, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 439–458 | Cite as

Choice of study discipline and the postponement of motherhood in Europe: The impact of expected earnings, gender composition, and family attitudes

  • Jan Van BavelEmail author


Theory suggests that the field of study may be at least as consequential for fertility behavior as the duration and level of education. Yet, this qualitative dimension of educational achievement has been largely neglected in demographic studies. This article analyzes the mechanisms relating the field of study with the postponement of motherhood by European college-graduate women aged 20–40. The second round of the European Social Survey is used to assess the impact of four features of study disciplines that are identified as key to reproductive decision making: the expected starting wage, the steepness of the earning profile, attitudes toward gendered family roles, and gender composition. The results indicate that the postponement of motherhood is relatively limited among graduates from study disciplines in which stereotypical attitudes about family roles prevail and in which a large share of the graduates are female. Both the level of the starting wage and the steepness of the earning profile are found to be associated with greater postponement. These results are robust to controlling for the partnership situation and the age at entry into the labor market.


Labor Market Educational Attainment Family Formation Gender Composition European Social Survey 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Population Association of America 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Interface DemographyVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium

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