Volume 39 - Article 13 | Pages 381–414  

Gender differences and similarities in the educational gradient in fertility: The role of earnings potential and gender composition in study disciplines

By Alessandra Trimarchi, Jan Van Bavel


Background: While women’s participation in higher education has caught up with and surpassed that of men, large gender differences persist in the choice of field of study. To date, we know little about the mechanisms that explain the link between fertility and study disciplines for both men and women.

Objective: To study gender differences in the effect on fertility of earnings potential and gender composition in study disciplines.

Methods: We used European Labor Force Survey (EU-LFS) data and OLS models to estimate earnings potential. Next, we linked these estimates to the Generations and Gender Surveys (GGS) of six countries and applied piecewise linear hazard models to analyze the transition to first and second births jointly.

Results: We found heterogeneity across countries, but within countries the mechanisms tend to be similar for both men and women.

Conclusions: This study suggests that the drivers of men’s and women’s family behavior may be more similar than is often expected. Societal changes that have occurred in the last three decades may lead to a stronger role for men in fertility decision-making, which may remain unnoticed if we continue to focus only on women.

Contribution: This study expands our knowledge of the relationship between men’s education and fertility. It also broadens our understanding of the effect of the field of study on the fertility of both men and women by considering two characteristics of the study discipline: earnings potential and gender composition.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

How much time is left? International trends in parenthood expectancy
Volume 48 - Article 16

Stepfather or biological father? Education-specific pathways of postdivorce fatherhood
Volume 37 - Article 51

Fertility among descendants of immigrants in Belgium: The role of the partner
Volume 36 - Article 60

The mid-twentieth century Baby Boom and the changing educational gradient in Belgian cohort fertility
Volume 30 - Article 33

Estimating the contribution of mothers of foreign origin to total fertility: The recent recovery of period fertility in the Belgian region of Flanders
Volume 30 - Article 12

Regional family cultures and child care by grandparents in Europe
Volume 27 - Article 4

Social mobility and demographic behaviour: Long term perspectives
Volume 26 - Article 8

Family size and intergenerational social mobility during the fertility transition: Evidence of resource dilution from the city of Antwerp in nineteenth century Belgium
Volume 24 - Article 14

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

Are highly educated partners really more gender egalitarian? A couple-level analysis of social class differentials in attitudes and behaviors
Volume 50 - Article 34    | Keywords: attitudes, couple analysis, education, educational level, gender, gender roles, housework, social class differentials

The importance of education for understanding variability of dementia onset in the United States
Volume 50 - Article 26    | Keywords: dementia, education, lifespan variability, modal age, morbidity compression

Housework time and task segregation: Revisiting gender inequality among parents in 15 European countries
Volume 50 - Article 19    | Keywords: cross-national comparison, gender, housework

The big decline: Lowest-low fertility in Uruguay (2016–2021)
Volume 50 - Article 16    | Keywords: adolescent fertility, birth order, fertility, Latin America, ultra-low fertility, Uruguay

Cohort fertility of immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union
Volume 50 - Article 13    | Keywords: age at first birth, assimilation, cohort analysis, fertility, immigration, parity, religiosity