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Birth order and unwanted fertility

Author

Listed:
  • Wanchuan Lin

    (Guanghua School of ManagementPeking University)

  • Juan Pantano

    (Stony Brook University)

  • Shuqiao Sun

    (University of Michigan)

Abstract

An extensive literature documents the effects of birth order on various individual outcomes, with later-born children faring worse than their siblings. However, the potential mechanisms behind these effects remain poorly understood. This paper leverages US data on pregnancy intention to study the role of unwanted fertility in the observed birth order patterns. We document that children higher in the birth order are much more likely to be unwanted, in the sense that they were conceived at a time when the family was not planning to have additional children. Being an unwanted child is associated with negative life cycle outcomes as it implies a disruption in parental plans for optimal human capital investment. We show that the increasing prevalence of unwantedness across birth order explains a substantial part of the documented birth order effects in education and employment. Consistent with this mechanism, we document no birth order effects in families who have more control over their own fertility.

Suggested Citation

  • Wanchuan Lin & Juan Pantano & Shuqiao Sun, 2020. "Birth order and unwanted fertility," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 33(2), pages 413-440, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:jopoec:v:33:y:2020:i:2:d:10.1007_s00148-019-00747-4
    DOI: 10.1007/s00148-019-00747-4
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    Cited by:

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    2. Wei, Xu & Zhou, Yi & Zhou, Yimin, 2022. "Signaling of earlier-born Children's endowments, intra-household allocation, and birth-order effects," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 108(C).
    3. Bansak, Cynthia & Jiang, Xuan & Yang, Guanyi, 2022. "Sibling spillovers in rural China: A story of sisters," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 76(C).
    4. Kim, Jun Hyung & Wang, Shaoda, 2021. "Birth Order Effects, Parenting Style, and Son Preference," GLO Discussion Paper Series 1007, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    5. Johanna Catherine Maclean & Ioana Popovici & Christopher J. Ruhm, 2023. "Does Paid Sick Leave Facilitate Reproductive Choice?," NBER Working Papers 31801, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Bansak, Cynthia & Jiang, Xuan & Yang, Guanyi, 2020. "Sibling Spillover in Rural China: A Story of Sisters and Daughters," IZA Discussion Papers 13127, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Birth order; Unwanted births; Fertility intentions;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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