Data Crunch — The Benefit of Brothers

Watching my three boys playing sports outside nearly non-stop made me seriously consider the effect of having mini-trainers living at home with you. After reading about Jimmer’s brother running NBA preparation drills, I really began to wonder: Does having an older sibling, or even more siblings, increase your chances of being an elite athlete?  Or is that benefit offset by the additional demands multiple children place on family time and resources?

We decided to look at top 10 draft picks in the NFL and NBA for data.  And of, course, it was fascinating.

According to the Census Bureau, 28% of households in America have 3 or more children.  If family size didn’t affect developing athletes, we would expect approximately 25% of top 10 draftees to come from families of 3 or more children.

Revealingly, not even close.


61% of draftees had 3 or more siblings.  Pretty impressive.

Conversely, let’s see if being an only sibling was a boom or a bust for major league dreams.  Only children do get all the attention and resources, does it help?

click below for more revealing to see, and find out if having an older brother seems to make a difference


Not a bit.  While 21% of families have only one child, only 6% of draftees are only children.  Evidently, it is helpful having a live at home playmate.

Lastly (and most interestingly to me) and I wanted to see what effect having an older brother made on athletic development.  In my anecdotal experience, it seems subsequent boys in each family seem to be the better athletes.  They constantly have someone pushing and teaching them — it makes sense.

I struggled to find data on how many Americans had older brothers.  My thinking is as follows.

  • 20% of households have only children so 80% of households have a chance of having a brother
  • of those 80% of households, half of them will have a girl first, eliminating them from having an older brother leaving 40% with a chance of an older brother
  • the average household has about 2 children, so in each of those remaining households, one half of the children will be the older brother, the other half the younger sibling, leaving 20% of Americans with an older brother.
  • ergo — about 20% of Americans have an older brother (what do you think?  Does this sound right?  Do you have a better guess — do share)

How many of the draftees had an older brother — half.

sib3While this is a small data size, I think it is very notable.  The constant push of siblings definitely appears to help athletes develop — even better if it’s an older brother.

What do you think?  Why do you think having siblings seems to be factor?

And do I even need to say it?  See you in NJ.

Data sourced from census bureau,,, wikipedia and lots of other places trying to find out if these people had older brothers — not well publicized.  


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