Fewer Siblings, More Wealth? Sibship Size and Wealth Attainment

  • Philipp M. LerschEmail author


This study examines the association between sibship size and wealth in adulthood. The study draws on resource dilution theory and additionally discusses potentially wealth-enhancing consequences of having siblings. Data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP, N = 3502 individuals) are used to estimate multilevel regression models adjusted for concurrent parental wealth and other important confounders neglected in extant work. The main results of the current study show that additional siblings reduce wealth by about 38%. Parental wealth moderates the association so that sibship size is more negatively associated with filial wealth when parents are wealthier. Birth order position does not moderate the association between sibship size and wealth. The findings suggest that fertility in the family of origin has a systematic impact on wealth attainment and may contribute to population-level wealth inequalities independently from other socio-economic characteristics in families of origin such as parental wealth.


Siblings Wealth Family of origin Resource dilution 



The author thanks Marita Jacob, Reinhard Schunck, seminar participants at the University of Cologne and University of Duisburg-Essen and participants at the ECSR Workshop “Demography and Inequality” for helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. All errors remain those of the author. The computer code for the empirical analysis is available at

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

The informed consent of the interview participants was acquired by the SOEP and BHPS survey teams. The data are available through DIW Berlin and the UK Data Archive.

Supplementary material

10680_2018_9512_MOESM1_ESM.docx (80 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 81 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social SciencesHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.DIW BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Sociology and Social PsychologyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany

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