One Order Fits All? Birth Order and Education in Immigrant Families
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionIsungset MA, Lillehagen M, Ugreninov E. One Order Fits All? Birth Order and Education in Immigrant Families . European Sociological Review. 2019 https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/esr/jcz040
Birth order causes social inequality between siblings. In Western countries, earlier-born perform better than later-born. In non-Western countries, however, earlier-born generally perform worse than later-born. We use administrative data to compare birth order effects between the native population and Norwegian-born children of immigrants (450,864 individuals nested within 202,191 families). The outcome is based on lower secondary school points—a combined measurement of all marks at the end of compulsory education. We found negative effects of birth order on school points for Norwegian natives. This finding is in line with previous studies from Western countries using measures of educational achievement. Birth order effects amongst Norwegian-born children of immigrant parents vary according to maternal country of origin, with some displaying similar effects as natives and others displaying no birth order effects. These findings are surprising in light of the main theories on birth order, which are universalistic and do not predict group-differences. We argue that the universalistic theories need to be supplemented to account for our findings, and discuss the potential importance of cultural variation in family-related behaviours such as strategic parenting, kindergarten attendance, and peer-influence in high-achieving immigrant groups.