Implications of the shifting gender imbalance in higher education for the timing and likelihood of union formation

Yolien De Hauw, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Martin Klesment, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Jan Van Bavel, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

In Europe, college education has expanded rapidly since the 1960s and has done so more for women than for men. As a result, there are more highly educated women than highly educated men entering today’s marriage market. If the advances in women’s education are not accompanied by convergence in the criteria that men and women use to evaluate the educational attainment of potential spouses, the shifting gender balance in education will result in lower marriage opportunities for highly educated women and less educated men. Therefore, this paper sets out to investigate whether and how the effects of men and women’s educational level on rates of unmarried cohabitation and marriage interact with the shifting gender balance in higher education in Europe, where the educational effect on union formation varies considerably between countries. We will pay attention to the fact that rates of union formation consist of two underlying components: a probability of ever making the transition on the one hand, and the timing of the transition on the other hand. Processes like changing sex ratios may have diverging effects on these two components, for example a positive effect on the eventual probability but a negative effect on the speed of making the transition. To take this into consideration, we will use the ‘Timing of life’ module of the third round of the European Social Survey as well as time series on sex ratios for the highly educated calculated from the IIASA/VID population projections.

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Presented in Session 118: Union formation and singlehood