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Your Older Sibling Might Affect Your College Choice

06/25/2015 03:14 pm ET

A new paper on sibling influence in college choice proves, once again, that it's always Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.

An older sibling's college decisions affects a younger sibling's subsequent college decisions, the paper, published in the Economics of Education Review, found. Using data from the College Board on 1.6 million sibling pairs, they found that overall one-fifth of younger siblings enroll in the same college as their older siblings.

"If an older sibling enrolls in a four-year college, the younger sibling is something like 16 percentage points more likely to do so," author Joshua Goodman told the Chronicle of Higher Education. "If the older sibling enrolls in a highly competitive college, the younger sibling is something like 19 percentage points more likely to."

The effects are more pronounced the more similar the siblings. For example, Jan is likely to be more influenced by Marcia -- who shares her gender and is close in age -- than by Greg -- who is male and further apart in age. If their academic achievements are similar, they're also more likely to follow similar paths.

This information can be used to help target students who may need more guidance and encouragement and can influence how colleges spread information, Goodman told the Chronicle. Because older siblings seemingly influence their younger siblings, giving them information and helping them enroll in a 4-year college could potentially move the younger sibling in the same direction.

The paper is the latest in research on how siblings affect each other. Research has shown that, in certain social habits, younger siblings more closely mimic older siblings than their parents. A study in the UK last year showed that a high achieving older sibling is linked to higher grades for the younger siblings. As research also shows that older siblings tend to be more achievement-oriented, this generally bodes well for younger siblings, even if it feels like they're always being ignored for their smarter, prettier big sisters.

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