Are CEOS More Likely to Be First-Borns?

43 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2018

See all articles by Claudia Custodio

Claudia Custodio

Imperial College London; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Stephan Siegel

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business; CESifo

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Date Written: January 2018


We investigate the link between birth order and the career outcome of becoming Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a company. We find that CEOs are more likely to be the first-born, i.e., oldest, child of their family. This result holds for family firms, where traditionally the oldest child is appointed to run the family business, but also for non-family firms. We also find that CEOs are significantly less likely to have older brothers (relative to younger brothers) than older sisters (relative to younger sisters). The advantage of being first-born seems to decay over time, consistent with changing family structures and rearing practices as well as changing social norms.

Keywords: birth order, CEO, family firm, first born, rearing environment, upbringing

Suggested Citation

Custodio, Claudia and Siegel, Stephan, Are CEOS More Likely to Be First-Borns? (January 2018). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP12613, Available at SSRN:

Claudia Custodio (Contact Author)

Imperial College London ( email )

South Kensington Campus
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London, Greater London SW7 2AZ
United Kingdom

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

United Kingdom

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

c/o the Royal Academies of Belgium
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Stephan Siegel

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business ( email )

Box 353200
Seattle, WA 98195-3200
United States


CESifo ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679

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