Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Changing Sibship Size and Educational Progress during Childhood: Evidence from the Philippines

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Changing Sibship Size and Educational Progress during Childhood: Evidence from the Philippines

Article excerpt

This paper investigates the association between changes in coresident sibship size and children's educational progress in the Philippines. When conceptualized at the household level, sibship size is a dynamic aspect of the family context with potentially important implications for resources needed to support a child's education. Individual-level change models suggested that adding younger siblings in early childhood (from birth to age 9) and losing both younger and older siblings later in childhood (from age 9 to 19) were associated with less educational progress by the focal child between ages 9 and 19. These effects were additive and indicated the importance of assessing both type of change and timing in evaluating the relationship between coresident sibship size and educational progress during childhood.

Key Words: child school achievement, child siblings, coresidence, family.

Education is an important indicator of life chances across settings, with major social and economic inequalities developing between those who do not obtain a high school degree and those who go on to pursue higher education (Brunello & Comi, 2004; Chung, 2003; Liu & Hummer, 2008; Siphambe, 2000). Family contexts are likely to contribute to the development of these educational inequalities, and large family size (or sibship size) has been one aspect of families thought to limit individuals' educational achievement across cultures (Blau & Duncan, 1967; Sewell & Hauser, 1975). Family size research to date, however, has been limited by its focus on one-time measures of sibship size (henceforth referred to as "sibsize") and cross-sectional analyses of the relationship between individuals' sibsize and educational attainment (Steelman, Powell, Werum, & Carter, 2002). Similar to other aspects of the family context, sibsize, when considered as a household measure, may be quite dynamic over time, as children are born into and leave the parental household. These changes in sibsize (characterized here as gains and losses in younger and older siblings) may have important implications for individuals' education if household resources also shift with these changes in household composition. No study to date has provided a consideration of sibling gains and losses and how these changes may impact individuals' educational attainment.

To address this gap in the literature, this paper takes a life course and household-based perspective of sibsize, exploring whether changes in coresident sibsize are associated with individuals' educational progress (number of grades passed) from age 9 to 19 in Cebu, Philippines. In doing so, this study captures prospective changes in family size and distinguishes among gains and losses in younger and older siblings in both early childhood (birth to age 9) and later childhood (age 9 to 19). The use of individual-level change models provides a methodological contribution by reducing potential biases attributable to unobserved time-invariant differences among children and their families.

The Philippines, with high fertility, migration, and child labor rates, provides a setting where coresident sibsizes are likely to change throughout a child's life course. Schooling delays and early drop out are also prevalent in this context, as household duties and work responsibilities often force children out of school prior to high school graduation. Coresident sibsize may play an important role in this work and school trade-off.

The findings from this paper indicate the complexity and significance of changes in coresident sibsize in this developing country context while also informing the broader literature on the role of coresident siblings in the development of social inequalities during childhood.


Sibsize may be related to children's education in several ways. First, having more siblings may mean fewer household and family resources to support an individual child's education. …

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