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Birth Order Matters: The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Educational Attainment

  • Booth, Alison L
  • Kee, Hiau Joo

We use unique retrospective family background data from the 2003 wave of the British Household Panel Survey to explore the degree to which family size and birth order affect a child’s subsequent educational attainment. Theory suggests a trade off between child quantity and ‘quality’. Family size might adversely affect the production of child quality within a family. A number of arguments also suggest that siblings are unlikely to receive equal shares of the resources devoted by parents to their children’s education. We construct a composite birth order index that effectively purges family size from birth order and use this to test if siblings are assigned equal shares in the family’s educational resources. We find that they are not, and that the shares are decreasing with birth order. Controlling for parental education, parental age at birth and family level attributes, we find that children from larger families have lower levels of education, that there is a separate negative birth order effect, and that the family size effect does not vanish once we control for birth order. Our findings are robust to a number of specification checks.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5453.

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Date of creation: Jan 2006
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5453
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  1. Dalton Conley & Rebecca Glauber, 2005. "Parental Educational Investment and Children's Academic Risk: Estimates of the Impact of Sibship Size and Birth Order from Exogenous Variations in Fertility," NBER Working Papers 11302, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  18. S Black & Paul Devereux & Kjell Salvanes, 2005. "The More the Merrier? The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Childrens Education," CEE Discussion Papers 0050, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
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  20. 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.
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