Family Size and Educational Attainment: Cousins, Contexts, and Compensation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This paper analyses the effect of family size on children’s educational attainment using a new research design that combines fixed effects and instrumental variable (IV) approaches. We use (a) data on first cousins who belong to the same extended family but to different nuclear families to control for extended family fixed effects and (b) variation in in-married spouses’ number of siblings (a proxy for their fecundity and preferences) as an IV for variation in family size within extended families. We find that family size has a negative causal effect on educational attainment and, moreover, that the negative effect is smaller in families with stronger social ties. Our results suggest that contextual characteristics outside the nuclear family moderate the negative effect of family size on children’s educational attainment.


External organisations
  • University of Copenhagen
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


  • Contexts, Educational attainment, Family size, Fixed effects, Instrumental variables, Resource dilution
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-600
Number of pages26
JournalEuropean Journal of Population
Issue number3
Early online date2019 Nov 28
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jul
Publication categoryResearch