Healthy(?), Wealthy and Wise: Birth Order and Adult Health

34 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2015

See all articles by Sandra E. Black

Sandra E. Black

University of Texas at Austin - Center for Law, Business, and Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics

Paul J. Devereux

University College Dublin - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Kjell G. Salvanes

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 4 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 2015

Abstract

While recent research finds strong evidence that birth order affects children's outcomes such as education, IQ scores, and earnings, the evidence for effects on health is more limited. This paper uses a large dataset on the population of Norway and focuses on the effect of birth order on a range of health and health-related behaviors, outcomes not previously available in datasets of this magnitude. Interestingly, we find complicated effects of birth order. First-borns are more likely to be overweight, to be obese, and to have high blood pressure and high triglycerides. So, unlike education or earnings, there is no clear first-born advantage in health. However, later-borns are more likely to smoke and have poorer self-reported physical and mental health. They are also less likely to report that they are happy. We find that these effects are largely unaffected by conditioning on education and earnings, suggesting that these are not the only important pathways to health differentials by birth order. When we explore possible mechanisms, we find that smoking early in pregnancy is more prevalent for first pregnancies than for later ones. However, women are more likely to quit smoking during their first pregnancy than during later ones, and first-borns are more likely to be breast-fed. These findings suggest a role for early maternal investment in determining birth order effects on health.

Keywords: birth order, early childhood investment, health

JEL Classification: I12, J12, J13

Suggested Citation

Black, Sandra E. and Devereux, Paul J. and Salvanes, Kjell G., Healthy(?), Wealthy and Wise: Birth Order and Adult Health (July 2015). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP10695. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2630123

Sandra E. Black (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - Center for Law, Business, and Economics ( email )

Austin, TX
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics

Helleveien 30
N-5035 Bergen
Norway

Paul J. Devereux

University College Dublin - Department of Economics ( email )

Dublin 4, 4
Ireland

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Kjell G. Salvanes

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics ( email )

Helleveien 30
N-5035 Bergen
Norway
+47 5 595 9315 (Phone)
+47 5 595 9543 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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