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The More the Merrier? The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Children's Education

Listed author(s):
  • Sandra E. Black
  • Paul J. Devereux
  • Kjell G. Salvanes

There is an extensive theoretical literature that postulates a trade-off between child quantity and quality within a family. However, there is little causal evidence that speaks to this theory. Using a rich data set on the entire population of Norway over an extended period of time, we examine the effects of family size and birth order on the educational attainment of children. We find a negative correlation between family size and children's education, but when we include indicators for birth order or use twin births as an instrument, family size effects become negligible. In addition, higher birth order has a significant and large negative effect on children's education. We also study adult earnings, employment, and teenage childbearing and find strong evidence for birth order effects with these outcomes, particularly among women. These findings suggest the need to revisit economic models of fertility and child "production," focusing not only on differences across families but differences within families as well.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/qje/120.2.669
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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 120 (2005)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 669-700

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Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:120:y:2005:i:2:p:669-700.
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  1. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1976. "Child Endowments and the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages 143-162, August.
  2. Becker, Gary S & Lewis, H Gregg, 1973. "On the Interaction between the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages 279-288, Part II, .
  3. Saul Hoffman & E. Foster & Frank Furstenberg, 1993. "Reevaluating the costs of teenage childbearing: Response to Geronimus and Korenman," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 30(2), pages 291-296, May.
  4. repec:cdl:ucsbec:10-02 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Currie, Janet & Stabile, Mark, 2006. "Child mental health and human capital accumulation: The case of ADHD," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 1094-1118, November.
  6. Deschenes, Olivier, 2007. "Estimating the Effects of Family Background on the Return to Schooling," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 25, pages 265-277, July.
  7. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1980. "Testing the Quantity-Quality Fertility Model: The Use of Twins as a Natural Experiment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(1), pages 227-240, January.
  8. Robert Kaestner, 1997. "Are Brothers Really Better? Sibling Sex Composition and Educational Achievement Revisited," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(2), pages 250-284.
  9. Kessler, Daniel, 1991. "Birth Order, Family Size, and Achievement: Family Structure and Wage Determination," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(4), pages 413-426, October.
  10. Robert M. Hauser & Hsiang-Hui Daphne Kuo, 1998. "Does the Gender Composition of Sibships Affect Women's Educational Attainment?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(3), pages 644-657.
  11. Gordon B. Dahl & Enrico Moretti, 2004. "The Demand for Sons: Evidence from Divorce, Fertility, and Shotgun Marriage," NBER Working Papers 10281, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.
  13. Angrist, Joshua D & Evans, William N, 1998. "Children and Their Parents' Labor Supply: Evidence from Exogenous Variation in Family Size," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 450-477, June.
  14. Kristin F. Butcher & Anne Case, 1994. "The Effect of Sibling Sex Composition on Women's Education and Earnings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(3), pages 531-563.
  15. Iacovou, Maria, 2001. "Family composition and children's educational outcomes," ISER Working Paper Series 2001-12, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
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