New study suggests winter babies face socioeconomic disadvantages

January 7, 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: Seasonal effects: 'Winter foals' are smaller than foals born in summer

Related Stories

Fall babies: Born to wheeze?

November 21, 2008

It is said that timing is everything, and that certainly appears to be true for autumn infants. Children who are born four months before the height of cold and flu season have a greater risk of developing childhood asthma ...

Birth season affects your mood in later life

October 19, 2014

New research shows that the season you are born has a significant impact on your risk of developing mood disorders. People born at certain times of year may have a greater chance of developing certain types of affective temperaments, ...

Recommended for you

Ancient DNA offers new view on saber-toothed cats' past

October 19, 2017

Researchers who've analyzed the complete mitochondrial genomes from ancient samples representing two species of saber-toothed cats have a new take on the animals' history over the last 50,000 years. The data suggest that ...

Six degrees of separation: Why it is a small world after all

October 19, 2017

It's a small world after all - and now science has explained why. A study conducted by the University of Leicester and KU Leuven, Belgium, examined how small worlds emerge spontaneously in all kinds of networks, including ...

Scientists see order in complex patterns of river deltas

October 19, 2017

River deltas, with their intricate networks of waterways, coastal barrier islands, wetlands and estuaries, often appear to have been formed by random processes, but scientists at the University of California, Irvine and other ...

1 comment

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.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.