New study suggests winter babies face socioeconomic disadvantages

Jan 07, 2009

Many of us may often feel that we've been born under an unlucky sign. Now, new research by a pair of University of Notre Dame economists suggests that some of us are, in fact, born in an unlucky season.

In their paper, Kasey Buckles and Daniel Hungerman point out that a large body of previous research consistently has found that people born in December, January and February are, on average, less educated, less intelligent, less healthy and lower paid than people born in other seasons.

A variety of explanations have been suggested for this phenomenon, including such social and natural factors as compulsory schooling laws, changes in climate and exposure to illness. However, the exact cause of the association between season of birth and later outcomes has never been precisely clear.

In the new study, Buckles and Hungerman analyzed U.S census data and birth certificates to determine if the typical woman giving birth in winter is any different from the typical woman giving birth at other times of the year.

They discovered that babies born in the winter are more likely to have mothers who are unmarried, who are teenagers or who lack a high school diploma. One explanation for the seasonal patterns in births is that summer's high temperatures inhibit sperm production. This seems to affect lower socioeconomic status women more adversely, which could explain why there are relatively fewer births to these women in the spring and early summer.

Buckles and Hungerman also point out that there could be a "prom babies" effect, with winter births occurring nine moths after end-of-year school celebrations.

The researchers also note that survey data has shown that women consider winter the least desirable season in which to give birth. Buckles and Hungerman suggest that women who are wealthier and more educated are better able to time their births to more desirable seasons.

The Notre Dame economists' findings are published in a National Bureau of Economic Research Working paper.

Source: University of Notre Dame

Explore further: XPRIZE announces Global Learning XPRIZE—$15 million competition to disrupt education

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientist gets World Food Prize for wheat advances

Jun 18, 2014

A crop scientist credited with developing hundreds of varieties of disease-resistant wheat adaptable to many climates and difficult growing conditions was named Wednesday as the 2014 recipient of the World Food Prize.

The long shadow of World War II

Jan 22, 2014

World War II ravaged much of Europe, and its long-term effects are still being felt. A new survey shows that elderly people who experienced the war as children are more likely to suffer from diabetes, depression ...

British Antarctic survey field season is underway

Dec 23, 2013

On the eve of the centenary year of Ernest Shackleton's Endurance Expedition the ship which bears his name is playing a crucial role in the 2013/2014 British Antarctic Survey (BAS) field season.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Recommended for you

Q&A: Science journalism and public engagement

3 hours ago

Whether the public is reading about the Ebola outbreak in Africa or watching YouTube videos on the benefits of the latest diet, it's clear that reporting on science and technology profoundly shapes modern ...

Ig Nobel winner: Using pork to stop nosebleeds

Sep 19, 2014

There's some truth to the effectiveness of folk remedies and old wives' tales when it comes to serious medical issues, according to findings by a team from Detroit Medical Center.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

deatopmg
1 / 5 (1) Jan 08, 2009
"In their paper, Kasey Buckles and Daniel Hungerman point out that a large body of previous research consistently has found that people born in December, January and February are, on average, less educated, less intelligent, less healthy and lower paid than people born in other seasons."

And get less vitamin D because they get less (really no) sun.