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The Birth Order Effect: A Modern Phenomenon?

Ana Nuevo-Chiquero, Marian Vidal-Fernandez () and Jee-Yeon K. Lehmann ()
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Marian Vidal-Fernandez: University of Sydney
Jee-Yeon K. Lehmann: University of Houston

No 16450, IZA Discussion Papers from Institute of Labor Economics (IZA)

Abstract: We provide a historical perspective on the birth order effect by examining differences in adult occupational rank among brothers in 19th and early 20th century Netherlands. Using a rich historical dataset compiling administrative birth and marriage registry records linking family members, we further analyze the role of family composition and socio-economic status in modulating the birth order effect. While consistent with findings in modern developed countries, we find that later-born males hold lower-ranked occupations than their older male siblings, we also find that consistent with modern evidence from emerging economies like India and China, this negative birth order effect is primarily driven by differences between the first- and the last-born and their siblings, and by the number of brothers in the family. Birth order differences – particularly the first-born advantage – are larger among socio-economically advantaged families and in more urbanised areas, while the opposite is true for the last-born effect. Surprisingly, the first-born advantage or son-preference is not driven by inheritance rules or transmission of occupations to children born earlier in the family. Taken together, our findings suggest that birth order effects and quantity-quality tradeoffs in families, are not merely modern phenomena but have been a source of context-dependent intrahousehold inequality throughout the centuries.

Keywords: birth order; first-born; the Netherlands; historical data (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J01 N14 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 28 pages
Date: 2023-09
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cna, nep-evo, nep-hea, nep-his and nep-lab
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