Human child survival depends on adult investment, typically from parents. However, in spite of recent research advances on kin influence and birth order effects on human infant and child mortality, studies that directly examine the interaction of kin context and birth order on sibling differences in child mortality are still rare. Our study supplements this literature with new findings from large-scale individual-level panel data for three East Asian historical populations from northeast China (1789–1909), northeast Japan (1716–1870), and north Taiwan (1906–1945), where preference for sons and first-borns are common. We examine and compare male child mortality risks by presence/absence of co-resident parents, grandparents, and other kin, as well as their interaction effects with birth order. We apply discrete-time event-history analysis on over 172,000 observations of 69,125 boys aged 1–9 years old. We find that in all three populations, while the presence of parents is important for child survival, it is more beneficial to first/early-borns than to later-borns. Effects of other co-resident kin are however null or inconsistent between populations. Our findings underscore the importance of birth order in understanding how differential human parental investment may produce child survival differentials between siblings.
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