Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 911–936 | Cite as

Strategic parenting, birth order, and school performance

  • V. Joseph HotzEmail author
  • Juan Pantano
Original Paper


Fueled by new evidence, there has been renewed interest about the effects of birth order on human capital accumulation. The underlying causal mechanisms for such effects remain unsettled. We consider a model in which parents impose more stringent disciplinary environments in response to their earlier-born children’s poor performance in school in order to deter such outcomes for their later-born offspring. We provide robust empirical evidence that school performance of children in the National Longitudinal Study Children (NLSY-C) declines with birth order as does the stringency of their parents’ disciplinary restrictions. When asked how they will respond if a child brought home bad grades, parents state that they would be less likely to punish their later-born children. Taken together, these patterns are consistent with a reputation model of strategic parenting.


Birth order School performance Grades Parenting Parental rules 

JEL Classifications

I20 J10 J13 



We wish to thank Dan Ackerberg; Sandy Black; Leah Boustan; Moshe Buchinsky; Dora Costa; Harold Demsetz; Paul Devereux; Donna Ginther; Bart Hamilton; Guillermo Ordonez; Bob Pollak; John Riley; Joe Rodgers; Kjell Salvanes; Judith Seltzer; Bruce Weinberg; seminar participants at UCLA, Washington University in St. Louis, Duke University, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, OECD, and Clemson University; comments from discussants at the 2008 PAA meetings and 2008 SOLE meetings; and from respondents to the Colin Clark Lecture delivered by one of us (Hotz) at the 2011 Econometric Society Australasian Meeting. We also thank two anonymous referees for their helpful suggestions. All errors remain ours.

Supplementary material

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(PDF 131 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsDuke University, IZA & NBERDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsWashington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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