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Julia Behrman

Assistant Professor of Sociology

PhD, Sociology, New York University, 2017

Julia Behrman’s research investigates the causes and consequences of family change in a global perspective.  Her research explores how the institution of the family shapes and is shaped by key social phenomenon in four main areas: (i) educational expansion; (ii) environmental change, natural disaster and climate shocks; (iii) expansion of women’s labor force participation; and (iv) migration. Much of her work is motivated by questions of power: who has power within families and how is it manifested? What events or experiences lead to changes in power dynamics within families? Do changes in family structures alleviate or perpetuate disadvantage between and within families?  

Behrman’s research has received funding from the National Science Foundation and South African Medical Research Council and her work has received awards from American Sociological Association Sections on Education, Population, and Development; the Society for the Study of Social Problems; the Population Association of America; and the Sociologist AIDS Network. Prior to starting at Northwestern, she was a Postdoctoral Prize Research Fellow in Sociology at Nuffield College, University of Oxford. She received her PhD from New York University in 2017. 

Current Research

Point of reference: A multidimensional understanding of fertility and migration. Migration is an important social process with far reaching implications for fertility and family change.  As such, considerable literature explores whether migrant’s fertility assimilates to the norms of women in destination contexts.  Nonetheless, most research investigating the relationship between international migration and fertility outcomes compares the reproductive outcomes of migrants to those of native-born women in receiving countries. Drawing on literature on the importance of a transnational perspective, we standardize and integrate data from two different sources—one collected in France (the receiving country in our study)—and one collected in African and Asian countries (the senders).  Our analyses illustrate how estimated associations between migration and fertility and reproductive health outcomes differ when comparing migrant women to non-migrant women in receiving versus sending countries, which provides a fuller understanding of processes surrounding migration and assimilation to fertility and family norms in destination-contexts.  We also discuss and analyze the role of selection into migration and provide insight into the mechanisms underlying fertility change among migrant populations.

Global Family Change. There have been dramatic changes in family life around the globe in response to social, economic, political, and demographic forces. However, sociologists and demographers continue to lack an empirical understanding of macro-level trends in family change in lower- and middle-income countries and a comprehensive theory for how and why family systems are changing globally. In a collaborative project with researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, University of Oxford, and Bocconi University, Behrman is using multi-state life-tables and growth convergence techniques to document crosscutting trends in global family change over the life course. A key feature of this project is the ability to test leading theories of how and why family systems undergo change, with an emphasis on whether patterns of family change converge or diverge across countries at different levels of economic development and socioeconomic inequality. 

Selected Publications

Gruijters, R. J. and Behrman, J. A. Forthcoming. Schooling without learning: Family background and educational performance in Francophone Africa. Forthcoming at Sociology of Education.   

Behrman, J.A. Forthcoming. Mother’s relative educational status and early childhood height-for-age z scores: A decomposition of change over time. Forthcoming at Population Research and Policy Review.  Online first:

Behrman, J.A. and Erman, J.* 2019. An exploration of differences in ideal family size between Muslim and non-Muslim women in France. Demographic Research. 41(22):617-648. 

Behrman, J.A. 2019. Polygynous unions and intimate partner violence in Nigeria: An examination of the role of selection. Journal of Marriage and Family. 81(4): 905-919. 

Pesando, L.* and the GFC team (Castro, A.,.*, Andriano, L.*, Behrman, J.A., Billari, F., Mondon, C., Furstenberg, F., Kohler, H-P.).  2019. Global family change: Persistent diversity with development. Population and Development Review. 45(1):133-168.

Behrman, J.A. 2019. Contextual declines in educational hypergamy and intimate partner violence. Social Forces. 97(3): 1257-1282.

Behrman, J., and S. Duvisac. 2017. The relationship between women’s paid employment and women’s stated son preference in India. Demographic Research 36(52): 1601–36.

Behrman, J. 2017. Women’s land ownership and participation in decision-making about reproductive health in Malawi. Population and Environment 38(4): 327–44.

Behrman, J., A. Peterman, and T. Palermo. 2017. Does keeping girls in school prevent against forced sex? Quasi-experimental evidence from Eastern and Southern Africa. Journal of Adolescent Health 60(2): 184–90.

Behrman, J., and A. Weitzman. 2016. The effect of the 2010 Haiti earthquake on women’s reproductive health: A difference-in-difference analysisStudies in Family Planning 47(1): 1–15.

Weitzman, A., and J. Behrman. 2016. Disaster, disruption to family life and intimate partner violence: The case of the 2010 earthquake in HaitiSociological Science 3:167–89.

Behrman, J. 2015. Do targeted stipend programs reduce gender and socioeconomic inequalities in school attainment? Insights from rural Bangladesh. Demography 52(6): 1917–27. 

Behrman, J. 2015. Does schooling affect women’s desired fertility? Evidence from Malawi, Uganda, and EthiopiaDemography 52(3): 787–809.  

Behrman, J. 2015. The effect of increased primary schooling on adult women’s HIV status in Malawi and Uganda: Universal primary education as a natural experiment. Social Science and Medicine 127:108–15.