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When Bigger Is Not Better: Family Size, Parental Resources, and Children's Educational Performance

Douglas B. Downey
American Sociological Review
Vol. 60, No. 5 (Oct., 1995), pp. 746-761
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2096320
Page Count: 16
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When Bigger Is Not Better: Family Size, Parental Resources, and Children's Educational Performance
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Abstract

Although the inverse relationship between the number of siblings and children's educational performance has been well established, explanations for this relationship remain primitive. One explanation, resource dilution, posits that parents have finite levels of resources (time, energy, money, etc.) and that these resources are diluted among children as sibship size increases. I provide a more rigorous investigation of the dilution model than previous studies, testing its implications with a sample of 24,599 eighth graders from the 1988 National Education Longitudinal Study. My analyses support the resource dilution model in three ways. First, the availability of parental resources decreases as the number of siblings increases, net of controls. The functional form of this relationship is not always linear, however, and depends on whether the resource is interpersonal or economic. Second, parental resources explain most or all of the inverse relationship between sibship size and educational outcomes. Finally, interactions between sibship size and parental resources support the dilution model as children benefit less from certain parental resources when they have many versus few siblings.

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