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The Quantity-Quality Trade-off and the Formation of Cognitive and Non-cognitive Skills

Listed author(s):
  • Chinhui Juhn
  • Yona Rubinstein
  • C. Andrew Zuppann

We estimate the impact of increases in family size on childhood and adult outcomes using matched mother-child data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979. Using twins as an instrumental variable and panel data to control for omitted factors we find that families face a substantial quantity-quality trade-off: increases in family size decrease parental investment, decrease childhood cognitive abilities, and increase behavioral problems. The negative effects on cognitive abilities are much larger for girls while the detrimental effects on behavior are larger for boys. We also find evidence of heterogeneous effects by mother's AFQT score, with the negative effects on cognitive scores being much larger for children of mothers with low AFQT scores.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 21824.

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Date of creation: Dec 2015
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21824
Note: CH ED LS
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  1. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2010. "Small Family, Smart Family? Family Size and the IQ Scores of Young Men," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(1).
  2. Marianne Bertrand & Jessica Pan, 2013. "The Trouble with Boys: Social Influences and the Gender Gap in Disruptive Behavior," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 32-64, January.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. James Heckman & Flavio Cunha, 2007. "The Technology of Skill Formation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 31-47, May.
  6. 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 279-288, Part II, .
  7. Petra E. Todd & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 2007. "The Production of Cognitive Achievement in Children: Home, School, and Racial Test Score Gaps," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 91-136.
  8. Haoming Liu, 2014. "The quality–quantity trade-off: evidence from the relaxation of China’s one-child policy," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 27(2), pages 565-602, April.
  9. Dalton Conley & Rebecca Glauber, 2006. "Parental Educational Investment and Children’s Academic Risk: Estimates of the Impact of Sibship Size and Birth Order from Exogenous Variation in Fertility," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(4).
  10. Julio Cáceres-Delpiano, 2006. "The Impacts of Family Size on Investment in Child Quality," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(4).
  11. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman & Susanne M. Schennach, 2010. "Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(3), pages 883-931, May.
  12. Willis, Robert J, 1973. "A New Approach to the Economic Theory of Fertility Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages 14-64, Part II, .
  13. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1980. "Testing the Quantity-Quality Fertility Model: The Use of Twins as a Natural Experiment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(1), pages 227-240, January.
  14. 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.
  15. Bagger, Jesper & Birchenall, Javier A. & Mansour, Hani & Urzua, Sergio, 2013. "Education, Birth Order, and Family Size," IZA Discussion Papers 7454, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  16. Joshua Angrist & Victor Lavy & Analia Schlosser, 2010. "Multiple Experiments for the Causal Link between the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(4), pages 773-824, October.
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