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Too many is not enough: studying how children are affected by their number of siblings and resource dilution in families

Editorial letter
Authors Stefan Öberg
Published in History of the Family
Volume 22
Issue 2-3
Pages 157-174
ISSN 1081-602X
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Economy and Society, Economic History
Pages 157-174
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1080/1081602X.2017.13...
Keywords endogeneity, family size, measurement error, Sibship size, statistical confounding
Subject categories Demography, Economic History

Abstract

© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This special issue contains a collection of papers that study how children are affected by their sibship size, using anthropometric data. The varied results provide a wealth of new knowledge and show that this influence is context-specific. In this paper I discuss the methodological challenges that we will encounter continuing research on resource dilution in families. The most important challenge is the plausible endogeneity of sibship size and thus biased estimates of the effect. The problem of endogeneity can be made worse through residual confounding caused by measurement error. I argue that we need to be creative and find many different ways to circumvent the problems of endogeneity, for example by looking for testable implications of the resource dilution model or studying specific situations or groups. Comparative or longitudinal studies, utilizing the variation and changes in societal contexts and institutions across time and place could also provide ways forward. In general it is the basics of the scientific method that we need to keep in mind when we continue research on this topic: formulate explicit models, do replication studies, separate exploratory and confirmatory analyses, report negative results, and be cautious of over-explaining results.

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