Research team

Centre for Population, Family and Health

Expertise

Research in the broad domain of demography and population studies, characterized by the application of demographic and actuarial methods in the fields of social demography (e.g. union formation and dissolution, total and order-specific fertility, all-cause and cause-specific mortality, internal and international migration), medicine (e.g. preventive health care use, cancer treatments), education (e.g. educational trajectories, drop-out, educational attainment) and labour market processes (e.g. active labour market policies, social assitance beneficiaries, work-family balance, migrant labour market outcomes). Information on demographic and household transitions, educational trajectories and labour market transitions is subsequently integrated using cohort-component projections and microsimulation models to inform policy makers and various organizations on population dynamics and its consequences.

Using dynamic microsimulation as an integrated modelling framework to assess the impact of individual-level and contextual factors on past and future fertility trends. 01/01/2021 - 31/12/2024

Abstract

Low fertility levels in European countries since the 1970s have been a major force contributing to population ageing. Several individual-level and contextual factors have been proposed to explain changing patterns of fertility, with increasing education and labour force participation, variation in economic cycles and lack of supportive policies in many countries figuring prominently. With the increase of migration since the late 1990s, the potential impact of migrant populations on aggregate fertility trends has recently received increasing attention. While there has been no shortage of candidate causal factors, no integrated modelling framework has hitherto been developed to investigate the interplay between these factors and to assess the actual contribution of various factors to change in aggregate fertility trends. This project aims to improve our understanding of how educational careers and migration background shape fertility, and how these characteristics interact with each other, but also with varying economic and policy contexts. The project integrates models of entry into parenthood and subsequent family formation into a dynamic microsimulation framework that allows to assess the sensitivity of aggregate fertility trends to variation in economic and policy contexts, while acknowledging the constraining effect of population structures that have been shaped by past demographic trends.

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Do Work-Family Reconciliation Policies 'Work' for Native Groups with a Migration Background? Costs, opportunities, Policy design & Experiences (COPE) in a Mixed Methods Approach. 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

Unprecedented increases in female employment and declining fertility levels have undoubtedly been the most important household transformations in post-war Europe. In response to these changes, European governments developed policies geared towards the reconciliation of (female) employment and family formation such as formal childcare and parental leave. Higher fertility and a relatively weak tension between work and family in countries like Belgium and Sweden suggest that these policies are effective. However, in the context of increasingly diverse European populations, particularly in forerunner countries, a new question has come to the fore: Do these policies 'work' for migrants' descendants? In the face of this new question, the COPE-project provides two major contributions. First, migrants' descendants' uptake and effects of work-family policies, depending on the design features of such policies in Belgium and Sweden are addressed using the richest register data available. Second, adopting a mixed methods research design for the Belgian case, the COPE-project benefits from the complementarity of quantitative and qualitative methods to study both differential patterns in uptake and effects by natives' origin, but also develop indepth understanding of how mechanisms of uptake and effects vary by origin. Our findings will be of utmost importance to policy-makers in the context of inclusive social policies, but also labour supply in the era of population ageing.

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Labour Migration and Population Ageing: anlyzing the effectiveness of current labour market integration and job councelling trajectories for newly arrived immigrants and individuals with a migration background in Flanders. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

Between 2015 and 2030 welfare states throughout Europe (including Belgium) will face the long-term implications of the babyboom and subsequent babybust in the latter part of the 20th century: the large cohorts of the 1950s and 1960s will gradually enter retirement, while the small cohorts born since the mid 1970s are not sufficiently large to offset the shrinking labour force. The 2001 report of the United Nations on replacement migration estimated that a significant increase of migration (compared to levels of the mid 1990s) would be required to maintain the size of the working age population in Europe. In contrast to expectations and despite wide scepticism regarding to the UN migration prospects, immigration has substantially increased throughout Europe since the early 2000s, exceeding the migration volumes of the 1950s and 1960s by a considerable margin. However, throughout Europe the employment levels of migrant populations are significantly lower than is the case among natives, fuelling scepticism in the public debate with respect to replacement migration. Although the overrepresentation of second and later generation migrants in unemployment has been documented repeatedly, as well as the overrepresentation of first generation migrants in social assistance, only a limited body of work has hitherto been able to access existing register data to address the uptake and impact of active labour market programmes (ALMP's) and (labour force) integration policies on labour market outcomes for first and second generation migrants. This project uses a novel data infrastructure that was developed in a preceding VIONA-project (Flemish Government) which aimed to link longitudinal register data from integration offices, employment offices and social security organisations in order to reconstruct and analyse labour market trajectories of both the resident population with a migration background (second and later generation migrants) and new migrants entering the country in the period 2005-2016 (first generation migrants), including asylum seekers. Given this highly innovative research infrastructure – in tandem with the fact that different migration profiles can be considered - this project will contribute to the scarce literature on the effectiveness of different integration and employment policies to labour market integration of individuals with a migration background, while additionally shedding light on the variation in the effectiveness of such policies for different migrant groups as the barriers that second and later generation migrants, first generation migrants (e.g. family formation and reunification) and asylum seekers face in entering the labour market are different. The project aims to continue the collaboration with the various regional stakeholders involved in the construction of the data-infrastructure and envisages the valorisation of the research findings in collaboration with local and regional actors in the field of labour market and integration policies.

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Improving the Labour Market Position of People with a Migration background in Belgium 15/12/2016 - 30/06/2022

Abstract

The project aims to enhance our understanding of the socio-economic trajectories of people with a migration background, by focusing on three interconnected domains (work packages): the individual, the household and the firm. An extensive international body of research studies the labour market outcomes of people with a migration background, producing inconclusive views on why people with a migration background fare worse than their native counterparts. Human capital theory in a migration context claims that increased demand for a highly-educated workforce has raised the education premium and punishes the less skilled more severely (Katz and Autor, 1999; Baldwin and Beckstead, 2003). Authors find that first generation migrants are often endowed with lower levels and different kinds of human capital than those necessary to fare successfully in western labour markets (Heath and Cheung, 2007). An alternative stream of literature emphasizes the occurrence of different degrees of success in the labour market integration of newcomers (Neels, 2001; Euwals et al. 2007; Baert and Cockx, 2013). The human capital thesis is challenged by segmented assimilation theories rejecting that first generation migrants' disadvantages may weaken over time. Segmented assimilation theories indeed are less optimistic about the potential of education and other factors in explaining first generation migrants' weak labour market position. While some groups have an abundance of opportunities, others face multiple disadvantages, including insufficient social resources and discriminatory processes. There is increasing evidence that many first generation migrants face persistent labour market barriers that threaten their full integration (Fuller, 2011 ). Another factor that negatively affects first generation migrants' investment in the native labour market is the prevalence of discrimination. Even after controlling for human capital and after adjusting for host country characteristics, first generation migrants are often still disadvantaged. A potential, but again only partial, explanation is that first generation migrants face some form of discrimination in the labour market, either directly (Kalleberg and Soresen, 1979) or indirectly (Heath and Cheung, 2007). But the fact that people with a migration background have a harder time getting hired, just as young natives and older employees, does not necessarily directly point to discrimination. Literature equally points to rigidities in the labour market that make it harder for outsiders to find their way in. Strict employment protection makes hiring and firing decisions costly, which reduces the chance of 'risky' hires, such as people with a migration background whose human and cultural capital is much harder to gauge (Kogan, 2006).

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Follow-up Research Living Together in Diversity 01/03/2019 - 31/08/2019

Abstract

"Superdiversity" stands central in Flanders. This high degree of diversity implies that the number of people with a migration background is steadily increasing, but also increasingly heterogeneous. In order to be able to tailor policy to this superdiversity, it is essential to observe and analyse the position of groups with a migration background in different domains. To gain insight into domains that cannot be investigated on the basis of variables available in administrative databases, the Flemish Government launched the "Samenleven in Diversiteit" (SID) survey in 2017 (Stuyck et al., 2018). This survey focuses in particular on people with a Moroccan, Turkish, Polish, Romanian and Congolese background, groups that are typically underrepresented in other surveys. This research deals with diversity and integration as transversal concepts that relate to a wide range of themes and policy domains. In this follow-up study we focus on diversity and integration in individual behaviours, attitudes and experiences. We distinguish seven societal domains: (1) education and educational experiences of children, (2) labour market positions, (3) language skills and language use, (4) civic integration courses, (5) diversity and social contacts, (6) social participation and (7) attitudes towards diversity and the position of religion in society. We aim to address four broad research goals: 1. Operationalization of the concept migration background in the SID sample; 2. Documenting variation in the seven societal domains by migration background; 3. To study the extent to which variation in the seven societal domains by migration background can be explained by socio-demographic background characteristics, socio-economic characteristics or socio-cultural profiles; 4. To map the mutual dynamics between the societal domains, with special attention to spill-over effects for groups with a migrant background.

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Project website

Couple's labour force participation around parenthood: can differential labour market trajectories and resources account for doing gender? 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

In recent decades, European societies witnessed an unprecedented increase in women's labour force participation. The rise of gender equity in education and labour markets has not been mirrored, however, by a similar shift of gender equity in families and households. The division of household work continues to be strongly gendered and labour force participation around parenthood shows more variation among women than men. Micro-economic theories account for gender specialization in (un)paid work by bargaining based on relative socio-economic positions of partners. However, as women increasingly outperform men in terms of earning potential, the persistence of traditional gender specialization in households is paradoxical. In contrast, gender identity theories suggest that couples conform to and reproduce gender roles, and that decisions regarding family formation and the parental division of (un)paid labour strongly depend on cultural norms. Using detailed register-based panel data for Belgium and comparative panel data for Europe, this project studies couples' labour force participation around parenthood. We assess whether economic preconditions for parenthood (financial resources, time availability, job security) are gendered and subsequently analyse whether the relative socio-economic position of partners can account for the reinforcement of gender roles following parenthood, or whether gender roles persist despite the changing relative labour market position of women.

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Chair in Migration, Integration and Labour Markets with specific focus on labour market position of women and effectiveness of (labour market) integration programmes targeting recent migrants. 20/12/2016 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

The chair on Migration, Integration and Labour Markets is a colloborative research project with the Flemish government on the labour market position of individuals with a migration background in Flanders, with specific focus on the labour on the labour market position of migrant women and the effectiveness of (labour market) integration trajectories targeting recent migrants. The project is innovative in that aims to integrate register data on i) integration trajectories, ii) education and activation trajectories and iii) work permits with longitudinal microdata drawn from the Crossroads Bank for Social Security to reconstruct and analyse labour market trajectories of resident and new migrants using advanced hazard and econometric models. Throughout the project interviews and focus groups are set up with both participants and counselors to bring additional insight to the longitudinal analysis of trajectories based on register data.

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The impact of changing family dynamics on intergenerational solidarity 01/01/2016 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

The generations approaching retirement age have witnessed a double shift in family behaviours: a breakdown of traditional patterns of family formation, and an even larger diversity of families among their adult children. This project measures the impact of these increasingly complex lifecourses on intergenerational solidarity within families and look at upward (personal care) and downward (childcare) solidarity and the intervening role of health.

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Family Policy, Maternal Employment and Fertility Outcomes: Socio-economic Differentials in Uptake and Effects of Childcare & Parental Leave in Belgium. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

The project consists of two major parts. The first part investigates gender and socio-economic differentials in the uptake of childcare and parental leave and investigates how uptake is associated to maternal employment. The second part investigates how policy uptake subsequently affects fertility outcomes. Our research addresses the question whether the small positive effects of childcare and parental leave on female employment and fertility are due to family policies being largely ineffective, or whether these weak effects are due to the fact that studies typically use aggregate indicators and fail to account for population heterogeneity in uptake and effects of family policies.

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Work, living arrangements and social policy. An exploration of socio-economic differentials in family formation in Belgium using an administrative socio-demographic panel. 01/10/2013 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

Since the 1970s Belgium and most European countries have witnessed a baby bust, with period fertility levels declining below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman. This project analyses recent trends in union and family formation in Belgium and aims to assess how patterns of family formation are likely to develop in the near future. In addressing this research question, the project considers four factors that are particularly relevant: i) the increase of female educational attainment and labour force participation and the recursive relationship between family formation and the socio-economic position of individuals and households, ii) the increasing diversity of living arrangements in European countries and the recursive relationship between living arrangements and fertility outcomes, iii) the increasing importance of family policies in reducing the incompatibility between labour force participation and family formation and socio-economic differentials in the uptake of family policies, and iv) the evolution of patterns of family formation and labour force participation in immigrant populations and the impact of increasing migration on demographic trends in Belgium at an aggregate level. The project uses longitudinal data from the Crossroads Bank for Social Security to construct a longitudinal prospective panel that spans the period from the mid 1990s to 2010. This panel includes detailed measures of the living arrangement and socio-economic position of approximately 100000 women and their co-resident household members throughout the observation period. In addition, the supplementary samples have been drawn to include immigrants (and their co-resident household members) who settled in Belgium after 1998 to maintain the representativity of the panel throughout the period considered. The detailed and continuous measurement of socio-economic position and living arrangements provides a unique opportunity to assess the recursive relationship between these factors and family formation (e.g. disentangling the effect of initial socio-economic position and/or living arrangements on entry into parenthood and subsequently assessing the effect of parenthood on socio-economic position/living arrangement). The project is integrated in an international network on register-based research in demography.

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Research on the perception of young parenthood among vulnerable young people. 01/02/2013 - 31/05/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract. The main objective is to investigate the media representation of young parenthood on Flemish television and its reception among socially vulnerable young people.

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The pension protection for first, second and next generations of migrants in Belgium (MIGRAGE). 01/04/2012 - 30/09/2015

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Federal Public Service. UA provides the Federal Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Socio-economic differentials in fertility and family formation in Europe: how are they related to social policies and economic context? 01/01/2011 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

Following issues will be investigated: i) how educational attainment is used to study socio-economic differentials in family formation and how these are in turn affected by ii) the effects of economic conditions, iii) changing living arrangements and iv) attitudes toward gender equity. For each of these effects we explore how policy context is expected to mediate the impact on socio-economic differentials.

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Decentralisation and the activation of social assistance beneficiaries. 01/01/2011 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

This study assesses whether Belgium's decentralised activation policy in social assistance is effective in guiding social assistance beneficiaries towards sustainable employment. Recently, many states have rescaled their social assistance schemes due to activation. This has given rise to a lively international debate on the optimal distribution of competences between government levels. We aim to contribute substantially to, firstly, the mainly economic and political literature on social federalism, and secondly, the social policy literature on the effectiveness of social activation policies.

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Scientific support to wave 2 of the Generations and Gender Project. 01/10/2010 - 30/06/2014

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Federal Public Service. UA provides the Federal Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Socio-economic patterns of fertility & family formation in Europe: How are they related to policies and the economic context? 01/07/2010 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

Fertility trends in Europe since the 1970 are frequently referred to in terms of postponement and subreplacement fertility. The effects of family policy seem modest, but studies addressing the differential effect of measures depending on educational level and labour market position are scarce. This project investigates how socio-economic fertility differentials have developed in Europe between 1970 and 2010 under varying economic and policy contexts.

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Work, Family & Social Policy. An analysis of socio-economic differentials in family formation based on an Administrative Socio-Demographic Panel (ASDP) for Belgium. 01/01/2010 - 31/12/2011

Abstract

This project aims - similar to research in Denmark and Germany - to use administrative paneldata from the Belgian Social Security and Population Registers to analyse i) recent trends in order-specific fertility and ii) socio-economic differences in the combination of work and family. Results are linked to the literature and typologies of Wellfare state regimes and empirical results on differential uptake of measures.

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