In Chinese culture those who are born in the year of the Dragon under the zodiac calendar are believed to be destined for good fortune and greatness, and parents prefer their kids to be born in a Dragon year. In August 2017 Naci H. Mocan and Han Yu, two economists at Louisiana State University, presented to the National Bureau of Economic Research their Working Paper No. 23709 exploring this superstition whether the Dragon-born are actually more lucky and successful than the other Zodiac signs. Using province level panel data they showed that the number of marriages goes up during the two years preceding a Dragon year and that births jump up in a Dragon year. Using three recently collected micro data sets from China including the test scores of some 15,000 Chinese secondary-school pupils, they found that relative to their peers, dragon children received better grades on both their Chinese and their English exams. They demonstrated that those born in a Dragon year are more likely to have a college education, and that they obtain higher scores at the university entrance exam.

Mocan and Yu showed that these results are not because of family background, student cognitive ability, self-esteem or students’ expectations about their future. They found, however, that the “Dragon” effect on test scores is eliminated when they accounted for parents’ expectations about their children’s educational and professional success.

Their study found that parents of Dragon children have higher expectations for their children in comparison to other parents, and that they invest more heavily in their children in terms of time and money. They are more likely to speak to teachers, enroll their children in kindergarten and dish out more pocket money. Similarly, Dragon children get given fewer chores around the house. Even though neither the Dragon children nor their families are inherently different from other children and families, the authors argue that the belief in the prophecy of success and the ensuing investment become self-fulfilling.