Using multiple sources of administrative data from the multicultural city state of Singapore, we study the life outcomes of large birth cohorts created by the Chinese superstitious practice of zodiac birth timing, where parents prefer to give birth in the year of the Dragon. This practice is followed exclusively by the Chinese majority—on average the number of births jumps by 8.8% in Dragon years among the Chinese majority, with no similar patterns detected among non-Chinese minorities. Chinese Dragon babies earn significantly lower income than other Chinese cohorts after entering the labor market (by 6.4%), relative to the income difference between Dragons and non-Dragons within the non-Chinese subpopulation. The adverse labor market outcome is unlikely to be the result of self-selection; rather it reflects the aggregate resource implications of substantially larger cohort sizes. We find a significant negative income effect for the non-Chinese born in Dragon years as well as other birth cohorts who happen to enter college (and labor market) at the same time as Chinese Dragons. The negative income effect partly arises from the rather inelastic labor demand. Despite efforts to increase public educational resources, Dragon babies have lower admission chances to local national universities, suggesting limited capacity of such measures to accommodate the surge in demand for resources associated with larger birth cohorts.
Wenlan Qian is Associate Professor in the Department of Finance at the NUS Business School. She is also an affiliated researcher at the Institute of Real Estate Studies at the National University of Singapore. Wenlan currently serves on the editorial board of Financial Management and Real Estate Economics, and is a fellow of the Homer Hoyt Weimer School of Advanced Studies in Real Estate and Land Economics. She holds a PhD in Business Administration from the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley.
Wenlan's main research interests are household finance, real estate, investments and financial intermediaries. She is the recipient of multiple prestigious external grants, including NBER Household Finance/Sloan Foundation Research Grant and Real Estate Research Institute Research Grant. Wenlan's work also won the best paper awards at leading international conferences in finance and real estate, such as the Society of Financial Studies Cavalcade conference and the AREUEA international meeting. Her research appears in or is accepted at top academic journals such as American Economic Review, Journal of Financial Economics, Review of Financial Studies, Review of Economics and Statistics, Management Science, and Review of Finance.