Marian Vidal-Fernandez, University of Sydney

The Evolution of Birth Order Effects through Generations: Historical Evidence from the Netherlands


A myriad of recent studies in developed countries find a sizeable and significant negative relation between higher birth order and adult outcomes such as IQ, educational attainment, and wages. This effect seems to be driven by worsening quality in investments by parents of latter-born children rather than differences in endowments at birth. However, to date, little is known about whether social and economic changes might impact this source of within-family inequality.

In order to answer this question, we use a unique long historical span of linked administrative data with occupational information from a sample of individuals born from mid-19th century to mid-20th century in The Netherlands. Over this period, the Netherlands experienced high levels of economic growth and development, with a reduction in the share of population working in the agricultural sector or a sharp decrease in fertility among other changes. Consistent with previous literature in developed countries, we find an average negative birth order effect that does not experience significant changes over time. Interestingly, we find that this effect is mostly driven by first-borns and that the more male siblings are born earlier the more negative the birth order effect, which indicates a stronger competition among resources within male siblings.

Marian Vidal-Fernandez received her PhD from Boston University in 2011. She uses applied microeconomics to study the determinants of Human Capital with special attention to disadvantaged individuals. Marian has studied setting minimum academic requirements to enroll into athletic activities or obtaining a driving´s license improve high school graduation rates, the increasing relevance of grandmothers as childcare givers, the birth order effect and the dynamic and heterogeneous impacts of experiencing the death of a sibling. She joined the University of Sydney in 2015 and is currently an IZA and ARC Life Course Centre Fellow.

Marian is a labour economist who uses applied micro-econometrics to study how policy-relevant issues in labour, education, and health affect human capital, with special attention to disadvantaged children. Marian’s recent research focuses on the birth-order effect, and, together with an epidemiologist colleague, she is also examining the relevance of early-life circumstances for later health outcomes.

You can read more about Marian Vidal-Fernandez here