To read this content please select one of the options below:

Birth Spacing and Educational Outcomes

Human Capital and Health Behavior

ISBN: 978-1-78635-466-2, eISBN: 978-1-78635-465-5

Publication date: 20 May 2017


Virtually all parents want their children to succeed academically. How to achieve this goal, though, is far from clear. Specifically, the temporal spacing between adjacent births has been shown to affect educational outcomes. While many of these studies have produced substantial and statistically significant results, these results have been relatively narrow in their application due to data limitations. Using Colorado birth certificates matched to schooling outcomes, we investigate the relationship between birth spacing and educational attainment. We instrument birth spacing with a previous pregnancy that did not result in a live birth. We find no overall effect of spacing on either the first or second children’s grade 3–10 test scores. Stratifying by the sexes of the children, we find that when the first child is a boy and the second a girl, an extra year of spacing increases the first child’s math, reading, and writing test scores by 0.07–0.08 SD, while there is no impact on the second child. This is the first study to do such an analysis using matched large-scale birth and elementary to high school administrative data, and to leverage a very large dataset to stratify our results by the sexes of the children.




The authors are grateful to participants at the Human Capital and Health Behavior Conference at the Centre for Health Economics at the University of Gothenburg for their help and comments. The authors thank Kirk Bol at the Colorado Department of Health and Environment for his assistance in linking and accessing our data. These data were supplied by the Health Statistics and Evaluation Branch of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which specifically disclaims responsibility for any analyses, interpretations, or conclusions it has not provided. The authors thank Kelly Thevenet-Morrison for excellent programming support. Special thanks are due to Sudhir Singh for all of his advice and support.


Hill, E.L. and Slusky, D.J.G. (2017), "Birth Spacing and Educational Outcomes", Human Capital and Health Behavior (Advances in Health Economics and Health Services Research, Vol. 25), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 3-29.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017 Emerald Publishing Limited