Reconsidering the effects of sibling configuration: Recent advances and challenges

Lala Carr Steelman, Brian Powell, Regina Werum, Scott Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

285 Scopus citations


Until recently, social scientists were headed to consensus over the impact of the structural parameters of the sibling group, especially size and birth order, on educational and other status outcomes. New developments challenge this conventional wisdom, thus offering an opening for dialogue on this topic. We identify the utility and implications of studying the consequences of sibling configuration within sociology, across disciplines, and for public policy. Revisiting the association between sibship size and educational advancement, we evaluate challenges to long-held beliefs regarding this relationship. We then discuss the effects of birth order, highlighting recent declarations that these effects are more profound than previously believed. We next summarize scholarship on two less-explored components of the sibling matrix: Spacing and sex composition. Finally, we consider generalizability of research done mostly in the United States to other countries. We hope examining and critiquing this research will frame future debate and stimulate further empirical analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-269
Number of pages27
JournalAnnual Review of Sociology
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Birth order
  • Educational outcomes
  • Family
  • Intellectual development
  • Number of siblings
  • Siblings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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