“Setting the Tone”: Sex of the First Child and Educational Outcomes of Subsequent Siblings

Limor Gabay-Egozi, Bar-Ilan University
Natalie Nitsche, Vienna Institute of Demography
Lloyd D. Grieger, Yale University

Despite the large influx of women into higher education, gender segregation in STEM college majors persists. Sibship composition has been a major focus in explaining vertical gender differences in educational attainment, yet studies looking at sibling dynamics in understanding horizontal gender segregation have been rare. We close this gap, suggesting a new line of thought. We hypothesize that the sex of the first child ‘sets the tone’ for a gendered environment in the family, which subsequently impacts gendered self-concepts, interests and eventually choice of college major of subsequent siblings. Using data from the NLSY79 Youth and Children, we investigate whether second born girls with older brothers are more likely to choose a college major in a predominantly male field, compared to girls with older sisters. In particular, we examine whether having an older brother increases the likelihood for girls with above average math skills to choose STEM majors.

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 Presented in Session P4. Children and Youth/Population and Aging