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URPP Human Reproduction Reloaded | H2R

SP 2 Human Reproduction in Societies and Markets

Scientific Research Questions

The Project encompasses sociological, psychological and economic quantitative research on human reproduction and addresses the following key questions:

  • How do reproductive decisions, individual biographies, societies, and labor markets interrelate?
  • What are the consequences of new fertility treatments for women, parents, children, families, economies, and ethical and social norms?

The sub-project unites competencies in sociology, psychology, economics, and medicine. Its main empirical base will be a panel study in relevant groups hosted at the Data Centre; this combines standardized questions, vignette and survey experiments, biomarkers, and behavioral measures by using quasiexperiments.

Research Areas

Sociological research frames the big picture and will examine reproductive decisions about new fertility treatments and their consequences for individuals, families, and society in general.

Psychobiological research addresses the consequences of established and innovative fertility treatments for parents and their children. We will longitudinally investigate technologically assisted forms of reproduction such as (1) IVF and ICSI, and (2) social egg freezing (SEF).

Socioeconomic research will ask how the reproductive decisions of men and women are intertwined with local labor market opportunities. The relationship between fertility and labor supply has been intensely debated in various contexts. We will leverage recent advances in the genetic architecture of fertility and gender-specific shocks to education and labor market opportunities to understand how the trade-off between career and family is shaped by increasing inequality, income uncertainty, greater female representation in higher education, and the varying prices of fertility treatments. 

Empirical Projects

StART Familie – Studie zum Einfluss assistierter Reproduktionstechniken auf die Familie (The impact of assisted reproductive techniques on the family) (byJulia Jeannine Schmid & Prof. Dr. Ulrike Ehlert)
The project «StART Familie» (PDF, 790 KB) aims to examine the medium-term biopsychological effects of assisted reproductive techniques on the family for a better understanding of their risks and opportunities. We are analyzing whether the use of assisted reproductive techniques affects the mental health of parents, various aspects of parenthood, and the psychosocial development of children. In addition, we would like to know more about the biological and psychological mechanisms behind it. The study participation includes filling out psychological questionnaires by the parents and collecting fingernail samples and saliva samples from the whole family at home. The expected duration of the project is from September 2021 to August 2024.


EEggg – Eizellen Einfrieren – geplant, gemacht, genutzt? (Egg freezing - planned, done, used?) (byM. Sc. Julia Jeannine Schmid & Prof. Dr. Ulrike Ehlert)
In industrialized countries, more and more women are freezing some of their eggs to increase their chances of pregnancy later in life. If this is not done for medical reasons (e. g. before chemotherapy), this is called social egg freezing (SEF). The psychological background of this decision has not yet been studied. The aim of the study «EEggg» is to investigate psychological aspects of SEF. On one hand, we would like to explore how women in German-speaking countries think about SEF. On the other hand, we would like to find out what psychological characteristics women who freeze eggs have, and what their reasons are for this decision. It is a 40-minute anonymous online study open to women aged 18 and over. Participation: Link


Reproductive Decisions, Study Choice, and Leaky Pipeline (by Prof. Dr. Margit OsterlohProf. Dr. Katja Rost & Annina Mösching)
The research project explores the relation of reproductive decisions, study choice, and the Leaky Pipeline at Swiss universities. The term Leaky Pipeline characterizes the continuous decline in the proportion of women when climbing up the career ladder. The aim of this research project is to analyze the impact of anticipated parenthood on the field of study and on the pursuit of an (academic) career. 


How to explain the shorter length of stay of women in top positions compared to men? (by Beyza Bani, Maria Augstburger & Prof. Dr. Margit Osterloh
During the last decades, the formal education of women has reached a higher level than those of men. Nevertheless, their professional career is characterized by a highly pronounced Leaky Pipeline, that is, fewer leadership positions and shorter lengths of stay in these positions. For example, in the 100 largest companies in Switzerland, men stay in their leading position for an average of 7 years, but women for only 3 years (Schillingreport 2023).


(Not) Thinking about the Future: Inattention and Female Labor Force Participation (by Dr. Michaela Slotwinski)
Large and persistent earnings gaps open up between men and women after childbirth. While studies have documented that these gaps arise from drastically reduced labor supply of mothers, it is less well understood which factors women consider when making these decisions, and whether they are aware of the resulting financial implications. In this study, we randomly provide working mothers in Switzerland with information on the long-term financial consequences of a reduced workload. We highlight the impacts on lifetime earnings, pension savings, and financial well-being after potential adverse events. We find that women who receive the information treatment adjust their financial behavior and increase their workload aspirations. We confirm the persistence of effects in a follow-up survey two months after the intervention. We will merge survey data to administrative data in early 2024 to measure actual labor supply choices.


Gender Dynamics in Academic and Career Choices: Exploring the Impact of Family Values and Socioeconomic Status (by Sarah Berkinshaw & Dr. Benita Combet)
The research project investigates the impact of gender differences on the selection of academic majors, specialization within those fields, and subsequent career trajectories. Specifically, it delves into the role that family-oriented values play in shaping both men's and women's preferences for academic disciplines and professions traditionally dominated by one gender. Theoretical frameworks suggest that individuals who prioritize family values are more inclined to pursue careers that conform to gender norms. This inclination is often attributed to gender-specific behaviors and interests, along with concerns about balancing work and family responsibilities in careers that are not traditionally aligned with one's gender. Furthermore, the project seeks to understand if the relationship between family values and academic or career choices is influenced by socioeconomic status. Individuals from higher socioeconomic backgrounds may exhibit a less pronounced correlation between family values and career choices, possibly due to their access to resources that support career flexibility and optimization. Conversely, we also consider the possibility that individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may demonstrate a diminished correlation, with a stronger emphasis on pragmatic factors such as job security and financial stability, over choices driven by personal values.