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

  • Booth, Alison L.

    ()

    (Australian National University)

  • Kee, Hiau Joo

    ()

    (Australian National University)

We use unique retrospective family background data from the 2003 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 family income, parental age at birth and family level attributes, we find that children from larger families have lower levels of education and that there is in addition a separate negative birth order effect. In contrast to Black, Devereux and Kelvanes (2005), 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 Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 1713.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2005
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Population Economics, 2009, 22 (2), 367-397
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1713
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  1. Mette Ejrnæs & Claus C. Pörtner, 2004. "Birth Order and the Intrahousehold Allocation of Time and Education," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(4), pages 1008-1019, November.
  2. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2005. "The More the Merrier? The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Children's Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(2), pages 669-700, May.
  3. Behrman, Jere R & Taubman, Paul, 1986. "Birth Order, Schooling, and Earnings," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages S121-45, July.
  4. Cigno, Alessandro & Ermisch, John, 1989. "A microeconomic analysis of the timing of births," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 737-760, April.
  5. 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.
  6. Becker, Gary S & Barro, Robert J, 1988. "A Reformulation of the Economic Theory of Fertility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 103(1), pages 1-25, February.
  7. 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, .
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2002. "The Inheritance of Inequality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 3-30, Summer.
  12. 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.
  13. Iacovou, Maria, 2001. "Family composition and children's educational outcomes," ISER Working Paper Series 2001-12, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  14. Barmby, T & Cigno, A, 1990. "A Sequential Probability Model of Fertility Patterns," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 3(1), pages 31-51, April.
  15. Alison L. Booth & Hiau Joo Kee, 2009. "Intergenerational Transmission of Fertility Patterns," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 71(2), pages 183-208, 04.
  16. Paul J. Devereux & Sandra E. Black & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2005. "The more the merrier? The effect of family size and birth order on children's education," Open Access publications 10197/310, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  17. Mark R. Rosenzweig & Junsen Zhang, 2009. "Do Population Control Policies Induce More Human Capital Investment? Twins, Birth Weight and China's "One-Child" Policy," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(3), pages 1149-1174.
  18. George B. Roberts, Chairman, Universities-National Bureau Committee for Economic Research, 1960. "Demographic and Economic Change in Developed Countries," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number univ60-2.
  19. 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.
  20. Gary S. Becker, 1960. "An Economic Analysis of Fertility," NBER Chapters, in: Demographic and Economic Change in Developed Countries, pages 209-240 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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