This is interesting, though not particularly surprising. A study conducted by Harvard Kennedy School’s Joshua Goodman, Michael Hurwitz, Jonathan Smith, and Julia Fox that was published in the “Economics of Education Review” found that there is a strong statistical correlation between where younger siblings apply as compared to where their older siblings applied as well as enrolled. The correlation was found in a dataset of 1.6 million sibling pairs of SAT test-takers. So it’s a sizable sample indeed!
Here’s part of the study’s abstract: “One-fifth of younger siblings enroll in the same college as their older siblings. Compared to their high school classmates of similar academic skill and with observably similar families, younger siblings are about 15–20 percentage points more likely to enroll in 4-year colleges or highly competitive colleges if their older siblings do so first. These findings vary little by family characteristics. Younger siblings are more likely to follow the college choices of their older siblings the more they resemble each other in terms of academic skill, age and gender. We discuss channels through which older siblings’ college choices might causally influence their younger siblings, noting that the facts documented here should prompt further research on the sharing of information and shaping of educational preferences within families.”
We’ve often found that there are certain colleges that are on the tips of the tongues of parents and it’s these colleges that their children apply to. This includes their older children as well as their younger children. So it comes as no surprise to us that younger siblings quite often apply to the same schools as their older siblings. And it’s not a surprise to us that they quite frequently apply to the schools at which their older siblings enrolled. If an older sibling goes to Princeton, the family’s going to get a lot of mailings from Princeton in the years ahead. It’s going to be Princeton this, Princeton that. So, naturally, there’s a good chance the younger sibling will not forget to submit an application to the university of the late John Nash.