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

38 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2016

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: February 8, 2016

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. For example, compared to second-borns, first-borns are 4% more likely to be overweight, 2% more likely to be obese, 3% more likely to have high blood pressure, and 2% more likely to have high triglycerides. So, unlike education or earnings, there is no clear first-born advantage in Health. However, later-borns are more likely to smoke (first-borns are 5% less likely to smoke daily than second-borns) and are less likely to report good physical and mental health (the difference between a first- and second-born is about 1.5%). They are also less likely to report that they are happy (2% difference between first- and second-borns). 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 early maternal investment may play a role in birth order effects on health.

Suggested Citation

Black, Sandra E. and Devereux, Paul J. and Salvanes, Kjell G., Healthy(?), Wealthy, and Wise Birth Order and Adult Health (February 8, 2016). NHH Dept. of Economics Discussion Paper No. 03/2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2740226 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2740226

Sandra E. Black

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 (Contact Author)

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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