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Born Leaders: The Relative-Age Effect and Managerial Success

Qianqian Du

Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Huasheng Gao

Nanyang Technological University

Maurice D. Levi

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Sauder School of Business

March 18, 2009

AFA 2011 Denver Meetings Paper

This paper shows that the time of year of a person's birth is an important factor in the likelihood they become a CEO, and conditional on becoming a CEO, on the performance of the firms they manage. Based on a sample of 321 CEOs of S&P 500 companies from 1992 to 2006 we find that (1) the number of CEOs born in the summer is disproportionately small, and (2) firms with CEOs born in the summer have higher market valuation than firms headed by non-summer-born CEOs. Furthermore, an investment strategy that bought firms with CEOs born in the summer and sold firms with CEOs born in other seasons would have earned an abnormal return of 8.32 percent per year during the sample period. Our evidence is consistent with the so-called "relative-age effect" due to school admissions grouping together children with age differences up to one year, with summer-born children being younger than their non-summer-born classmates. The relative-age effect has been demonstrated in numerous sporting and other contexts to last to adulthood and to favor older children within a school grade. Those younger children who nevertheless succeed by overcoming their disadvantage have to be particularly capable within their cohort. Together, the advantage enjoyed by older children and the particularly high capability of successful young children explain the statistically and economically significant findings.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 38

Keywords: Relative-age, CEO birthdate, corporate performance

JEL Classification: G30

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Date posted: March 19, 2009 ; Last revised: March 16, 2010

Suggested Citation

Du, Qianqian and Gao, Huasheng and Levi, Maurice D., Born Leaders: The Relative-Age Effect and Managerial Success (March 18, 2009). AFA 2011 Denver Meetings Paper. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1365006 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1365006

Contact Information

Qianqian Du
Hong Kong Polytechnic University ( email )
9/F, Li Ka Shing Tower
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Hong Kong, Hung Hom, Kowloon M923
Huasheng Gao (Contact Author)
Nanyang Technological University ( email )
S3 B2-A28 Nanyang Avenue
Singapore, 639798
HOME PAGE: http://www3.ntu.edu.sg/home/hsgao/
Maurice David Levi
University of British Columbia (UBC) - Sauder School of Business ( email )
2053 Main Mall
Henry Angus 865
Vancouver BC V6T 1Z2
604-822-8260 (Phone)
604-822-8521 (Fax)
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References:  19
Citations:  1

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