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Older and Wiser? Birth Order and IQ of Young Men

  • Sandra E. Black
  • Paul J. Devereux
  • Kjell G. Salvanes

While recent research finds strong evidence that birth order affects children's outcomes such as education and earnings, the evidence on the effects of birth order on IQ is decidedly mixed. This paper uses a large dataset on the population of Norway that allows us to precisely measure birth order effects on IQ. We find a strong and significant effect of birth order on IQ, and our results suggest that earlier born children have higher IQs. Our preferred estimates suggest differences between first-borns and second-borns of about one fifth of a standard deviation or approximately 3 IQ points. Despite these large average effects, birth order only explains about 3% of the within-family variance of IQ. When we control for birth endowments, the estimated birth order effects increase. Thus, our analysis suggests that birth order effects are not biologically determined. Also, there is no evidence that birth order effects occur because later-born children are more affected by family breakdown. (JEL codes: I2, J1). Copyright The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Ifo Institute for Economic Research, Munich. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com, Oxford University Press.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/cesifo/ifq022
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Article provided by CESifo in its journal CESifo Economic Studies.

Volume (Year): 57 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 103-120

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Handle: RePEc:oup:cesifo:v:57:y:2011:i:1:p:103-120
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  1. Alison Booth & Hiau Joo Kee, 2005. "Birth Order Matters: The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Educational Attainment," CEPR Discussion Papers 506, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  2. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell Salvanes, 2005. "From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 11796, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2005. "The More the Merrier? The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Children's Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(2), pages 669-700, May.
  4. Hanushek, Eric A, 1992. "The Trade-Off between Child Quantity and Quality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(1), pages 84-117, February.
  5. Behrman, Jere R & Taubman, Paul, 1986. "Birth Order, Schooling, and Earnings," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages S121-45, July.
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