Birth Order and Pilots

Since most of us running this site are first-born, we just couldn't resist looking into this question. And it turns out that there's actually a fair amount of research to back up your premise. Although I couldn't find any evidence to support the terms "80 percent of the time" or "most likely," quite a bit of research does point out some common trends in choice of career based upon birth order.

Mercury 7 astronauts
Mercury 7 astronauts

For example, a 1985 study concluded that first-born children are more likely to be driven to succeed in "high achievement" fields including science, medicine, and law. Cited as an example of this trend is that 21 of NASA's first 23 astronauts who made trips into space were either eldest or only children. Indeed, all seven of the original Mercury astronauts were first-born. Since most astronauts come from the ranks of military pilots, that would provide some convincing evidence that a career as a pilot is something that would appeal to a first-born child. Such children often exhibit qualities such as being conscientious and organized, serious and scholarly, self-assured, and possessing good leadership ability. All of these are traits one would typically expect of a pilot, or his more intelligent and better looking cousin, the aerospace engineer! Among famous first-born children are George W. Bush (president, fighter pilot), Albert Einstein (scientist), Sally Ride (astronaut), and John Glenn (astronaut, senator).

Furthermore, the same study found that youngest children tend to be charming and engaging with good people skills, but sometimes they have a proclivity to show off and become spoiled. As a result, a 1991 study concluded that youngest children are more likely to be drawn towards careers in sales, the arts, and entertainment where they can best utilize their people skills or become the center of attention. One of the fields mentioned as being dominated by youngest children is indeed that of comedy. Some well-known youngest children include Ronald Reagan (president, actor), Eddie Murphy (comedian), Billy Crystal (comedian), and Yogi Berra (baseball player).

Then again, we must always remember that birth order only has an influence on personality, but it is hardly conclusive. As Yogi Berra once said: "Every now and then, a reporter who thinks he is Freud asks me if being the youngest is why I made it. I almost always say, 'Yes, but I don't think it had anything to do with it.'"
- answer by Joe Yoon, 27 April 2003

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