The Relationship between Siblings’ College Choices: Evidence from One Million SAT‐Taking Families

Posted: 12 Feb 2016

See all articles by Joshua Goodman

Joshua Goodman

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Michael Hurwitz

College Board

Jonathan Smith

Georgia State University

Julia Fox

The College Board

Date Written: 2015

Abstract

Recent empirical work has demonstrated the importance both of educational peer effects and of various factors that affect college choices. We connect these literatures by highlighting a previously unstudied determinant of college choice, namely the college choice made by one’s older sibling. Data on 1.6 million sibling pairs of SAT-takers reveals that younger and older siblings’ choices are very closely related. One-fifth of younger siblings enroll in the same college as their older siblings. Compared to their high school classmates of similar academic skill and with observably similar families, younger siblings are about 15-20 percentage points more likely to enroll in 4-year colleges or highly competitive colleges if their older siblings do so first. These findings vary little by family characteristics. Younger siblings are more likely to follow the college choices of their older siblings the more they resemble each other in terms of academic skill, age and gender. We discuss channels through which older siblings’ college choices might causally influence their younger siblings, noting that the facts documented here should prompt further research on the sharing of information and shaping of educational preferences within families.

Keywords: College choice, College enrollment, Siblings, Four-year colleges, Selective colleges, Targeting interventions

JEL Classification: I20, I24, D19, J24

Suggested Citation

Goodman, Joshua and Hurwitz, Michael and Smith, Jonathan and Fox, Julia, The Relationship between Siblings’ College Choices: Evidence from One Million SAT‐Taking Families (2015). Economics of Education Review, Vol. 48, 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2730832

Joshua Goodman (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/about/faculty-staff-directory/joshua-goodman/

Michael Hurwitz

College Board ( email )

1919 M Street NW
Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Jonathan Smith

Georgia State University ( email )

GA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/jonathansmithphd/

Julia Fox

The College Board ( email )

45 Columbus Avenue
New York, NY 10023
United States

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