Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Kim, Jae-On

Second Advisor

Noonan, Mary C

First Committee Member

Glanville, Jennifer L

Second Committee Member

Lynn, Freda B

Third Committee Member

Tang, Wenfang


The objective of this dissertation is to investigate the effect of sibling structure on women's and men's socialization and achievement outcomes in three areas: housework performance, education, and occupation. Data from China and the United States are used for analyses. The findings indicate that the effect of sibling structure largely depends on the cultural and structural contexts in each society. More specifically, although women and men on average have the same sibling structure, the meaning of sibling configuration is different for women and men because of macro-level factors, such as cultural expectations, gender stereotypes, historical legacy, and political propaganda, and micro-level factors, such as parental preferences, parent-child communication and sibling competition.

To examine the effect of sibling structure on each outcome, I conduct three empirical studies. In the first study, using data from the 2006 wave of the China Health and Nutrition Survey, I investigate the effect of sibling structure on children's housework performance. The results show that sibship size, sex composition, and birth order are important predictors of children's housework performance in China. On average, children's probability of doing housework increases as number of siblings increases and singletons are least likely to do housework. In two-child families, for girls, a brother increases the likelihood of doing housework, whereas a sister has no impact. For boys, the presence of a younger brother increases the likelihood of performing housework, whereas a sister and an older brother have no impact. In the second study, I focus on the effect of sibling structure on educational attainment and the role of siblings' education in this relationship. Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) are used for analyses. I find that the effects of sibship size and sibling sex composition on educational attainment are mediated through siblings' educational achievements. These effects are divergent for men and women. For women, sibship size and sex composition do not impact their educational attainment after accounting for siblings' educations. For men, only the number of brothers (but not sisters) has a negative effect on their educational attainment after controlling for siblings' educational achievements. In the third study, I investigate the influence of birth order on the prestige and sex type of adolescents' occupational aspirations using the first wave of the NLSY79. The results indicate that for both females and males, firstborn and lastborn adolescents on average expect higher prestige occupations compared to middleborns, and lastborns are more likely to have nontraditional occupational aspirations than firstborns and middleborns. Taken together, the results suggest that the gender gap in important child and adult behavioral outcomes is smaller among individuals with fewer siblings, fewer brothers, and among lastborn young adults.


Educational Attainment, Family, Gender Inequality, Housework, Occupational Aspirations, Sibling Structure


x, 167 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 144-167).


Copyright 2013 Yan Wang

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Sociology Commons