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Healthy(?), Wealthy, and Wise: Birth Order and Adult Health

Author

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  • Black, Sandra E.

    (Columbia University)

  • Devereux, Paul J.

    (University College Dublin)

  • Salvanes, Kjell G.

    (Norwegian School of Economics)

Abstract

While recent research finds strong evidence that birth order affects children's outcomes such as education, IQ scores, and earnings, the evidence for effects on health is more limited. This paper uses a large dataset on the population of Norway and focuses on the effect of birth order on a range of health and health-related behaviors, outcomes not previously available in datasets of this magnitude. Interestingly, we find complicated effects of birth order. First-borns are more likely to be overweight, to be obese, and to have high blood pressure and high triglycerides. So, unlike education or earnings, there is no clear first-born advantage in health. However, later-borns are more likely to smoke and have poorer self-reported physical and mental health. They are also less likely to report that they are happy. We find that these effects are largely unaffected by conditioning on education and earnings, suggesting that these are not the only important pathways to health differentials by birth order. When we explore possible mechanisms, we find that smoking early in pregnancy is more prevalent for first pregnancies than for later ones. However, women are more likely to quit smoking during their first pregnancy than during later ones, and first-borns are more likely to be breast-fed. These findings suggest a role for early maternal investment in determining birth order effects on health.

Suggested Citation

  • Black, Sandra E. & Devereux, Paul J. & Salvanes, Kjell G., 2015. "Healthy(?), Wealthy, and Wise: Birth Order and Adult Health," IZA Discussion Papers 9172, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp9172
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Björkegren, Evelina & Svaleryd, Helena, 2017. "Birth Order and Child Health," Working Paper Series 2017:16, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    2. Mats Lillehagen & Martin Arstad Isungset, 2020. "New Partner, New Order? Multipartnered Fertility and Birth Order Effects on Educational Achievement," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 57(5), pages 1625-1646, October.
    3. 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.
    4. Conzo, Pierluigi & Zotti, Roberto, 2020. "Blessed are the first: The long-term effect of birth order on trust," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 39(C).
    5. Lena Detlefsen & Andreas Friedl & Katharina Lima de Miranda & Ulrich Schmidt & Matthias Sutter, 2018. "Are economic preferences shaped by the family context? The impact of birth order and siblings’ sex composition on economic preferences," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2018_12, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
    6. Donna K. Ginther & Astrid L. Grasdal & Robert A. Pollak, 2019. "Fathers' Multiple-Partner Fertility and Children’s Educational Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 26242, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Aline Bütikofer & Julie Riise & Meghan M. Skira, 2021. "The Impact of Paid Maternity Leave on Maternal Health," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 67-105, February.
    8. Lucio Esposito & Sunil Mitra Kumar & Adrián Villaseñor, 2020. "The importance of being earliest: birth order and educational outcomes along the socioeconomic ladder in Mexico," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 33(3), pages 1069-1099, July.
    9. Pruckner, Gerald J. & Schneeweis, Nicole & Schober, Thomas & Zweimüller, Martina, 2021. "Birth order, parental health investment, and health in childhood," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(C).
    10. Anne Ardila Brenøe & Ramona Molitor, 2015. "Birth Order and Health of Newborns: What Can We Learn from Danish Registry Data?," Working Papers 161, Bavarian Graduate Program in Economics (BGPE).
    11. Handy, Christopher & Shester, Katharine, 2020. "The Effect of Birth Order on Educational Attainment among the Baby Boom Generation," MPRA Paper 102426, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Kunto, Yohanes Sondang & Mandemakers, Jornt J., 2019. "The effects of prenatal exposure to Ramadan on stature during childhood and adolescence: Evidence from the Indonesian Family Life Survey," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 29-39.
    13. Anne Ardila Brenoee & Ramona Molitor, 2015. "Birth Order and Health of Newborns: What Can We Learn from Danish Registry Data?," CINCH Working Paper Series 1513, Universitaet Duisburg-Essen, Competent in Competition and Health, revised Oct 2015.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    obesity; parental investment; siblings;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics

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