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A New Explanation For the Plight of Winter Babies 276

Ant passes along a Wall Street Journal report on research that turned up a new explanation for the lifelong challenges experienced by winter babies. "Children born in the winter months already have a few strikes against them. Study after study has shown that they test poorly, don't get as far in school, earn less, are less healthy, and don't live as long as children born at other times of year. Researchers have spent years documenting the effect and trying to understand it... A key assumption of much of that research is that the backgrounds of children born in the winter are the same as the backgrounds of children born at other times of the year. ... [Economist] Mr. Hungerman was doing research on sibling behavior when he noticed that children in the same families tend to be born at the same time of year. Meanwhile, Ms. Buckles was examining the economic factors that lead to multiple births, and coming across what looked like a relationship between mothers' education levels and when children were born." Here's a chart in which the effect — small but significant — jumps out unmistakeably.
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A New Explanation For the Plight of Winter Babies

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  • That means... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 26, 2009 @03:44PM (#29549887)

    There's a tendency for promiscuous, uneducated teenagers to have unprotected sex during springtime and early summer. It's always easy to say this, but, duh...

  • Makes sense (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 26, 2009 @03:47PM (#29549899)

    The difference is extremely small, but one would expect that people getting pregnant because of a one-night-stand or a whim is both higher among the uneducated, unmarried, and also higher during spring when many people's hormones tend to go into higher gear. People who are more in control of their emotions and actions tend to be more educated and are (at least somewhat) less likely to sleep with half the town during spring break.

    Of course, the correlations I mention above don't necessarily have to be very large, but probably large enough to affect the statistics by a tenth of a percent.

  • Re:Jumps out? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ucblockhead ( 63650 ) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @03:51PM (#29549935) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, I have little doubt that there is a real effect here, but I hate when things like this are sensationalized. There may well be an effect, but it is a small one.

  • Different metric (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @03:53PM (#29549959) Homepage

    If you count backward from January, that puts conception around April/May. Right around graduation. So if you suppose the poor and less educated would be getting married and starting a family instead of getting ready for college, that might explain some of it.

    It would probably be just as interesting to track the birth rates correlated to surges in beer and Jagermeister sales.

  • 3rd bump (Score:2, Interesting)

    by danlip ( 737336 ) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @03:55PM (#29549969)

    There is a secondary bump around September in each of these charts - it's much smaller but consistent every year. Fascinating.

  • Winter where? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xirusmom ( 815129 ) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @04:07PM (#29550031)
    I wonder if all the data comes from the North Hemisphere? What happens in the south?
  • Re:Born in December (Score:2, Interesting)

    by entropy_uc ( 146475 ) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @04:17PM (#29550085)

    Dumb chicks put out in spring when they are horny.

    Smart chicks put out when the crops are mature and it's clear there will be enough resources to feed another mouth.

    It's amazing how much human behavior is hard wired into us.

  • Re:Jumps out? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 26, 2009 @04:41PM (#29550219)
    I'm not sure why you were modded flamebait. I think your question is valid, considering the southern hemisphere has the opposite seasonal cycle that the northern hemisphere has.
  • by cinnamon colbert ( 732724 ) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @04:46PM (#29550257) Journal

    suppose educated women (and education strongly correlates wit income and wealth) "know" htat babies are supposed to be born in the spirng.....
    this would rduce the whole thing to a cultural artifact: well to do parents tell thier kids to have a spring baby, and so it goes...

  • by alex_guy_CA ( 748887 ) <> on Saturday September 26, 2009 @05:38PM (#29550683) Homepage
    I though that it was better for kids to be the older ones in their class. Is there research about this? I just started my daughter in K late instead of early (November birthday) thiking being older would help her excel.
  • by tthomas48 ( 180798 ) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @05:43PM (#29550711) Homepage

    People who plan their pregnancies are more likely to be educated, married, and not teenagers. People who plan pregnancies are not likely to try to target November - January, because it's cold and they won't want their babies birth close to Christmas and Thanksgiving.

  • Missing data? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nurbles ( 801091 ) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @06:56PM (#29551317) Homepage

    Did anyone else skim (or actually read) the 2008 paper by the researchers that was linked in the article? I notice many mentions of winter months and January but nothing about February or March (or the last week of December). In fact, the tables of data at the end of the paper list by month, but omit January, or by quarter of year, but omit the first quarter. What's the point of including data for everything except the two most mentioned time periods in one report?

    Something seems bogus to me.

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