Food for Thought: The Birth Order Effect and Resource Allocation in Indonesia
39 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2016
Date Written: June 6, 2016
Despite the large literature linking birth order to socioeconomic outcomes, research uncovering the mechanisms that drive these effects has been rare. We construct a unique measure of food allocation to examine whether preferential resource allocation among siblings explains the birth order effect on cognitive ability in a developing country. We document birth order differences in cognition among children and young adults, showing that second and third borns perform worse on spatial and mathematical cognition tests compared to their firstborn siblings. We find further evidence suggesting that parents allocate resources differentially among siblings, with second and third born children receiving less food. Despite these differences in food allocation, these preferences do not appear to drive the differences in cognitive ability in our sample. To our knowledge, this is the first paper both to confirm the presence of a birth order effect on cognition in a developing country and to test empirically whether a preference in food allocation contributes to this effect.
Keywords: birth order, cognition, food allocation
JEL Classification: J13, D13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation