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Older and Wiser? Birth Order and IQ of Young Men

  • Sandra E. Black
  • Paul J. Devereux
  • Kjell G. Salvanes

While recent research finds strong evidence that birth order affects children's outcomes such as education and earnings, the evidence on the effects of birth order on IQ is decidedly mixed. This paper uses a large dataset on the population of Norway that allows us to precisely measure birth order effects on IQ using both cross-sectional and within-family methods. Importantly, irrespective of method, we find a strong and significant effect of birth order on IQ, and our results suggest that earlier born children have higher IQs. Our preferred estimates suggest differences between first-borns and second-borns of about one fifth of a standard deviation or approximately 3 IQ points. Despite these large average effects, birth order only explains about 3% of the within-family variance of IQ. When we control for birth endowments, the estimated birth order effects increase. Thus, our analysis suggests that birth order effects are not biologically determined. Also, there is no evidence that birth order effects occur because later-born children are more affected by family breakdown.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w13237.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13237.

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Date of creation: Jul 2007
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Publication status: published as Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2011. "Older and Wiser? Birth Order and IQ of Young Men," CESifo Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(1), pages 103-120, March.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13237
Note: CH ED LS
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. 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.
  2. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2006. "From the cradle to the labor market? The effect of birth weight on adult outcomes," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19425, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. Booth, Alison L & Kee, Hiau Joo, 2006. "Birth Order Matters: The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Educational Attainment," CEPR Discussion Papers 5453, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
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