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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).  Behrman's 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.  She and her colleagues also discuss and analyze the role of selection into migration and provide insight into the mechanisms underlying fertility change among migrant populations.

Immigration policy and violence. A new project with Abby Weitzman explores how the implementation of punitive immigration policies impacts Hispanic families in the United States in ways that contribute to the social reproduction of violence and the perpetuation of disadvantage. They are in the process of creating a novel dataset that combines geo-referenced nationally representative longitudinal information about family, school-based, and community violence from the National Crime Victimization Survey with time-varying state and county level information about immigration policy and implementation from the National Conference of State Legislatures, Transactional Records Access Clearing House (TRAC), and Center for Immigration Studies. The researchers propose a comprehensive framework of how immigration policies and implementation potentially affect violence in the family, school, and community, with consideration of the potential implications of their findings for adolescents.

Selected Publications

Behrman, J.A., and A. Weitzman. 2022. Point of reference:  A multi-sited exploration of African migration and fertility in FranceInternational Migration Review.

Behrman, J.A., M. Eilers, I. McLoughlin-Brooks, and A. Weitzman. 2022. International Migration and Modern Contraceptive Use:  A Research Note on African Migrants to France. Demography.

Andriano, L., J.A. Behrman and C. Monden, C. 2021. Husbands’ Dominance in Wives’ Health Decision-Making:  A Diffusion Perspective in Sub-Saharan AfricaDemography.

Behrman, J.A., and M. Frye. 2021. Attitudes toward intimate partner violence in dyadic perspective:  Evidence from sub-Saharan Africa. Demography.

Kashyap, R. and J.A. Behrman. 2020. Gender discrimination and excess female under-five mortality in India: a new perspective using mixed-sex twins. Demography. 57, 2143–2167.

Gruijters, R. J., and J.A. Behrman. 2020. Learning Inequality in Francophone Africa: School Quality and the Educational Achievement of Rich and Poor Children. Sociology of Education. 93(3):256-276

Behrman, J.A., and J. Erman. 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. 

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