Numerous studies have found a negative association between family size and children’s outcomes, particularly education. The main theoretical frameworks that explain these negative associations posit that family resources mediate the relationship between family size and children’s outcomes, and children are resource receivers only. However, societies in which adolescents often work inside and outside the household and family resources are transferred unequally undermine these assumptions. We implement a twin birth instrumental variable approach and use the nationally representative 1997–2009 PNAD data to examine the impact of family size on school enrollment, labor force, and household work in Brazil. We propose a framework for understanding the implications of family size when adolescents both receive and provide resources in the family unit and these resources may be provided and/or received unequally depending on gender and birth order. While we find no evidence of gender or birth order differences in the effects of family size on education, the results indicate strong gender and birth order differences in adolescents’ contributions to their family units. We discuss the implications of our findings for the life course of adolescents.


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pp. 275-302
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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