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Reexamining the relative-age effect and career success: new evidence from S&P 1500 CEOs

Thomas Covington (Finance, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA)
Steve Swidler (Economics, Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, USA)
Keven Yost (Finance, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA)

Managerial Finance

ISSN: 0307-4358

Article publication date: 19 August 2021

Issue publication date: 3 January 2022




The previous literature finds evidence from birth dates of CEOs that the relative-age effect continually influences their career success. The authors look at a significantly larger collection of CEOs and more exact information on school cut-off dates to reexamine the relative-age effect.


The relative-age effect suggests that older individuals within a cohort are more successful. This study investigates if the relative-age effect exists for CEOs in the S&P 1500 by analyzing the distribution of their relative age. The authors utilize an identification strategy that allows to calculate a CEO's relative age in months and enables to resolve known identification problems.


The authors find no support for the existence of the relative-age effect for CEOs either by season of birth or relative age in months. On the whole, the distribution of CEO birth dates is similar to the US population. Additionally, the authors find no evidence of a relative-age effect on firm performance.

Practical implications

Contrary to previous findings, there appears to be no relative-age cohort effect for CEOs of major corporations.


Research shows that CEO characteristics shape firm strategy that in turn affects firm performance. Despite previous work that suggests a relative-age effect, the authors provide a more comprehensive data set and better measurement of relative-age within a cohort. The authors find that the relative-age effect does not continue throughout a CEO's career, and therefore, birth dates are not a characteristic that influences firm strategy and performance.



The authors would like to thank two anonymous referees and the editor for their suggestions and editorial guidance.


Covington, T., Swidler, S. and Yost, K. (2022), "Reexamining the relative-age effect and career success: new evidence from S&P 1500 CEOs", Managerial Finance, Vol. 48 No. 1, pp. 49-56.



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