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Why Being Older Can Give You an Advantage

The Relative Age Effect

By Teng HueyPublished 2 months ago 3 min read

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to excel more than others in sports, academics, or their careers? Could their success be attributed to the month they were born in? Believe it or not, this phenomenon exists and it’s called the Relative Age Effect (RAE).

RAE is the concept that people born earlier in the school or sports year tend to perform at a higher level than those born at the end of the year. This is because, in most countries, children are grouped based on their birth year, and the older children have certain advantages. For example, if a child is born in January, they could be almost a full year older than someone born in December of the same year. While the age difference may be negligible on their 18th birthday, it makes a significant difference in their early years.

According to research, children born earlier in the year are typically taller, stronger, and faster, giving them an advantage in sports. Coaches often select the best players for their team, and since the older children have an edge, they are more likely to be chosen. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy called the Matthew Effect, where the older, stronger players continue to excel and become even better over time. Meanwhile, younger, less-developed children are left behind, causing them to lose confidence and miss opportunities.

The RAE is not just limited to sports but extends to other areas of life, including academics and careers. In some countries, children are allowed to start school at a later age if their birthday is later in the year. However, this means that they will be less mature than their peers when they start school, potentially putting them at a disadvantage. Studies have shown that students born earlier in the year perform better academically than those born later in the year. Similarly, in careers, people born earlier in the year are more likely to be promoted to leadership positions, giving them a greater chance of success.

A study conducted in Sweden investigated the RAE in multiple sports, including football, baseball, ice hockey, tennis, and athletics. The authors looked at different age groups and analyzed the birthdays of every athlete, grouping them in blocks of four months, also known as tertiles. They compared the actual number of athletes per tertile against the numbers that you would expect from looking at the births of the population in Sweden. The results showed that the birthdate distributions were consistently skewed for every individual sport they investigated. For example, in athletics, there were 27% more athletes born in the beginning of the year than what would be normal for the Swedish population, and 28% fewer at the end of the year.

While the RAE can seem like a bleak outlook for those born later in the year, there are ways to overcome it. One approach is to introduce mixed-age groups, which would allow children of different ages to play together. This could help younger children develop their skills and build their confidence, giving them a better chance of success. Another strategy is to change the way children are grouped, perhaps by using a different age cutoff or by grouping them based on their developmental level instead of their age.

In conclusion, the Relative Age Effect is a real phenomenon that affects people’s success in various areas of life, including sports, academics, and careers. Being born earlier in the year can give people an advantage due to their developmental level, causing a ripple effect that can impact their entire lives. However, by being aware of the RAE and taking steps to overcome it, we can help level the playing field and give everyone a chance to succeed.


About the Creator

Teng Huey

As a tech enthusiast with a passion for learning and exploring new topics, I write about the latest trends in technology, as well as a variety of other subjects. From science to culture and everything in between.

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  • Farhan Mirza 2 months ago

    I believe that being younger is an age where u can be more confident , I have wrote an article on how to become confident where I shared my story

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