Are younger siblings faster?
“In all, history’s fastest runners were born, on average, fourth in families of 4.6 children.”
…the youngest kids were frequently the fastest runners. It became more interesting when I broadened the sample group slightly. Here are the birth-order ranks of the world-record progression in the 100-meter dash, with the most recently set world record first, the previous world record second, and so on.
- Usain Bolt (second of three children)
- Asafa Powell (sixth of six)
- Justin Gatlin (fourth of four)
- Maurice Greene (fourth of four)
- Donovan Bailey (third of three)
- Leroy Burrell (fourth of five)
- Carl Lewis (third of four)
- Burrell (fourth of five)
- Lewis (third of four)
- Calvin Smith (sixth of eight)
While the sample size is small, the pattern is clear. Of the eight men on the list (Burrell and Lewis appear twice), none of them were firstborn, and only one was born in the first half of his family’s birth order. In all, history’s fastest runners were born, on average, fourth in families of 4.6 children. We find a similar result with the top-ten all-time NFL running backs in rushing yardage, who score an average birth rank of 3.2 out of families of 4.4 kids.
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