Volume 37 - Article 4 | Pages 53–100 Author has provided data and code for replicating results

Never partnered: A multilevel analysis of lifelong singlehood

By Daniela Bellani, Gøsta Esping-Andersen, Lesia Nedoluzhko

Print this page  Facebook  Twitter


Date received:14 Mar 2016
Date published:12 Jul 2017
Word count:8122
Keywords:educational gradient, gender equity, gender roles, life-long singlehood
Additional files:readme.37-4 (text file, 718 Byte)
 demographic-research.37-4 (zip file, 20 MB)


Background: Lifelong singlehood is a comparatively rare demographic phenomenon, averaging about 5% across the European Union. However, levels of lifelong singlehood vary greatly between countries in Europe. What explains this variation? Our main thesis is that it reflects the prevailing norms regarding gender roles. We hypothesize that in societies that have not adapted to women’s new roles there will be a greater propensity toward lifelong singlehood, especially among highly educated women.

Objective: We analyze the link between levels of gender egalitarianism and the probability of lifelong singlehood, both overall and by educational attainment.

Methods: We apply multilevel modeling to European Social Survey (ESS) and European Values Study (EVS) data collected between 2002 and 2014. We focus on differences in nonpartnering across levels of education. We run separate models for men and women.

Results: In support of our hypothesis, our analysis reveals an inverse U-shaped relationship between levels of gender equity and the likelihood of lifelong singlehood for women. The association is particularly marked for more highly educated women, while it is linear for low-educated men.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that high levels of singlehood are concentrated very much within those societies where traditional gender values have waned but gender egalitarianism remains poorly diffused. Where gender egalitarianism has become normatively dominant, we find higher levels of partnering for better-educated women and for low-educated men.

Contribution: Our study contributes to the limited research on singlehood as well as to the growing body of literature on the demographic consequences of the ongoing revolution in women's roles.

Author's Affiliation

Daniela Bellani - Università di Bologna (UNIBO), Italy [Email]
Gøsta Esping-Andersen - Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain [Email]
Lesia Nedoluzhko - Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Time preferences and fertility: Evidence from Italy
Volume 44 - Article 50

» Marriage, childbearing, and migration in Kyrgyzstan: Exploring interdependencies
Volume 22 - Article 7

» Marriage formation as a process intermediary between migration and childbearing
Volume 18 - Article 21

» Migration and first-time parenthood: Evidence from Kyrgyzstan
Volume 17 - Article 25

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

» Embracing gender equality: Gender-role attitudes among second-generation immigrants in Norway
Volume 42 - Article 14    | Keywords: gender roles

» The educational gradient of living alone: A comparison among the working-age population in Europe
Volume 40 - Article 55    | Keywords: educational gradient

» Changes in gender role attitudes following couples' residential relocations
Volume 40 - Article 39    | Keywords: gender roles

» Navigating between two cultures: Immigrants' gender attitudes toward working women
Volume 38 - Article 35    | Keywords: gender roles

» The influence of a supportive environment for families on women’s fertility intentions and behavior in South Korea
Volume 36 - Article 7    | Keywords: gender equity