Dejan Kovac

First name
Dejan
Last name
Kovac
Abstract

While it is widely believed that family and social networks can influence important life decisions, identifying causal effects is notoriously difficult. This paper presents causal evidence from three countries that the educational trajectories of older siblings can significantly influence the college and major choice of younger siblings. We exploit institutional features of centralized college assignment systems in Chile, Croatia, and Sweden to generate quasi-random variation in the educational paths taken by older siblings. Using a regression discontinuity design, we show that younger siblings in each country are significantly more likely to apply and enroll in the same college and major that their older sibling was assigned to. These results persist for siblings far apart in age who are unlikely to attend higher education at the same time. We propose three broad classes of mechanisms that can explain why the trajectory of an older sibling can causally affect the college and major choice of a younger sibling. We find that spillovers are stronger when older siblings enroll and are successful in majors that, on average, have higher scoring peers, lower dropout rates and higher earnings from graduates. The evidence presented shows that the decisions, and even random luck, of your close family members and peer network, can have significant effects on important life decisions such as the choice of specialization in higher education. The results also suggest that college access programs such as affirmative action, may have important spillover effects through family and social networks.

Number
633a
Date Published
01/2020
Publication Language
eng
Citation Key
11556
Neilson, C., Altmejd, A., Barrios-Fernandez, A., Drlje, M., & Kovac, D. (2020). Siblings’ Spillover Effects on College and Major Choice: Evidence from Chile, Croatia and Sweden. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01z890rx142 (Original work published 01/2020AD)
Working Papers
Abstract

Family and social networks are widely believed to influence important life decisions but identifying their causal effects is notoriously difficult. Using admissions thresholds that directly affect older but not younger siblings’ college options, we present evidence from the United States, Chile, Sweden and Croatia that older siblings’ college and major choices can significantly influence their younger siblings’ college and major choices. On the extensive margin, an older sibling’s enrollment in a better college increases a younger sibling’s probability of enrolling in college at all, especially for families with low predicted probabilities of enrollment. On the intensive margin, an older sibling’s choice of college or major increases the probability that a younger sibling applies to and enrolls in that same college or major. Spillovers in major choice are stronger when older siblings enroll and succeed in more selective and higher-earning majors. The observed spillovers are not well-explained by price, income, proximity or legacy effects, but are most consistent with older siblings transmitting otherwise unavailable information about the college experience and its potential returns. The importance of such personally salient information may partly explain persistent differences in college-going rates by geography, income, and other determinants of social networks.

Number
641
Date Published
05/2020
Publication Language
eng
Citation Key
11696
Neilson, C., Altmejd, A., Barrios-Fernandez, A., Drlje, M., Goodman, J., Hurwitz, M., et al. (2020). O Brother, Where Start Thou? Sibling Spillovers on College and Major Choice in Four Countries. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp018623j164m (Original work published 05/2020AD)
Working Papers

Author
Year of Publication
2017
Abstract

Parental mortality is associated with a range of negative child outcomes. This paper studies the effect of paternal mortality on children’s health and schooling outcomes using the universe of veterans’ children born in Croatia, and all of the paternal deaths and injuries resulting from the 1991-1995 Croatian-Serbian war. Using linked administrative data, I find large negative effects of paternal death on high-school GPA, school absences, behaviour problems, and hospitalisations. I address potentially non-random selection into paternal death by using within-military unit differences in the extent of injury or death, essentially assuming that the members of a military unit all had similar probabilities of being killed or injured because they fought in the same battles. I am also able to shed light on an important mechanism underlying the estimated effects. Surviving spouses of those killed or injured were well compensated, so that the death of a father did not have a negative effect on household incomes. I find that a death or injury that occurred during the in-utero period has much larger effects than a death or injury in early childhood, suggesting that much of the negative effect is due to maternal stress.

Number
609
Date Published
03/2017
Publication Language
eng
Citation Key
9971
Kovac, D. (2017). Do Fathers Matter?: Paternal Mortality and Children’s Long-Run Outcomes. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01td96k5012 (Original work published 03/2017AD)
Working Papers
Abstract

While it is a widely held belief that family and social networks can influence important life decisions, identifying causal effects is notoriously difficult. This paper presents causal evidence from three countries at different stages of economic development that the educational trajectories of older siblings can significantly influence the college and major choice of younger siblings. We exploit institutional features of centralized college assignment systems in Chile, Croatia, and Sweden to generate quasi-random variation in the educational paths taken by older siblings. Using a regression discontinuity design, we show that younger siblings in each country are significantly more likely to apply and enroll in the same college and major that their older sibling was assigned to. These results persist for siblings far apart in age who are unlikely to attend higher education at the same time. We propose three broad classes of mechanisms that can explain why the trajectory of an older sibling can causally affect the college and major choice of a younger sibling. We find that spillovers are stronger when older siblings enroll and are successful in majors that on average have higher scoring peers, lower dropout rates and higher earnings from graduates. The evidence presented shows that the decisions, and even random luck, of your close family members and peer network, can have significant effects on important life decisions such as the choice of specialization in higher education. The results also suggest that college access programs such as affirmative action, may have important spillover effects through family and social networks.

Number
633
Date Published
11/2019
Publication Language
eng
Citation Key
11466
Neilson, C., Altmejd, A., Barrios-Fernandez, A., Drlje, M., & Kovac, D. (2019). Siblings’ Effects on College and Major Choices: Evidence from Chile, Croatia and Sweden. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01h128nh58q (Original work published 11/2019AD)
Working Papers