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Implications of the Shifting Gender Balance in Education for Reproductive Behaviour in Europe

Jan Van Bavel

The GENDERBALL project is the first comprehensive study of the demographic consequences of a major recent development in Europe: while men have always received more education than women in the past, this gender balance in education has now turned around. For the first time in history, there are more highly educated women than men reaching the reproductive ages and looking for a partner. This will have profound consequences for the demography of reproduction because mating practices have always implied that men are the majority in higher education. This research project will study the consequences of this historically new situation for reproductive behaviour. The first step of the project is to reconstruct country-specific time series charting the shifting gender balance in education across time and space at different ages. These can then be used as contextual information in subsequent multilevel analyses of reproductive behaviour. In the second part, the project will investigate how the reversal of the gender balance is influencing patterns of assortative mating: who marries whom? Third, the project will study how the shifting gender balance is connected to the timing and probability of marriage versus unmarried cohabitation, to the timing of entry into parenthood and to the eventual number of children. Finally, it will investigate the consequences for divorce and separation. Existing data sources will be used that cover a wide range of European countries. This project will not only be ground breaking by setting the research agenda for a new era in the European reproductive landscape. It will also introduce methodological innovations. First, agent based modelling will be used as a method to study the mating process. Second, new ways to study the causal effect of the shifting gender balance in education will be tried and tested. These innovations will prove useful for many other social science projects.

GENDERBALL is funded by a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC).


Prof. dr. Jan Van Bavel
Centre for Sociological Research
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Leuven
Parkstraat 45 box 3601
BE-3000 Leuven
Jan.VanBavel [at]




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