Sibling Configuration Predicts Individual and Descendant Socioeconomic Success in a Modern Post-Industrial Society
2013 (English)In: PLoS ONE, ISSN 1932-6203, Vol. 8, no 9, e73698- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Growing up with many siblings, at least in the context of modern post-industrial low fertility, low mortality societies, is predictive of relatively poor performance on school tests in childhood, lower levels of educational attainment, and lower income throughout adulthood. Recent studies further indicate these relationships hold across generations, so that the descendants of those who grow up with many siblings are also at an apparent socioeconomic disadvantage. In this paper we add to this literature by considering whether such relationships interact with the sex and relative age of siblings. To do this we utilise a unique Swedish multigenerational birth cohort study that provides sibling configuration data on over 10,000 individuals born in 1915–1929, plus all their direct genetic descendants to the present day. Adjusting for parental and birth characteristics, we find that the ‘socioeconomic cost’ of growing up in a large family is independent of both the sex of siblings and the sex of the individual. However, growing up with several older as opposed to several younger siblings is predictive of relatively poor performance on school tests and a lower likelihood of progression to tertiary education. This later-born disadvantage also holds across generations, with the children of those with many older siblings achieving lower levels of educational attainment. Despite these differences, we find that while individual and descendant income is negatively related to the number of siblings, it is not influenced by the relative age of siblings. Thus, our findings imply that the educational disadvantage of later-born children, demonstrated here and in numerous other studies, does not necessarily translate into reduced earnings in adulthood. We discuss potential explanations for this pattern of results, and consider some important directions for future research into sibling configuration and wellbeing in modern societies.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 8, no 9, e73698- p.
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-94289DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073698ISI: 000324856500056OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-94289DiVA: diva2:652718
FunderSwedish Research Council, 2006-7498Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2007-1010