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Doctoral Researcher in Family Demography at UCLouvain

The Centre for Demographic Research of the UCLouvain (Belgium) recruits a PhD student to work on family instability and its implications for social inequality (2 +2 years)

The Center for Demographic Research (DEMO) at the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain) belongs to the Institute for the Analysis of Change in Contemporary and Historical Societies (IACCHOS). DEMO, funded in 1963, is a vibrant medium-size (~ 40 researchers) research group that gathers population researchers from all over the world. DEMO is conducting fundamental and applied research in demography around 7 themes: historical and contemporary demography of Belgium (1), data and method development (2), fertility, family transformations and gender relations (3), international migration and integration (4), population and health dynamics in low- and middle-income countries (5), the challenges of ageing (6), and population, environment and energy (7). The center is known for its organization of the yearly international Quetelet Seminar and the international Quetelet Journal.

The PhD project will contribute to DEMO’s research theme "Fertility, Family Transformations and Gender Relations".


Project Description

What are the consequences of the increase in non-marital childbearing and family instability with respect to socio-economic inequalities? Levels of non-marital childbearing have increased dramatically in Europe and the Americas over the last decades. The greatest part of this increase can be attributed to cohabiting couples that have children as contrasted to single persons who become parents. Low-educated individuals are especially likely to have children outside marriage, to experience separations and to become single parents. The low-educated frequently face economic hardship and single-parent families are especially exposed to the risk of poverty. Research has thus tended to focus on the lowly educated when studying unstable family biographies and their implications.

However,  people are much better educated now than in the past, and non-marital family forms have spread among the more educated too. It is still relatively unclear what the consequences of non-marital childbearing are for the medium and high educated and their families. On the one hand, medium- and higher-educated populations may occupy greater economic resources that may provide them with a buffer against the negative consequences of alternative family structures. On the other hand, medium educated may be losing ground  as education expands. It may also be that the more educated are less willing to see their family dissolve, and if a dissolution takes place this might lead to more disruption in such cases. Literature has indeed linked single childbearing to low educational levels of the mother. However, a recent trend is that more and more single, better educated women conceive a child with the help of new reproductive technologies. This trend may change the idea about single parenthood: single mothers by choice might be better able to provide the quality of parenting as well as financial and social support. In sum, the recent trends suggest that the selectivity of parents with a non-marital birth has changed and that consequences of a non-marital birth may turn out to be less negative in today’s societies.

This PhD project aims at a profound analysis of non-marital childbearing, essentially focusing on the association between parents’ education and union dissolution after first childbearing and the consequences of this association with respect to social inequalities. The PhD candidate will consider the (changing) socioeconomic profile of unmarried parents and evaluate the socio-economic outcomes of different family pathways, describing the educational level, income level and employment status during the period of family formation. Drawing on these family pathways, the project will evaluate the consequences of the higher proportion of non-marital childbearing for social inequality.


Working conditions

This is a dissertation project financed in the first two years by UCLouvain. We will aim for follow-up funding by FNRS (national funding agency) or UCLouvain. The dissertation will be supervised by prof. dr. Christine Schnor (UCLouvain) and dr. Diederik Boertien (CED Barcelona). Research stays at the CED in Barcelona are intended. Furthermore, the project will benefit from cross-disciplinary collaboration within UCLouvain and from collaboration with international experts.



Starting date: between September and November 2019.

  • Duration: 24 months (another 24 months extension possible)
  • The supervisor will help the selected candidate to apply for follow-up funding.
  • Net monthly allowance starts at 1,940 €.



We are looking for candidates with:

  • a Master degree in population studies, demography, human geography, economics, sociology or another relevant social science;
  • excellent study results and CV;
  • excellent quantitative research skills and proven experience in multivariate statistical analyses of large survey or register data sets;
  • good writing skills and fluency in written and spoken English; preferably already experience in academic writing in English
  • a keen interest in family demography;
  • willingness to attend conferences abroad and to spend periods of several weeks working abroad with the second supervisor and collaborating partners;
  • knowledge of French or willingness to attend French language courses;
  • strong conceptual thinking;
  • strong motivation, good communicative skills, proactive and independent work attitude;
  • strong planning skills, ability to organize own work and related activities, ability to meet deadlines;
  • a great curiosity and enthusiasm for scientific research.

We warmly invite you to apply for these vacancies, if you are interested and will have completed your Master degree before September 2019.


We ask you to submit

  • a motivation letter,
  • a one-page PhD research proposal including provisional research questions and analytical approach to address them;
  • your complete CV, including the grades obtained during your Master programme and the names and contact details of two reference persons
  • Candidates who are shortlisted will be asked to submit written work (e.g. MA thesis or papers) at a later stage.

You may apply for this position until 8 June 2019 12:00pm.

Send your application (all documents in one pdf file) to christine.schnor [at] and diederikboertien [at], mentioning in the subject PHD POSITION DEMO 02-2019.

Interviews with the selection committee will take place end of June/beginning of July.

More information
Centre for Demographic Research of the UCLouvain

Candidates who want more information about the research project or the recruitment process should contact christine.schnor [at] and diederikboertien [at]