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New Partner, New Order? Multipartnered Fertility and Birth Order Effects on Educational Achievement

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  • Mats Lillehagen

    (University of Oslo)

  • Martin Arstad Isungset

    (University of Oslo)

Abstract

A substantial amount of research shows that younger siblings perform worse than their older sisters and brothers in several socioeconomic outcomes, including educational achievement. Most of these studies examined stable families and excluded half-siblings. However, the increasing prevalence of multipartnered fertility implies that many children grow up in nonnuclear families. We examine whether there is evidence for birth order effects in this context, which offers an opportunity to test and potentially expand the explanatory scope of the two main theories on birth order effects. We use comprehensive Norwegian registry data to study siblings in the 1985–1998 cohorts born to mothers or fathers who parented children with at least two partners. We provide evidence for negative effects of birth order on lower secondary school grades in both cases. Children born to fathers displaying multipartnered fertility tend to have lower grades than older full siblings but perform more similarly or better compared with older half-siblings. For siblings born to mothers with the multipartnered fertility pattern, later-born siblings do worse in school compared with all older siblings. This indicates that negative birth order effects tend to operate either within or across sets of full siblings, depending on the sex of the parent displaying multipartnered fertility. We argue that these findings can be explained by a combination of resource dilution/confluence theory and sex differences in residential arrangements following union dissolutions. We also suggest an alternative interpretation: maternal resources could be more important for generating negative birth order effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Mats Lillehagen & Martin Arstad Isungset, 2020. "New Partner, New Order? Multipartnered Fertility and Birth Order Effects on Educational Achievement," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 57(5), pages 1625-1646, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:57:y:2020:i:5:d:10.1007_s13524-020-00905-4
    DOI: 10.1007/s13524-020-00905-4
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