Educational assortative mating and couples' fertility

Alessandra Trimarchi, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and Sapienza Università di Roma
Jan Van Bavel, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Assuming that partners mate assortatively, scholars usually have approached fertility from a woman’s perspective. However, omitting partners’ characteristics may lead to biased results. The effect of women’s education on fertility may also embed the effect of the partner’s education. This study aims to extend the literature about the effect of partners’ educational characteristics on fertility, i.e., the level of education and the field of study. The analytical strategy comes in two steps. First, we estimate the earning potential by field of study, country, and sex with European Labor Force Surveys. Second, we link the results of these estimations with the Generation and Gender Surveys of eight European countries, and we model couples’ transition to first and higher order parities jointly, accounting for couples’ unobserved characteristics. The findings suggest that both men and women face opportunity costs of fertility with an increasing earning potential in terms of both higher educational level and more profitable field of study. Next, we found that traditional pairings, characterized by an imbalance of education and earning potential in favor of the man, are more conducive to fertility compared to non-traditional pairings, i.e., where the woman is more educated than the man. However, it also emerges that a highly educated woman is more likely to go beyond the first child if she partnered with a highly educated man.

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 Presented in Session P2. Poster Session 2