Department of Management


Date of this Version



Academy of Management Journal 2019, Vol. 62, No. 4, 1278–1306.


Copyright 2019 Academy of Management Journal. Used by permission.


The importance of birth order has been the subject of debate for centuries, and has captured the attention of the general public and researchers alike. Despite this interest, scholars have little understanding of the impact birth order has on CEOs and their strategic decisions. With this in mind, we develop theory that explains how CEO birth order may be associated with strategic risk taking. Drawing from evolutionary theory arguments related to birth order,we theorize that CEO birth order is positively associatedwith strategic risk taking; that is, earlier-born CEOswill take less risk than later-born CEOs. As evolutionary theory proposes that birth order effects are driven by sibling rivalry, we also argue that this relationship ismoderated by three factors related to sibling rivalry: age gap between a CEO and the closest born sibling, CEO age, and the presence of a sibling CEO. Our results provide support for our theorizing and suggest that birth order may have important implications for organizations. We believe this study helps advance strategic management research, the broader multidisciplinary “family science” literature, and the much-needed cross-pollination of ideas between the two.