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PhD Candidate at NIDI-KNAW

NIDI-KNAW is looking for a PhD Candidate for the Project: Explaining differences in union dissolution between municipalities: the role of compositional, contextual and cross-level effects.

Job Description

The PhD candidate will focus on explaining to what extent differences in union dissolution rates between Dutch neighborhoods and municipalities can be accounted for by compositional (individual characteristics such as religious involvement, household income and level of education), contextual (environment average religious involvement, household income and educational attainment) and cross-level effects (interactions between individual and contextual characteristics). The PhD candidate will perform analyses on linked survey and register data, available from Statistics Netherlands (CBS). Analysis will occur either on-site at CBS or at NIDI via Remote Access. Given the nested structure of the data, most analysis will be performed using multilevel modeling. The PhD candidate will provide various outputs: at least four publications in top peer-reviewed journals (demography, family studies and sociology journals will be targeted); presentations of articles at national and international sociological and demographic conferences; brief articles accessible to a wider audience; a dissertation based on the research articles.

The PhD position is funded by an NWO - open competition grant and will be supervised by prof. dr. A.C. Liefbroer (NIDI) and dr. M. Zoutewelle-Terovan (NIDI), and will be located at NIDI.


  • A completed Research Master in social sciences, or a comparable background
  • Solid knowledge of statistical methods for the analysis of large-scale data (experience with statistical modeling of nested data such as multilevel modeling are a pre)
  • Knowledge of the literature of life-course sociology
  • Good writing and presentation skills
  • Excellent knowledge of English (speaking Dutch is a pre)

Conditions of Employment

Fixed-term contract: The initial appointment will be for a period of one year. After a positive evaluation, the appointment will be extended for another three years.

The PhD candidate will be employed by NIDI-KNAW on a full-time position (38 hours/week). Preferred starting date is November 1, 2019. The initial appointment will be for a period of one year. After a positive evaluation, the appointment will be extended for another three years. A psychological assessment may be part of the selection procedure. The gross monthly salary will be between € 2,325 (year 1) and € 2,972 (year 4). Benefits include pension contribution, annual holiday premium of 8% and an end-of-year premium of 8.3%. Non-Dutch nationals may be eligible for a substantial tax break (30% ruling).

Project Description

In the Netherlands, every year more than 30,000 marriages end in divorce and 40,000 unmarried cohabitations end in separation. Union dissolution has huge economic and emotional consequences. Most studies on union dissolution focus on the role of individual characteristics, such as religious involvement, educational attainment and income. However, large differences between municipalities exist. In 2015, the divorce rate varied from 3 in Urk to 16 in Heerlen. This project aims to explain these differences, by disentangling compositional, contextual, and cross-level effects. A first explanation of differences in union dissolution rates between municipalities is that the percentage of people with protective individual characteristics (high income, high education, high religiosity) varies across municipalities. If the percentage of people with protective individual characteristics in a community is higher, the union dissolution rate is expected to be lower, just as a consequence of the composition of the population in terms of individual characteristics. A second explanation focusses on the contextual property of having a high percentage of people with protective individual characteristics around. This creates a protective context beneficial to all its inhabitants, irrespective of their individual characteristics. A third explanation stresses that the interaction between individual and context characteristics matters. Living in a protective environment reduces union dissolution rates for everyone, but less so for individuals with fewer protective characteristics, as the normative integration within the municipality is weaker for individuals whose characteristics differ from that of the majority. Linked register and survey data are used to test these hypotheses.

More information
The Hague
Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)

For additional information about the project and PhD position you may contact prof. dr. Aart C. Liefbroer (email liefbroer [at] or phone +31 702565230).