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Birth order and college major in Sweden

Barclay, Kieron, Hällsten, Martin and Myrskylä, Mikko (2017) Birth order and college major in Sweden. Social Forces, 96 (2). pp. 629-660. ISSN 0037-7732

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Identification Number: 10.1093/sf/sox069


Previous research on birth order has consistently shown that later-borns have lower educational attainment than first-borns, however it is not known whether there are birth order patterns in college major. Given empirical evidence that parents disproportionately invest in first-born children, there are likely to be birth order patterns attributable to differences in both opportunities and preferences, related to ability, human capital specialization through parentchild transfers of knowledge, and personality. Birth order patterns in college major specialization may shed light on these explanatory mechanisms, and may also account for long-term birth order differences in educational and labour market outcomes. Using Swedish population register data and sibling fixed effects we find large birth order differences in university applications. First-borns are more likely to apply to, and graduate from, medicine and engineering programs at university, while later-borns are more likely to study journalism and business programs, and to attend art school. We also find that these birth order patterns are stronger in high SES families, and that differences in college major explain approximately half of the within-family birth order differences in long-term earnings. These results indicate that early life experiences and parental investment shapes sibling differences in ability, preferences, and ambitions even within the shared environment of the family.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 The Authors
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2017 15:21
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2024 05:21

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