Advanced education increases the likelihood that a woman will find a spouse and have children by the age of 37. For men, raising the level of education does not, surprisingly, promote family formation.
This was the result of the Institute for Economic Research From a study just published by Etlawhich investigated the effect of education on children’s income.
The results concerning men in particular differ a lot from what was assumed and there is no sure explanation for them, says Etla’s research manager and author of the study Hanna Virtanen.
Of old it has been thought that education makes it difficult for women to start a family, but helps men find a relationship. The setting has recently changed.
Today, both highly educated women and men have a spouse and children clearly more often than those with secondary education. These, on the other hand, have a family more often than those left with just primary school.
However, there is very little researched information on cause and effect relationships, says Virtanen.
VIRTANE and another group of researchers looked at the effect of education level by combining the register data of those born in 1979–1985 who aspired to secondary education or university of applied sciences.
Those who barely exceeded or barely fell below the admission limits were included in the study.
The assumption is that the groups of those who got in and those who stayed out near the entry border have quite similar characteristics. Near the border, it’s random who gets an education and who misses out.
“For men, the effect of education on income is really big. Still, it didn’t affect having children.”
When the life courses of these groups were compared, it turned out that access to secondary education increased the number of children for women by five percentage points, and access to a university of applied sciences by a further five percentage points compared to those left out.
The group thinks that education increases the number of women’s children, for example, because the jobs of educated people are more flexible according to the needs of the family. An educated woman may also be a more desirable reproductive partner.
“Our results can also indicate that education is considered a sign of the ability to be a parent and that this is especially important for women,” the study speculates.
In men the effect was close to zero for one reason or another.
“For men, the effect of education on income is really big. Still, it didn’t affect having children,” says Virtanen.
Why, he says, is a mystery. The phenomenon could be explained by the fact that men who have reached university postpone having children.
“Then when there is a desire to have children, a suitable partner cannot be found, or the partner’s or own fertility comes up,” Virtanen reflects.
Men with a lower level of education, on the other hand, may have obstacles to starting a family that education does not solve, for example health concerns.
According to Virtanen, this is just a guess. In the next phase of the project, the group tries to find out what explains the results.
Virtanen says that the results of this one study cannot be generalized to all educated and uneducated people.
However, the target population of the study is relevant, for example, in the event that one would like to increase the birth rate by increasing the availability of education.
The research was part of the Lifecon project funded by the Strategic Research Council, which aims to provide decision-makers with information on the causes, consequences and solutions of demographic change.