Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Middle Child Conspiracy: a closer look

A Smack Dab inestigative report reveals the truth about Middle Child Presidents!
          As happy as I was to learn that 52% of all U.S. Presidents were actually Middle Children and not firstborns, (See "The Middle Child Conspiracy"), the Middle Child in me suspected it was too good to be true. So in the spirit of this year’s Presidential elections, I did a little fact checking. It turns out that just like in real life, both sides are playing it fast and loose with the facts. Granted, it’s a little hard to label some Presidents in one category or the other. For example, George Washington’s father had four children with his first wife before the 1st President was born. Washington was the first of six children from his father’s second marriage. So does he count as the first born or the fifth born? FDR was the only child from his father’s second marriage, but had an older half-brother from his father’s first marriage. So is he the oldest or the youngest? And if we consider him an only child, does he count as both the oldest and youngest?

          Adding to the confusion is how “firstborn” and “Middle Child” are defined. We already know that Dr. Saltz’s numbers were inaccurate, clearly the work of the powerful firstborn lobby. The only way 52% of U.S. Presidents could be considered firstborn is if you don’t count their actual firstborn older sisters, which is silly. And probably sexist. If you just look at how many were the actual firstborn or only child in their family, that number drops significantly, to 36%. (And that’s being generous, counting FDR, Washington and a few others from second marriages as firstborns.)
          Unfortunately for us Middle Children, the numbers reported by Salmon & Schumann in their book also raise some questions. The only way to arrive at the 52% they report is to define “Middle Child” in the broadest sense: any child who isn’t the first or last born. Of course, there are Middle Child traditionalists who would argue that a "true" Middle Child can only be the one smack dab in the middle of an odd number of siblings, or at least one of the middle two in an even number of siblings. (No Presidents were even “shared Middles,” by the way.) By this stricter definition, a mere 12% of U.S. Presidents were Middle Children. (Just to be fair, I only counted Grover Cleveland once, even though he was President twice.) In case you were wondering, 14% of U.S. Presidents were the last born. So there you have it.
          Once again, we’re at the bottom of the barrel. The short end of the stick is right back where it belongs. Big Surprise. While this might appear to be bad news for Middle Children, there is a silver lining: anything that knocks the firstborns down a few pegs should be considered a victory for us. Hey, you have to take what you can get!

If you’re interested, here’s a link to a full list of Presidents and their birth order:

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Middle Children need to be heard!