Volume 19 - Article 41 | Pages 1513-1550

Women’s changing socioeconomic position and union formation in Spain and Portugal

By Marta Domínguez-Folgueras, Teresa Castro-Martín

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Date received:09 Jul 2007
Date published:29 Aug 2008
Word count:6912
Keywords:cohabitation, education, employment, independence hypothesis, marriage, Portugal, South Europe, Spain, union formation, women’s status


Economic and sociological theories of marriage have long emphasized the impact of women’s education and employment on union formation. In this study, we explore the relevance of the female economic independence hypothesis to explain women’s patterns of entry into marriage and cohabitation in Portugal and Spain. In these two Southern European countries, gender equity has improved remarkably in the public sphere, but family relations remain structured along traditional gender roles. We focus on three indicators of women’s autonomy: educational attainment, employment status and having lived independently from the family of origin. The analysis is based on the Fertility and Family Surveys and discrete-time multinomial logistic regression models are used to estimate the odds of marrying, cohabiting or remaining single. The results suggest that whereas the effect of female education is consistent with the independence hypothesis, women’s labour force participation encourages union formation, particularly among younger cohorts. Living independently from the family of origin reduces the likelihood of entering marriage but increases considerably the odds of cohabiting.

Author's Affiliation

Marta Domínguez-Folgueras - Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain [Email]
Teresa Castro-Martín - Spanish National Research Council, Spain [Email]

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» Is Latin America starting to retreat from early and universal childbearing?
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» Not truly partnerless: Non-residential partnerships and retreat from marriage in Spain
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