Historical Social Research

Mattijs Vandezande, Koen Matthijs & Jan Kok, Sibling Struggle for Schooling: Between Resource Dilution and Collaborative Learning, the Netherlands, 1850-1920 [Abstract]

During the 19th century illiteracy in the Netherlands declined to the level of almost non-existence. Much attention has already been paid how a child’s life circumstances affect his or her ability to write. Most research does not go beyond the household or aggregate level. This study aims to explore differences in literacy within a household. Following the resource dilution hypothesis, we expected literacy to be much higher among sons (than among daughters) and among (young) children from large families (as opposed to smaller families). Indeed, more boys are literate than girls, and especially in large families the oldest children are advantaged. However, we found the gender and higher birth order discrimination to be compensated with a mechanism where older girls seem to help their younger sisters, but not their younger brothers. We therefore believe gender specific mechanisms are at work which can explain literacy variations within a household.