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Teresa Martin Garcia (Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales)

17 November 2016


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17 November 2016
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“Women’s and men’s education and partnership formation: Does the field of education matter?”


Using data from the Gender and Generation Survey, this study explores the effect of field of education on first union formation for women and men born since the 1960s in Norway, Austria, Belgium and Poland. Educational attainment is known to influence differently the union patterns of men and women. These differences in partnership formation have been traditionally explained using the economic interpretation of education. We suggest that looking at fields of study may yield additional insights and offer a more comprehensive picture for understanding union entry patterns. The analysis focuses on the effect of three dimensions of education –educational level, enrolment and field– on first union entry and union type.
We argue that, although the effect of educational field on first union formation is less strong than that previously reported for fertility behavior and despite female-dominated fields of study not being conducive to earlier and more traditional union formation behaviors across all countries under study, the educational field is important not only as a control variable that helps add nuance to the relation between educational level and family formation, but also in and of itself. The findings suggest that the choice of field of education may reflect unobserved value orientations and anticipated family roles, but also different degrees of opportunities in the labor market. Results are congruent with our expectation that union formation should be more dependent on economic-related factors in Austria, Belgium and Poland than in Norway, where there is far greater room for value-mediated choices between earlier and later union entry and between marriage and cohabitation.