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The Long-term Impact of Birth Order on Health and Educational Attainment
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
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.
Series
Stockholm studies in sociology, ISSN 0491-0885 ; N.S., 59
Keyword [en]
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
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-108841ISBN: 978-91-7649-051-8 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-108841DiVA: diva2:760839
Public defence
2014-12-19, hörsal 3, hus B, Universitetsvägen 10 B, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

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
List of papers
1. Birth order and mortality: a population-based cohort study
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Birth order and mortality: a population-based cohort study
2015 (English)In: Demography, ISSN 0070-3370, E-ISSN 1533-7790, Vol. 52, no 2, 613-639 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study uses Swedish population register data to investigate the relationship between birth order and mortality in adulthood over the ages 30 to 69 for Swedish cohorts born between 1938 and 1960, using a within-family comparison. The main analyses are conducted with discrete-time survival analysis using a within-family comparison, and the estimates are adjusted for age, mother's age at the time of birth, and cohort. Focusing on sibships ranging in size from two to six, we find that mortality risk in adulthood increases with later birth order. The results show that the relative effect of birth order is greater amongst women than amongst men. This pattern is consistent for all the major causes of death, but is particularly pronounced for mortality attributable to cancers of the respiratory system, and external causes. Further analyses where we adjust for adult socioeconomic status and adult educational attainment suggest that social pathways only mediate the relationship between birth order and mortality risk in adulthood to a limited degree.

Keyword
Birth order, Mortality, Sibling Comparison, Fixed Effects, Sweden, Register Data
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Demography; Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-108832 (URN)10.1007/s13524-015-0377-2 (DOI)000352643000011 ()
Available from: 2014-11-04 Created: 2014-11-04 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
2. Birth Order and Physical Fitness in Early Adulthood: Evidence from Swedish Military Conscription Data
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Birth Order and Physical Fitness in Early Adulthood: Evidence from Swedish Military Conscription Data
2014 (English)In: Social Science and Medicine, ISSN 0277-9536, E-ISSN 1873-5347, Vol. 123, 141-148 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Physical fitness at young adult ages is an important determinant of physical health, cognitive ability, and mortality. However, few studies have addressed the relationship between early life conditions and physical fitness in adulthood. An important potential factor influencing physical fitness is birth order, which prior studies associate with several early- and later-life outcomes such as height and mortality. This is the first study to analyse the association between birth order and physical fitness in late adolescence. We use military conscription data on 218,873 Swedish males born between 1965 and 1977. Physical fitness is measured by a test of maximal working capacity, a measure of cardiovascular fitness closely related to V02max. We use linear regression with sibling fixed effects, meaning a within-family comparison, to eliminate the confounding influence of unobserved factors that vary between siblings. To understand the mechanism we further analyse whether the association between birth order and physical fitness varies by sibship size, parental socioeconomic status, birth cohort or length of the birth interval. We find a strong, negative and monotonic relationship between birth order and physical fitness. For example, third-born children have a maximal working capacity approximately 0.1 (p<0.000) standard deviations lower than first-born children. The association exists both in small (3 or less children) and large families (4 or more children), in high and low socioeconomic status families, and amongst cohorts born in the 1960s and the 1970s. While in the whole population the birth order effect does not depend on the length of the birth intervals, in two-child families a longer birth interval strengthens the advantage of the first-born. Our results illustrate the importance of birth order on physical fitness, and suggest that the first-born advantage already arises in late adolescence.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2014
Keyword
Birth Order, Physical Fitness, Sibling Comparison, Fixed Effects, Military Conscription Data, Sweden, Register Data
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Demography; Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-108833 (URN)10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.11.007 (DOI)000347021800017 ()
Funder
EU, European Research Council, 2013-StG-336475
Available from: 2014-11-04 Created: 2014-11-04 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
3. Birth Order and Educational Attainment: evidence from Fully Adopted Sibling Groups
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Birth Order and Educational Attainment: evidence from Fully Adopted Sibling Groups
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.

Keyword
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
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-108835 (URN)10.1016/j.intell.2014.10.009 (DOI)000348628600010 ()
Available from: 2014-11-04 Created: 2014-11-04 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
4. The Birth Order Paradox: Sibling Differences in Educational Attainment
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Birth Order Paradox: Sibling Differences in Educational Attainment
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study uses population register data to examine the relationship between birth order and educational attainment in Sweden, and demonstrates that while the causal effect of birth order on educational attainment is negative, later born children actually perform better. The explanation for this finding is due to educational expansion in Sweden in the 20th century, which outweighs the negative causal effect of birth order. This is particularly true for women due to the fact that the rate of increasing educational enrolment has been greater for women than for men. These results also show that later borns in large families particularly benefit from educational expansion due to the longer average birth interval between the first and last child in large families. The difference between the negative causal effect and actual experience of birth order is likely to be contributing to the confusion regarding birth order effects in the literature.

Keyword
Birth Order, Educational Attainment, Educational Expansion, Sibling Comparison, Fixed Effects, Sweden, Register Data
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Demography; Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-108838 (URN)
Available from: 2014-11-04 Created: 2014-11-04 Last updated: 2014-11-06

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