Authors: Joshua S. Goodman, an assistant professor of public policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and Michael Hurwitz, Jonathan Smith, and Julia Fox, all of the College Board
Organization: Harvard Kennedy School Faculty Research Working Paper Series
Summary: The paper considers the approximately 10 million students who took the SAT in cohorts that graduated from high school from 2004 to 2011. If two or more students who took the test during that period had the same last name and address, they were considered to be siblings.
Even after controlling for many other factors, older siblings’ college applications and enrollments strongly predicted whether their younger brothers and sisters went to college and the sort of college they attended.
One-fifth of younger siblings enrolled in the same college as an older sister or brother.
What’s less clear is why this is happening. It’s possible that older siblings’ choices influence younger siblings in one of several ways. For instance, younger siblings may have better college information or want to be on the same campus as an older brother or sister. It’s also possible, the authors write, that some unobserved differences among families cause all or part of the enrollment patterns.
Bottom Line: The college choices of older and younger siblings are closely related, but it’s not certain that the relationship is causal.