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Research Urban and Regional Studies Institute PRC

Understanding social change in reproductive career and position of women in India and the Netherlands: A study across cultures and generations

Principal investigator

Sarbani Banerjee

Type of research

PhD research


Professor Frans Willekens and Professor Inge Hutter


The project is embedded in HERA (Healthy reproduction: Research for Action), which is a collaboration between Population Research Centre, Groningen and the NIDI (Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute), The Hague


HERA and Ubbo Emmius fellowship from the University of Groningen


March 2002-June 2005

Description of research

As societies evolve so do individuals in the society. In the recent decades the world has witnessed enormous and far-reaching demographic changes in women’s lives. These changes touch almost all aspects: education, sexual behaviour, marriage, divorce, child bearing, living arrangement and labour force participation. All these aspects indicate the rising primacy of women. However women in different cultures act differently to achieve their primary position in society. This project studies the cultural strategies that women adopt being in totally different cultures yet feeling the same.

The research aims to understand changes in the reproductive career of women over time and across cohorts in a cross-cultural study among Indian and Dutch women. We focus on the educational attainment of women as an important indicator that influences the timing of events like marriage and the birth of the first child in the reproductive career of women. We attempt to understand how does these changes relate to the changing position of women in society.

This research is divided into two parts. The first part consists of secondary data analysis of National Family Health Survey (NFHS 1998-99) for the state of Karnataka and Onderzoek Gezinsvorming (OG 1998). We study women by their levels of educational attainment and across Women were categorised into the different levels of education and age at first union formation and first childbirth was studied across different cohorts. We observe that younger cohort of women differ than the older cohorts. Women also differ by their levels of educational attainment.

The assumption here is that the older generation of Dutch women more or less resembles in their reproductive career to the younger cohorts of Indian women. Thus indicating a kind of universal pattern in the reproductive careers. Social and cultural differences though are expected to continue to exist.

The second part of the research is based on in-depth interviews for the context of Karnataka and the focus group discussions in the Dutch context. This will help in understanding the changes that have come about across generations of mothers and daughters in the two different cultural contexts. The triggering factor most importantly remains the changing educational levels of women.  


  • Feasibility study
  • Secondary data analysis of National Family Health Survey 1998, Karnataka and Onderzoek Gezinsworming, 1998 The Netherlands
  • In-depth interviews in Bangalore January 2004 to March 2004
  • Focus Group Discussions in Groningen, The Netherlands, September 2004 to October 2004


  • Banjerjee, S. (2006), Higher education and the reproductive life course. A cross-cultural study of women in Karnataka (India) and the Netherlands. PhD dissertation. Thela Thesis Publishers, Amsterdam.
  • Banerjee, S. (2003), Reproductive career of women: Comparison of the Netherlands and Andhra Pradesh in India. Master Thesis Series 03-1, Population Research Centre, University of Groningen


  • Banerjee, S. (2003), Strategizing the timing of first birth across birth cohorts and cultures. Poster presented in the Population Association of America, 1-3 May, Minneapolis, USA.
  • Matsuo, H., S. Banerjee and I. Hutter (2004), First marriage and first birth patterns by educational attainment in the transiting societies: The Netherlands, Japan and Karnataka (Southern India). Paper presented at the Population Association of America, 1-3 March, Boston, USA.
Last modified:15 November 2012 2.26 p.m.