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The More the Merrier? The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Childrens Education

  • S Black
  • Paul Devereux
  • Kjell 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 dataset 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. While we find a negative correlation between family size and children's education, when we include indicators for birth order and/or use twin births as an instrument, family size effects become negligible. In addition, 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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Paper provided by Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE in its series CEE Discussion Papers with number 0050.

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Date of creation: Jun 2005
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Handle: RePEc:cep:ceedps:0050
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  1. 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 227-40, January.
  2. repec:cdl:ucsbec:10-02 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. 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.
  4. Gary S. Becker & Nigel Tomes, 1976. "Child Endowments, and the Quantity and Quality of Children," NBER Working Papers 0123, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Robert Kaestner, 1996. "Are Brothers Really Better? Sibling Sex Composition and Educational Achievement Revisited," NBER Working Papers 5521, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. 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 S279-88, Part II, .
  12. 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.
  13. 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 413-26, October.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
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