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Choosing a Major and a Partner: Field of Study and Union Formation Among College-Educated Women in Europe

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Abstract

In this paper, we explore the patterns of assortative mating among college-educated women who graduated from typically female, typically male, or mixed disciplines. Using a set of cross-sectional observations of a single cohort of female graduates (2010) from European Union Labour Force Survey data and applying multilevel multinomial logit models, we estimated the relative risk of living with a college-educated partner (homogamy), living with less educated partner (hypogamy), or being single. Focusing on the first five years after graduation, the analysis demonstrated that field of study is a significant predictor of mating behaviour. Women with degrees in male-dominated fields are less likely to partner down with less educated men. The mating advantage of women from male-dominated fields is stronger in countries with a higher female employment rate. Furthermore, more liberal gender roles seem to increase the level of singlehood among women from male-dominated fields. Finally, women from female-dominated and mixed disciplines are more likely to partner down if the man graduated from a male-typical discipline. However, among women from male-dominated disciplines, such a trade-off was not observed.

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Fig. 1

Source: EU LFS data 2010–2015, analytical sample, N = 17,481

Fig. 2

Source: EU LFS data 2010–2015, all other covariates at means

Fig. 3

Source: EU LFS data 2010–2015, all other covariates at means

Fig. 4

Source: EU LFS data 2010–2015, all other covariates at means

Fig. 5

Source: EU LFS data 2010–2015, all other covariates at means

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Notes

  1. http://data.uis.unesco.org/ on June 12, 2017.

  2. An exception is the Netherlands, where women constituted only 58 percent of graduates from the arts and humanities fields.

  3. In a supplementary analysis, we used country-specific coding for services, business and law, and agriculture, forestry, and veterinary, fields but the general patterns did not change (see Table A1 in Appendix). We did not used country-specific coding for life sciences and physical sciences as we are not able to distinguish these fields in the UNESCO database and the country samples are too small in the LFS data to make a precise estimate.

  4. Extracted from Eurostat from “Employment rates by sex, age and citizenship (%) [lfsa_ergan]” on February 1, 2019.

  5. Extracted from Eurostat from “Main GDP aggregates per capita [nama_10_pc]” on February 1, 2019, and expressed in thousands.

  6. The lack of effect might be explained by data limitations, as age is observed only in the five-year bands.

  7. In a supplementary analysis, using country-specific definition of fields, the patterns were similar but the coefficient for mixed fields reached statistical significance at 0.05 level.

  8. In a supplementary analysis, we used non-linear specification (see Tables A2 and A3 in Appendix). As we did not find evidence for non-linearity, we use a linear measure of GDP and female employment rate.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the grant from the Czech Science Foundation under GA 19-15303S.

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Correspondence to Dana Hamplová.

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Hamplová, D., Bičáková, A. Choosing a Major and a Partner: Field of Study and Union Formation Among College-Educated Women in Europe. Eur J Population 38, 861–883 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-022-09621-8

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