which is a great skill to have in the workforce.  It should be no surprise than that middle children often go into law enforcement, firefighting, construction, education, and personal care.


Last-Born Children

birth orderI always remember thinking that my parents were much more lenient on my sister in comparison to me.  I’m sure many older sibling feels that way.  But it’s true!  According to a recent Yahoo Health article, parents have a habit of spoiling and coddling the youngest children in families.  


Frank Sulloway says, “Last-borns tend to receive an undue share of parental attention because they are the most vulnerable sibling, and hence the most in need of continuing parental investment and care.”


Last-Born Free Spirits

birth orderNot surprisingly, last-born children tend to be more fun and the life of the party.  They also tend to demonstrate poor spending habits and are normally the least fiscally responsible of their siblings.


They typically prioritize social events and also may tend to indulge in impulse purchases and may not budget as well.


Last-Born and Finances

birth order credit card point rewards debtBacchus claims, “Parents often dote on the youngest children, so they’re conditioned to rely on others. They get into financial trouble because they can’t handle responsibility and may even believe someone will fix their financial problems if their parents have paid bills for them.”


According to Kinney, “A social youngest child will have problems learning to value saving long-term over the instant gratification of a social event.”


So being the youngest in the family is clearly a detriment right?  




Last-Born Risk-Takers

birth orderAccording to experts, last-born children are more likely to be interested in foreign travel and are more willing to take risks.  


More often than not, last-born children are more likely to become self-employed, as they try to find their own individualized niche that differs from their siblings.  They tend to have a more entrepreneurial spirit.


Sulloway says, “To be different, younger siblings will often try to find their own domain, something they are particularly good at, something that is different from an older sibling’s area of expertise.”


Those born last often go into creative fields such as art, architecture, writing, and sales.


Only Children

birth orderI’d be remiss if I didn’t include only children on the list.  Interestingly enough, only children in many ways resemble first-born children.  They are more likely to earn six figures and be top executives.  However, only children did not have the same job satisfaction as those people with siblings.


In the workplace, people with siblings tend to have more positive experiences because they are proficient in teamwork.  An only child, on the other hand, may be more comfortable with solo work. 


On top of that, Bacchus asserts, “Like firstborns, only children are perfectionists who are generally very responsible.”  Along with being perfectionists, only children also tend to desire approval from superiors and elders.  


The drawback of this characteristic is that, “this could lead to trying to impress people at all costs, even if it means living beyond your means,” says Chris Dlugozima of GreenPath Financial Wellness.


birth orderOccupations of Only Children

Only children tend to gravitate towards nursing, information technology, engineering, and law enforcement.


So readers, does this research surprise you?  Do you think it’s accurate in your specific case or from what you have seen?  Share your thoughts below.

Mustard Seed Money

Welcome to the website. A mustard seed is a very small seed but astonishingly grows very large over time. My hope is that through your financial journey that your small investment in time, money and faith will grow beyond anything that you could ever imagine.


    • I agree with you that nothing is deterministic. But I think that’s the nature of research. They can only offer patterns and predictions, not definite description. I can see myself fit into many of the categories above, but not all. Overall, I think the findings are pretty interesting and something to think about! 🙂
      Ms. Frugal Asian Finance recently posted…How We Saved On FurnitureMy Profile

      • Thanks for sharing Ms. FAF!!! I definitely agree with you. There is always a subset of the population that won’t fit into the studies but it’s definitely an interesting look at the majority.

  1. People often puzzle how two children from the same household turn out so different. It’s not so mysterious, though, and can be chalked up to differences in genetics and household dynamics.

    Regarding the latter, although children may grow up in the same households with the same parents, each child in a family has a completely different experiences. The oldest is an only child for a period before getting a sibling, and the youngest knowns nothing else than a home in which he or she is at the bottom of the totem pole.

    Like Dan, I am skeptical of this type of research, or at least question its utility. But it is interesting to ponder nonetheless.
    Dr. Curious recently posted…Curious Thoughts (7/22/17)My Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by Dr. Curious!!! It is really amazing how different children end up completely differently. My wife and her sisters have completely different personalities. I’m still shocked thinking about it 🙂

  2. An interesting dynamic in my family is that my siblings (both younger) are adopted. So my parents, relatives, even teachers we had in common were a little less likely to expect the same of us.
    I’m the oldest and in a science field. My sister (middle) works in a doctor’s office. My brother works there too but is a also a musician, spot on for the artistic side you mention. 🙂 Now that we’re adults I wouldn’t trade them for anything, there were some days when we were kids, I wondered about that fateful day I suggested to my mom we could adopt a little sister for me. 🙂

    • That’s really interesting to hear that your youngest brother is artistic. My younger sister is also an artist. I found myself nodding in agreement with a lot of these studies findings 😉

  3. In my case, it seemed banged on. I am the second child, but the eldest boy in the family. Hence I pretty much inherited the eldest child’s characteristics due to the Asian culture that the eldest child is the heir to the family name.

    The thing that I found most accurate is the problem solving part as I tend to use my problem solving skills everywhere. If I need to find a way to save or earn more money, problem solve my way to it. If I need to build a kitchen, I try to find the YouTube video that can help me.

    Great post MSM.
    Leo T. Ly @ recently posted…Protect Your Online Personal BrandingMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Leo!!! I have a friend that has an older sister but is the oldest boy. He’s the same way with leadership skills and you would have thought he was the oldest 🙂

  4. I am the oldest of three boys. I am definitely more risk averse and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

    That said, I also chose a career path that allowed me to earn a great income, but be home by 4:30 every day. Consequently, in choosing family life over work life, my brothers actually out earn me. It’s tough to admit that at times, but I decided not to pursue an advanced degree or climb the corporate ladder. That was my own choice. One works for a big company in NYC and the other works in real estate law.

    That said, I am much more frugal both out of decision and necessity. When I think about my choices, I always come back to the same decision. So, I won’t be a CEO in corporate America one day, but I consider being home with my family early each day much more important.

    I am also much more entrepreneurial than my brothers and my entire family really. Nobody in my family have tried to start businesses or work on projects outside of normal work. So, there’s a creativity and desire to work for myself that my siblings don’t possess.

    Actually, in some ways, since I went “off course” in a way in my parents view, you could consider the middle brother having more of the first born tendencies with regard to career. And, the youngest brother definitely has my parents doting on him constantly. Always getting help from them financially, helping him move, doing laundry and just basically constantly coddling him.

    So, some things in my life jive with the findings and some do not.

    • Thanks for sharing!!! Like you I value being home early to spend time with my family as well. Being able to have four hours to play with my son before he goes to bed is wonderful and something I wouldn’t trade 🙂

  5. The top of birth order has always fascinated me. This is partly to do with the fact that while I am the youngest of 3, my closest sibling is 6 years older than I am.
    Some research shows that kids like me exhibit both youngest AND only-child tendencies.
    I’m not sure where i fit in all this but one this is for sure…the middle child in our house was NOT the peacekeeper…quite the opposite. Then again no one ever said my family was normal 😉
    Budget On a Stick recently posted…Escaping The American TrapMy Profile

    • Hahahahah…it’s funny how when you are born and how close to your siblings can affect things as well. Sounds like you had quite the household 🙂

  6. Some of this matches my circumstance but some doesn’t.

    I’m a first-born, but I’m a problem-solver. I’m also 100% invested in stocks, and I’m *not* a stock-picker but rather a buy-and-hold index kind of guy.

    Obviously these stats don’t claim to cover everyone. In my case I’d say it’s perhaps 50% right.
    Brad – recently posted…5 Things Every College Freshman NeedsMy Profile

  7. Very interesting!! I LOVE reading this stuff. When I compare the results to my and my two brothers (I’m the oldest) they were spot on in a number of ways. My youngest brother is more like a first born, but I’ve heard that happens when there is more than a five year gap between #2 and #3, which is the case in our family.
    Oh, and good for you for cutting your wife some slack on the pregnancy cravings. They are indeed real. 🙂
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…7 Steps to Success That Most People Aren’t Willing to Learn or UtilizeMy Profile

  8. I’ve heard about this! I do wonder how well this holds up, since people are all raised in such different homes. For example, I’m the youngest and I’m in the high-paying job, while my older sister is more of the stay-at-home parent free spirit. I think it depends on your personal experience a lot more than the order in which you were born.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…What A Frugal Weekend! July 23My Profile

  9. I’m the youngest and definitely don’t fit the full profile. I’m much more like a first-born, but I do have a big risk-taking streak!
    Paul recently posted…TGIF: Lazy SummerMy Profile

  10. Many of this is true in our family. My brother earns more then me (I am the second born), is in management positions (I run from those spots), moved back home and is the patriarch of our family (generationally), never traveled abroad (I lived in Argentina for a year and think I was meant to be a nomad)….so you hit the nail on the head.

    We currently have a 2 year old son and are debating more kids. This topic has come up but we will not be deciding on whether or not to have another kid based on the benefits/downfalls of siblings. It will be more based on our vision of our family. Either way, cool article. Congrats on the second pregnancy and let your wife know that Wendy’s is the way to go when it comes to fast food!
    Dads Dollars Debts recently posted…DDD Drawdown plan part 2- Retire at 48?My Profile

  11. I fit the bill on a lot of those characteristics of first born siblings. Thanks for sharing all these findings.
    I’m watching these traits manifest before my own eyes with my five kids. I think a lot of these make sense because the traits correspond to the skills and position we find ourselves in depending on our birth order.
    My Mom and her sister are the exact opposite though. You would swear my mom is the younger sibling and her sister is the older. It’s actually the other way around.

    Tom @ HIP
    High Income Parents recently posted…Is Mini Retirement Right for You?My Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Tom!!! With five kiddos that should definitely be interesting to see how things play out with the kiddos and how they carve out their own roles. That’s funny to hear about your mom as well. Thanks for stopping by!!!

  12. Very interesting read. I was an only child and ended up working in healthcare. I can see lots of differences between my wife and her older sister based on what you wrote. Good luck with the new baby.
    Dave recently posted…Peer-to-Peer Lending (P2P)My Profile

  13. All sounds true. I’m a middle born and consider myself more of a problem solver. I’d much rather think about the solutions rather than let the problem keep me down. And my younger brother is definitely the free spirit 🙂
    SMM recently posted…Get Quality But At A BargainMy Profile

  14. It doesn’t surprise me but my wife and I definitely don’t fit into the categories. My wife is number 3 of 6 and I am 2nd born of 2. We are both more successful than our siblings. She had a little more competition 😉

    It is true that my brother is smarter (IQ) than me and that my parents coddled me more. I believe that I was able to learn from some of my brother’s mistakes. Oh if you do poorly in high school you can’t go to a big fun university. I guess I should do good high school.
    Grant @ Life Prep Couple recently posted…Cash Budgets Don’t WorkMy Profile

    • Hahahaha…it’s interesting the things that we learn as we grow up. My sister when I was in high school decided she wanted to be like one of my successful friends. So she did similar activities and wouldn’t you know, she had a great high school experience.

  15. I don’t want to talk about it!! I’m second born and while I definitely see a lot of my older sibling in the research, with me it’s a bit more patchy.

    With the junk food, I’m having your wife’s exact experience. In my first pregnancy I craved simple carbs all the time – pancakes, french toast, donuts etc. Currently in my second trimester and this baby wants fruit all the time!! We don’t know the gender so maybe that’s a predictor, but maybe not. It will be so interesting watching them grow up and reflecting on the differences.
    Eliza recently posted…How Much Of Your Income Should You Be Saving?My Profile

    • Hahaha…with our first child. My wife craved junk food all the time but now my son only want to eat healthy stuff. With the 2nd child she’s eating super healthy so hopefully he doesn’t have opposite taste buds 🙂

  16. Great topic and read Mustard Seed Money! I am the youngest of three and I kept trying to relate this article to my family while reading. I thoroughly enjoyed your article. The first child hits my oldest sister on the head haha

    I do agree with some of the other commenters here in that these aren’t always true and it depends on the family dynamic. I have two older sisters, and the younger (Middle child of the three of us), shows characteristics of the middle child and the youngest in this piece. She is definitely the free spirit of the family. But that’s what makes the family dynamic so much fun, right? You never quite know how it is going to turn out!

    Thanks for the fun read. I enjoyed hearing everyone elses story in the comment section as well.

    Dividend Diplomats recently posted…Bert’s Q2 2017 Goals ReviewMy Profile

    • Glad you enjoyed reading Bert!!! It’s always interesting to hear how certain people think it resonates with them while others say it doesn’t apply 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing!!! My wife is the middle child but has a ton of characteristics of a first born since her older sister has special needs. It’s interesting to see how these studies reveal data 🙂

  17. This is so interesting! I definitely see a lot of these dynamics in my family, although we have more than 3 so the middle ones of us kinda split all the middle child traits. But the oldest and youngest of us fir these descriptions to a T. The youngest sibling financial traits are generally seen as a negative, but there are other aspects of their personalities that I envy, including artistic abilities and empathy.

    Great post!

    • Thanks for stopping by Graham!!! I’m glad that you enjoyed the article and it’s funny how these traits play out in families. While it’s general, it’s amazing how many people identify with them 🙂

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