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Measuring and Understanding Disparities in Family Formation in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Project description

Disparities in family formation in low- and middle-income countries

One of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. This applies to having children and marrying when development capabilities are not at risk. However, many women in low- and middle-income countries marry and have babies very early in life and much earlier than men, increasing their likelihood of adverse outcomes. The EU-funded DisparFam project seeks to fundamentally improve our understanding of global family changes, by documenting patterns, trends, and determinants of disparities in the age at first union formation and childbearing. It will investigate family formation disparities and examine their relationship with education quality and gender inequality. The results will benefit researchers and policymakers.


The first union formation and the birth of the first child are among the most critical events shaping men’s and women’s life-course trajectories. Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) stress that all individuals should have access to means that allow them to control their fertility and should be able to marry at an age that does not harm their development capabilities. Central to SDGs is eradicating disparities in the timing of family formation, yet the understanding of their global patterns and determinants is limited, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This is a critical research gap as many women in LMICs enter their first union and become mothers very early in life and much earlier than men, which puts them at risk of adverse health outcomes. Focusing on 69 LMICs this project aims to radically improve our understanding of global family changes by providing novel empirical evidence on a critical yet poorly understood topic. Namely, using nuanced indicators, I will deliver the first-ever global examination of changes in disparities in the timing of family formation, both within and between the populations of women and men. Subsequently, I will investigate the role of an under-research dimension of education - schooling quality – and the role of gender inequality in opportunities in driving these disparities. This project will straddle the disciplines of demography, sociology, and international development to produce cutting-edge research that will improve the scientific understanding of social inequalities. By delivering novel evidence about the role of educational and gender inequalities in shaping young adults’ family formation trajectories, this project will be of value to the wider research and policy community, including organizations such as the UN. It will inform public policy on causes and solutions to critical global problems affecting millions of individuals worldwide, such as very early marriage, parenthood, and gender inequalities.



Net EU contribution
€ 165 312,96
Cerdanyola v gr universitat aut barcelona edifici e
08193 Barcelona

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Este Cataluña Barcelona
Activity type
Research Organisations
EU contribution
No data