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Born to Lead? The Effect of Birth Order on Non-Cognitive Abilities

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  • Sandra E. Black
  • Erik Grönqvist
  • Björn Öckert

Abstract

We study the effect of birth order on personality traits among men using population data on enlistment records and occupations for Sweden. We find that earlier born men are more emotionally stable, persistent, socially outgoing, willing to assume responsibility, and able to take initiative than later-borns. In addition, we find that birth order affects occupational sorting; first-born children are more likely to be managers, while later-born children are more likely to be self-employed. We also find that earlier born children are more likely to be in occupations that require leadership ability, social ability and the Big Five personality traits. Finally, we find a significant role of sex composition within the family. Later-born boys suffer an additional penalty the larger the share of boys among the older siblings. When we investigate possible mechanisms, we find that the negative effects of birth order are driven by post-natal environmental factors. We also find evidence of lower parental human capital investments in later-born children.

Suggested Citation

  • Sandra E. Black & Erik Grönqvist & Björn Öckert, 2017. "Born to Lead? The Effect of Birth Order on Non-Cognitive Abilities," NBER Working Papers 23393, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23393
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    Cited by:

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    3. Black, Sandra E. & Devereux, Paul J. & Salvanes, Kjell G., 2016. "Healthy(?), wealthy, and wise: Birth order and adult health," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 27-45.
    4. Briole, Simon & Le Forner, Hélène & Lepinteur, Anthony, 2020. "Children’s socio-emotional skills: Is there a quantity–quality trade-off?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(C).
    5. Deng, Lanfang & Tong, Tingting, 2020. "Parenting style and the development of noncognitive ability in children," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 62(C).
    6. Wang, Weidong & Dong, Yongqing & Liu, Xiaohong & Bai, Yunli & Zhang, Linxiu, 2020. "The effect of parents’ education on the academic and non-cognitive outcomes of their children: Evidence from China," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 117(C).
    7. Seymour Spilerman & Kieron J. Barclay, 2020. "Birth order pairings and romantic success," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2020-017, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    8. 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).
    9. Sanni Breining & Joseph Doyle & David N. Figlio & Krzysztof Karbownik & Jeffrey Roth, 2020. "Birth Order and Delinquency: Evidence from Denmark and Florida," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(1), pages 95-142.
    10. Anne Ardila Brenøe, 2018. "Origins of gender norms: sibling gender composition and women's choice of occupation and partner," ECON - Working Papers 294, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
    11. Xiong, Xianfang & Deng, Lanfang & Li, Hongyi, 2020. "Is winning at the start important: Early childhood family cognitive stimulation and child development," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 118(C).
    12. Jens Dietrichson & Ida Lykke Kristiansen & Bjørn A. Viinholt, 2020. "Universal Preschool Programs And Long‐Term Child Outcomes: A Systematic Review," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(5), pages 1007-1043, December.
    13. Bansak, Cynthia & Jiang, Xuan & Yang, Guanyi, 2020. "Sibling Spillover in Rural China: A Story of Sisters and Daughters," IZA Discussion Papers 13127, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
    16. 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.
    17. Fernando Delbianco & Federico Fioravanti & Fernando Tohm'e, 2020. "The Impact of Birth Order on Behavior in Contact Team Sports: the Evidence of Rugby Teams in Argentina," Papers 2004.09421, arXiv.org.
    18. Rita Ginja & Jenny Jans & Arizo Karimi, 2020. "Parental Leave Benefits, Household Labor Supply, and Children’s Long-Run Outcomes," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(1), pages 261-320.
    19. Gurantz, Oded & Hurwitz, Michael & Smith, Jonathan, 2020. "Sibling effects on high school exam taking and performance," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 178(C), pages 534-549.
    20. Young-Joo Kim, 2020. "Born to be more educated? Birth order and schooling," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 18(1), pages 165-180, March.

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    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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