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Blessed are the First: The Long-Term Effect of Birth Order on Trust

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Abstract

The renewed interest by the economic literature in the effect of birth order on children’s outcomes has neglected trust as a long-term output of familial environment. Acknowledging childhood as a crucial stage of life for the formation of social preferences, we go deeper into the early-life determinants of trust, a widely recognized driver of socio-economic success. We analyze if and how differences in the order of birth predict heterogeneous self-reported trust levels in Britain. We draw hypotheses from psychology, economics and sociology, and test alternative explanations to the association between birth order and trust. Relying on an index measuring birth order independently from sibship size, we find a negative and robust effect of birth order, with laterborns trusting less than their older siblings. This effect is not accounted for by personality traits, strength of family ties, risk aversion and parental inputs. It is only partially explained by complementary human-capital outcomes, and it is robust when we use alternative dependent variables and control for endogenous fertility. Multilevel estimates suggest that trust is mostly driven by within- rather than between-family characteristics. The effect of birth order is eclipsed by education outcomes only for women, while it is counterbalanced by mother’s education for the entire sample, thereby leading to relevant policy implications.

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  • Conzo, Pierluigi & Zotti, Roberto, 2018. "Blessed are the First: The Long-Term Effect of Birth Order on Trust," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201810, University of Turin.
  • Handle: RePEc:uto:dipeco:201810
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    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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