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Explaining the Birth Order Effect: The Role of Prenatal and Early Childhood Investments

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  • Lehmann, Jee-Yeon K.

    () (University of Houston)

  • Nuevo-Chiquero, Ana

    () (University of Edinburgh)

  • Vidal-Fernández, Marian

    () (University of Sydney)

Abstract

The critical role of prenatal and early childhood conditions on adult outcomes has been the focus of a rich body of research. In this paper, we examine various pre- and postnatal investments as possible sources behind the "birth order effect" – significant differences in the educational and labor market outcomes across children of varying birth orders. Taking advantage of a rich set of information on in utero and early childhood conditions in the Children of the NLSY79, we find that, within the same household, siblings of higher birth order experience a lower reduction in cigarette usage during pregnancy, are breastfed less often, and experience less cognitive stimulation and emotional support at ages 0 to 1. Next, we test for the presence of birth order effects in early cognitive and non-cognitive test scores and examine whether these differences can be explained by variations in prenatal and early childhood investments. Although there exists a significant negative relationship between birth order and early cognitive/non-cognitive test scores, the size and the significance of the negative birth order effects in test scores and educational attainment are robust to controlling for variations in early childhood factors.

Suggested Citation

  • Lehmann, Jee-Yeon K. & Nuevo-Chiquero, Ana & Vidal-Fernández, Marian, 2012. "Explaining the Birth Order Effect: The Role of Prenatal and Early Childhood Investments," IZA Discussion Papers 6755, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6755
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    1. Currie, Janet & Grogger, Jeffrey, 2002. "Medicaid expansions and welfare contractions: offsetting effects on prenatal care and infant health?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 313-335, March.
    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, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(2), pages 669-700.
    3. Monfardini, Chiara & See, Sarah Grace, 2012. "Birth Order and Child Outcomes: Does Maternal Quality Time Matter?," IZA Discussion Papers 6825, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Frank Heiland, 2009. "Does the birth order affect the cognitive development of a child?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(14), pages 1799-1818.
    5. Fingerhut, L.A. & Kleinman, J.C. & Kendrick, J.S., 1990. "Smoking before, during, and after pregnancy," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 80(5), pages 541-544.
    6. James J. Heckman & Dimitriy V. Masterov, 2007. "The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 29(3), pages 446-493.
    7. Iacovou, Maria, 2001. "Family composition and children's educational outcomes," ISER Working Paper Series 2001-12, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
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    Cited by:

    1. Miki Kobayashi & Emiko Usui, 2017. "Breastfeeding practices and parental employment in Japan," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 579-596, June.
    2. Tzu-Ting Yang & Hsing-Wen Han & Hsien-Ming Lien, 2014. "Patient Cost-Sharing and Healthcare Utilization in Early Childhood: Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design," Working Papers 14C003, Canadian Centre for Health Economics.
    3. Makate, Marshall, 2016. "Maternal health-seeking behavior and child’s birth order: Evidence from Malawi, Uganda, and Zimbabwe," MPRA Paper 72722, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 14 Jul 2016.
    4. Marco Bertoni & Giorgio Brunello, 2016. "Later-borns Don’t Give Up: The Temporary Effects of Birth Order on European Earnings," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 53(2), pages 449-470, April.
    5. Bertoni, Marco & Brunello, Giorgio, 2013. "Laterborns Don't Give Up: The Effects of Birth Order on Earnings in Europe," IZA Discussion Papers 7679, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. Shaleen Khanal, 2018. "Gender Discrimination in Education Expenditure in Nepal: Evidence from Living Standards Surveys," Asian Development Review, MIT Press, vol. 35(1), pages 155-174, March.
    7. Buckles, Kasey & Kolka, Shawna, 2014. "Prenatal investments, breastfeeding, and birth order," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 66-70.
    8. Herbst, Chris M., 2014. "Are Parental Welfare Work Requirements Good for Disadvantaged Children? Evidence from Age-of-Youngest-Child Exemptions," IZA Discussion Papers 8485, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    birth order; early test scores; parental investment; prenatal investment; postnatal investment; early childhood investment; fetal origins hypothesis; cognitive outcomes; non-cognitive outcomes;

    JEL classification:

    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality

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