Sibling Spillovers: Having an Academically Successful Older Sibling May be More Important for Children in Disadvantaged Families

87 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2020 Last revised: 14 Jan 2022

See all articles by Emma Zang

Emma Zang

Yale University - Department of Sociology

Poh Lin Tan

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

Philip J. Cook

Duke University - Sanford School of Public Policy; Duke University, Dept. of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: Jan 14, 2022

Abstract

This paper examines causal sibling spillover effects among socially advantaged (e.g. white, two-parent, or non-poor school district) and disadvantaged families (e.g. black, single-mother, or poor school district) in elementary and middle school. Exploiting discontinuities in school starting age created by North Carolina school entry laws, we adopt a quasi-experimental approach and compare test scores of public school students whose older siblings were born shortly before and after the school entry cutoff date. We find that individuals whose older siblings were born shortly after the school entry cutoff date have significantly higher scores in middle school, and that this positive spillover effect is particularly large among disadvantaged families. We estimate that these spillover effects account for more than one third of observed statistical associations in test scores between siblings, and the magnitude is much larger for disadvantaged families than advantaged families. Our results suggest that educational spillover effects from older to younger siblings lead to greater divergence in academic outcomes between families.

Keywords: Sibling Effects, Family Effects, Peer Effects, Education, School Entry Laws, Spillovers

JEL Classification: D13, I28, J13

Suggested Citation

Zang, Emma and Tan, Poh Lin and Cook, Philip J., Sibling Spillovers: Having an Academically Successful Older Sibling May be More Important for Children in Disadvantaged Families (Jan 14, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3542306 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3542306

Emma Zang (Contact Author)

Yale University - Department of Sociology ( email )

493 College St
New Haven, CT 06520
United States

Poh Lin Tan

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy ( email )

Singapore 117591
Singapore

Philip J. Cook

Duke University - Sanford School of Public Policy ( email )

201 Science Drive
Box 90312
Durham, NC 27708-0239
United States
919-613-7360 (Phone)
919-681-8288 (Fax)

Duke University, Dept. of Economics

213 Social Sciences Building
Box 90097
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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