Examining sibling configuration effects on young people's educational aspiration and attainment

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Advances in Life Course Research


Feifei Bu

Publication date


Several studies have found that firstborn children enjoy a distinct advantage over their later-born counterparts in terms of educational outcomes, and that children from smaller families do better than children from larger families. This paper advances the state of knowledge in this area in two ways. First, it analyses the role of young people's aspirations, estimating the effects of sibling configuration on adolescents’ educational aspirations, and the importance of these aspirations on later attainments. It sheds light on the potential mechanism of sibling configuration effects on education. Second, it employs multilevel modelling techniques, using household-based data which include information on multiple children living in the same families. This represents an advance on studies using between-family designs. The results show that firstborn children have higher educational aspirations, and that these aspirations play a significant role in determining later educational outcomes. We also demonstrate a significant positive effect of age spacing on educational attainment. However, in this study we find no evidence that sibship size influences either educational aspiration or attainment.

Volume and page numbers

27, 69-79






Young People, Education and Childbearing: Fertility


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