The Birth Order Paradox: Sibling Differences in Educational Attainment

37 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2015

See all articles by Kieron Barclay

Kieron Barclay

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research; London School of Economics, Department of Social Policy; Stockholm University - Department of Sociology

Date Written: March 23, 2015

Abstract

This study uses population register data to examine the relationship between birth order and educational attainment in Sweden, and demonstrates that while the causal effect of birth order on educational attainment is negative, later born children actually perform better. The explanation for this finding is due to educational expansion in Sweden in the 20th century, which outweighs the negative causal effect of birth order. This is particularly true for women due to the fact that the rate of increasing educational enrollment has been greater for women than for men. These results also show that later borns in large families particularly benefit from educational expansion due to the longer average birth interval between the first and last child in large families. The difference between the negative causal effect and actual experience of birth order is likely to be contributing to the confusion regarding birth order effects in the literature.

Keywords: Birth order, educational attainment, causal effects, secular trends

Suggested Citation

Barclay, Kieron, The Birth Order Paradox: Sibling Differences in Educational Attainment (March 23, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2583855 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2583855

Kieron Barclay (Contact Author)

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research ( email )

Doberaner Str. 114
Rostock 18057, 53113
Germany

London School of Economics, Department of Social Policy ( email )

Houghton Street
London, England WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Stockholm University - Department of Sociology ( email )

Department of Sociology, Stockholm University
Stockholm S-106 91, 10691
Sweden

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