Gilles Serra, a mate of mine at Harvard, had a theory that if you sat at a dinner party with a bunch of Harvard students, and asked everyone at the table where they were in the birth order (excluding the only children), you’d always find that a majority were first children. The following paper seems to confirm his casual observations:
Birth Order, Educational Attainment and Earnings: An Investigation Using the PSID
Jasmin Kantarevic & Stephane Mechoulan
Whether siblings of specific birth order perform differently has been a longstanding open empirical question. We use the family tree structure of the PSID to examine two claims found in the literature: whether being early in the birth order implies a distinct educational advantage, and whether there exists, within large families, a pattern of falling then rising attainment with respect to birth order, to the point where it becomes best to be last-born. Drawing from OLS and family fixed effects estimations, we find that being first-born confers a significant educational advantage that persists when considering earnings; being last-born confers none.