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Birth Order and Educational Attainment: evidence from Fully Adopted Sibling Groups
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2015 (English)In: Intelligence, ISSN 0160-2896, E-ISSN 1873-7935, Vol. 48, 109-122 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study uses data on fully adopted sibling groups to test whether the explanation for the consistently observed negative effects of birth order are physiological or social in origin. Swedish administrative register data is used to construct full sibling data for cohorts born 1960 to 1982. Using a within-family comparison approach, I compare adopted siblings of different adopted birth order to one another to see whether birth order amongst adopted children (N=6,968) is associated with educational attainment by age 30, and the likelihood of having entered tertiary education by age 30. These same within-family comparison analyses are also performed on siblings in fully biologically related sibling groups (N=1,588,401). I find that there is a negative relationship between adopted birth order and both educational attainment and the likelihood of entering tertiary education in fully adopted sibling sets. These findings strongly suggest that differences in educational attainment by birth order are driven by intrafamily social dynamics. I also conduct additional analyses in fully adopted sibling groups where age order and adoption order are reversed to test whether there is evidence for tutoring by siblings. These results do not indicate clear support for any tutoring effect.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 48, 109-122 p.
Keyword [en]
Birth Order, Educational Attainment, Adoption, Fully Adopted Sibling Groups, Register Data, Sweden, Fixed Effects, Sibling Comparison
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Demography; Sociology
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-108835DOI: 10.1016/j.intell.2014.10.009ISI: 000348628600010OAI: diva2:760835
Available from: 2014-11-04 Created: 2014-11-04 Last updated: 2015-03-18Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The Long-term Impact of Birth Order on Health and Educational Attainment
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Long-term Impact of Birth Order on Health and Educational Attainment
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This doctoral thesis examines the long-term impact of birth order on health, and educational attainment. Swedish register data is used to link individuals to their siblings, thereby allowing members of the sibling group to be compared to one another. This thesis consists of an introductory chapter summarizing empirical research on the relationship between birth order and educational attainment, intelligence, health, and personality, as well the theoretical frameworks that have been developed to explain those relationships. This introductory chapter is followed by four original empirical studies. The first two studies show that relative to first born siblings, later borns have lower physical fitness in late adolescence, and higher mortality in adulthood. The third study uses the Swedish registers to identify sibling groups that entirely consist of adopted individuals, and shows that the commonly observed negative relationship between birth order and educational attainment persists in these fully adopted sibling groups. These results suggest that birth order effects are likely explained by post-natal, social mechanisms within the family. Finally, the fourth study shows that even though later born siblings do worse than first borns in a fully adjusted statistical model, educational expansion in the 20th century has meant that later born siblings actually tend to have greater educational attainment and are more likely to attend university in comparison to older siblings within the same family.  

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Sociology, Stockholm University, 2014. 115 p.
Stockholm studies in sociology, ISSN 0491-0885 ; N.S., 59
Birth Order, Health, Mortality, Educational Attainment, Sibling Comparison, Fixed Effects, Sweden, Register Data
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-108841 (URN)978-91-7649-051-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-12-19, hörsal 3, hus B, Universitetsvägen 10 B, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Manuscript. Paper 2: Epub ahead of print. Paper 3: Accepted. Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2014-11-27 Created: 2014-11-04 Last updated: 2014-11-21Bibliographically approved

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Barclay, Kieron
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