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Is Being The Youngest In Your Class A Lifetime Handicap?

In France, a new study shows that kids with December birthdays fall behind in school, and never catch up – even when it comes time for their paychecks.

PARIS - To succeed at school or work, being a Sagittarius or an early Capricorn is not your best bet. This prediction isn't based on the stars, but on your birthday. A recent French study by Julien Grenet for the National Scientific Research Center (CNRS) found that those born in December are more likely to have a less successful schooling than those born 11 months earlier in January.

With obligatory school entry dates in France, end-of-the-year kids are younger and therefore less intellectually mature than their elders when taking exams, which results in lower grades. This weakness is most visible in primary school and among children from poorer families, but does not end there.

An 11-month interval makes a child lose seven places in a 30-student class ranking of first-graders, and five third-graders, according to the study. In first grade, those born toward the end of the year get grades that are 66% lower than those born in January. Though these problems decrease as students grow older, being born in December still costs a child three to four places in 6th grade and two at the end of middle school.

But the worst news to come from this study, first published in Le Monde, is that this liability risks following December kids throughout their lives. Grenet's study reveals that the French education system (which determines orientation at the start of high school and easily recommends repeating a year) amplifies the birth-month effect.

These schooling difficulties increase the children's chances of being left back, which in itself increases their chances of going to a technical high school. The probability of repeating a year is twice as high for 11-year-olds born in December. At 15 years of age, 51% of December-born students compared to 35% of those born in January have repeated a year. The study also found repeating is twice as likely for 11-year-olds from lower-class families.

Similar costs in other countries

Falling behind in school increases the probability by three points of leaving school with a professional-technical education diploma instead of a general education diploma. The birth month effect also has a bigger impact on men than women. Among men, being born later in the year reduces the overall level of degrees obtained. Among women, the birth month influences more specifically the type of degree (professional/general.) Women tend to go to school longer and more of them get a professional college degree.

The differences in diplomas has an impact on salaries, although minimal, Grenet found. Being born in December has a bigger influence on the degree level than on the type of academic training. People born in December receive slightly lower paychecks than those born in January, 2.3% for men and 0.7% in women. Le Monde estimated the shortfall at about 12,000 euros over a 42-year career. A December birthday also makes it harder to succeed at exams for civil service, and increases chances of being unemployed by 0.5%.

These inequalities aren't just a French phenomenon. In UK classrooms, the student entry into a grade falls between September 1st and August 31st. So those born in the summer face these same challenges. Some European countries have tried to tackle the issue, including the Netherlands' allowing those born toward the end of the year to stay in first grade for two years to give them a better chance at succeeding. But for Grenet, the solution is to adjust the grades of the youngest students in middle school according to their birth month.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Why The U.S. Lost Its Leverage In The Middle East — And May Never Get It Back

In the Israel-Hamas war, Qatar now plays the key role in negotiations, while the United States appears increasingly disengaged. Shifts in the region and beyond require that Washington move quickly or risk ceding influence to China and others for the long term.

Photograph of U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken  shaking hands with sraeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

November 30, 2023, Tel Aviv, Israel: U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Chuck Kennedy/U.S State/ZUMA
Sébastien Boussois


PARIS — Upon assuming office in 2008, then-President Barack Obama declared that United States would gradually begin withdrawing from various conflict zones across the globe, initiating a complex process that has had a major impact on the international landscape ever since.

This started with the American departure from Iraq in 2010, and was followed by Donald Trump's presidency, during which the "Make America Great Again" policy redirected attention to America's domestic interests.

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The withdrawal trend resumed under Joe Biden, who ordered the exit of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2021. To maintain a foothold in all intricate regions to the east, America requires secure and stable partnerships. The recent struggle in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict demonstrates that Washington increasingly relies on the allied Gulf states for any enduring influence.

Since the collapse of the Camp David Accords in 1999 during Bill Clinton's tenure, Washington has consistently supported Israel without pursuing renewed peace talks that could have led to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

While President Joe Biden's recent challenges in pushing for a Gaza ceasefire met with resistance from an unyielding Benjamin Netanyahu, they also stem from the United States' overall disengagement from the issue over the past two decades. Biden now is seeking to re-engage in the Israel-Palestine matter, yet it is Qatar that is the primary broker for significant negotiations such as the release of hostages in exchange for a ceasefire —a situation the United States lacks the leverage to enforce.

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