Youngest Kid, Smartest Kid

By Maria Konnikova
Published September 19, 2013, at the New Yorker’s Elements blog

When the Harvard sociologist Hilary Levey Friedman was expecting her first child, one thing worried her: her due date, January 3rd. It was uncomfortably close to January 1st, an often-used age cutoff for enrollment in academics and sports. “I was determined to keep him in until after January 1st,” she said. And if the baby came early? “I actively thought about redshirting,” she said. Given the choice, she wanted him to be the oldest kid in his class, not the youngest. The data, however, belies this assumption. While earlier studies have argued that redshirted children do better both socially and academically–citing data on school evaluations, leadership positions, and test scores–more recent analyses suggest that the opposite may well be the case: the youngest kids, who barely make the age cutoff but are enrolled anyway, ultimately end up on top-not their older classmates. Read the story.