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Sample sentence: "In contrast, low educated women who are employed in low-fertility countries are more likely to decide against second childbirth than those who are not employed."

That sounds awkward. Is there a more standard way of saying that in academia?

"Lower educated" doesn't seem much better. "Poorly educated" sounds rather qualitative, judgmental and pejorative.

Related: "High educated"? "Middle educated"?

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I'd use unschooled:

  • Not educated or instructed; having little or no formal schooling. (AHD)
  • In contrast, unschooled women who are employed in low-fertility countries...

By contrast you can refer to women with a middle or high level of education

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OECD categorises educational levels as:

Low levels of education attained refers to individuals not having attained ISCED level 3 (graded at levels 0-2, that is, not achieving beyond lower secondary education)

Middle levels of education attained refers to individuals having attained ISCED levels 3 and/or 4 (upper secondary and/or post secondary non-tertiary education)

High levels of education attained refers to individuals having attained ISCED levels 5 and/or 6 (short-cycle tertiary education and/or Bachelor's or equivalent level)

Source: Education at a Glance 2012: OECD Indicators

I recommend using low levels of education for inclusion in an academic paper. You will note that the term low-educated women is also used in the OECD paper, above.

With regard to your sample sentence, I suggest referring first to the wider group of women being studied, then to the sub-groups within.

Example:

'Among women with low levels of education living in low-fertility countries, those in employment are more likely to decide against a second childbirth than those who are not.'

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Rewrite the sentence so you are not stuck with this dilemma..."In contrast, women with little education..."

You can use this in other contexts as well. "Neighborhoods having many people will little or no education..."

For middle or higher, use high school diploma or university degree.

  • no schooling, grade school, middle school, high school, some college, college graduate, post graduate. – Wayfaring Stranger Sep 21 '15 at 20:17
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"Uneducated" might work, although it implies no education at all. "Minimally educated" probably covers it better. I agree "poorly educated" is a bit perjoriative, but it may in fact be the case in which case you should use it.

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