Family size and schooling in sub-Saharan Africa: testing the quantity-quality trade-off

  • Sahawal Alidou
  • Marijke VerpoortenEmail author
Original Paper


Many family planning programs are based on the idea that small families lead to improved development outcomes, such as more schooling for children. Because of endogeneity issues, this idea is however difficult to verify. A handful of studies have made use of twin birth to deal with the endogeneity of family size. We do so for sub-Saharan African countries. In a compilation of 86 survey rounds from 34 countries, we exploit the birth of twins to study the effect of a quasi-exogenous increase in family size on the schooling of children at the first, second and third birth order. Our findings do not support the generally assumed negative effect of family size on schooling.


Family size Schooling Quantity-quality trade-off Sub-Saharan Africa 

JEL classification

D1 O1 



We received much appreciated comments from Elena Briones Alonso, Philip H. Ross, Pieter Serneels, NikStoop and the participants at seminars, conferences and workshops in Leuven (LICOS-KU Leuven seminar),Antwerp (Doctoral Day) and Oxford (2017 CSAE conference), as well as from the Editor and two anonymousreferees of this journal.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IOB–Institute of Development Policy and ManagementUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium
  2. 2.LICOS–Centre for Institutions and Economic PerformanceKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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