First-borns get more quality time with parents, study shows

First-born children get more quality time with parents than subsequent children, a Cornell study shows.

Using data from the American Time Use Survey, Joseph Price, a graduate student in economics at Cornell, found that a first-born child receives 20-30 more minutes of quality time each day with a parent than a second-born child of the same age from a similar family.

The study showed that in two-child families, the first-born child receives about 20 more minutes of quality father-time and 25 more minutes of quality mother-time daily at ages 4 through 13 than the second-born child does at the same ages. This leads to an aggregate difference of about 3,000 hours between the times spent with each child.

"Thus, at any age, the second child is receiving less time than the first-born child received at the same age," said Price. "This birth-order difference is larger when the children are spaced further apart."

Birth-order differences were estimated by matching each first-born child with a second-born child of the same age from a similar family. This cross-family comparison allowed Price to determine whether a first-born child receives more quality time with parents at a certain age than a younger sibling would at the same age.

Price presented his findings at the meeting of the Society of Labor Economics in May 2006, among several other venues. His paper is now under review at the Journal of Human Resources.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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