Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 367–397 | Cite as

Birth order matters: the effect of family size and birth order on educational attainment

  • Alison L. BoothEmail author
  • Hiau Joo Kee
Original Paper


Using the British Household Panel Survey, we investigate if family size and birth order affect children’s subsequent educational attainment. Theory suggests a trade-off between child quantity and “quality” and that siblings are unlikely to receive equal shares of parental resources devoted to children’s education. We construct a new birth order index that effectively purges family size from birth order and use this to test if siblings are assigned equal shares in the family’s educational resources. We find that the shares are decreasing with birth order. Ceteris paribus, children from larger families have less education, and the family size effect does not vanish when we control for birth order. These findings are robust to numerous specification checks.


Family size Birth order Education 

JEL Classification

I2 J1 



We are grateful to Tim Hatton for very helpful discussions, and to the Editor Alessandro Cigno, two anonymous referees, John Ermisch, Paul Miller and seminar participants at the Australian National University and Melbourne University for their comments. We also thank Margi Wood and Jeta Vedi for data assistance. The data were made available through the UK Data Archive and were originally collected by the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-social Change at the University of Essex, now incorporated within the Institute for Social and Economic Research. Neither the original collectors of the data nor the Archive bear any responsibility for the analyses or interpretations presented here. Part of this research was funded by the ARC under Discovery Project Grant No. DP0556740.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Essex UniversityColchesterUK
  2. 2.Economics Program, Research School of Social SciencesAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.Econtech Pty Ltd.KingstonAustralia

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