O R I G I N A L PA P E R
Birth order matters: the effect of family size and birth order on educational attainment
Alison L. Booth & Hiau Joo Kee
Received: 13 January 2006 / Accepted: 9 November 2007 /
Published online: 11 April 2008
# Springer-Verlag 2007
Abstract Using the British Household Panel Survey, we investigate if family size and birth order affect children’s subsequent educational attainment. Theory suggests a tradeoff between child quantity and “quality” and that siblings are unlikely to receive equal shares of parental resources devoted to children’s education. We construct a new birth order index that effectively purges family size from birth order and use this to test if siblings are assigned equal shares in the family’s educational resources. We find that the shares are decreasing with birth order. Ceteris paribus, children from larger families have less education, and the family size effect does not vanish when we control for birth order.
These findings are robust to numerous specification checks.
Keywords Family size . Birth order . Education
JEL Classification I2 . J1
The promotion of educational attainment is an important priority of policy makers. The economics of the family suggests that children’s educational achievement is related to
Responsible editor: Alessandro Cigno
A. L. Booth
Essex University, Colchester, UK
A. L. Booth (*)
Economics Program, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University,
Canberra ACT 0200, Australia e-mail: Alison.firstname.lastname@example.org
H. J. Kee
Econtech Pty Ltd., PO Box 4129, Kingston ACT 2604, Australia e-mail: email@example.com
A.L. Booth, H.J. Kee
family size and that there is a trade-off between child quantity and “quality” (Becker
1960; Becker and Lewis 1973) where child ‘quality’ is proxied by educational outcomes. A number of arguments also suggest that siblings are unlikely to receive equal shares of the
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