Volume 32 - Article 7 | Pages 219–250  

Unemployment and the timing of parenthood: Implications of partnership status and partner’s employment

By Hande Inanc

Abstract

Background: In many countries, including the UK, unemployment is associated with earlier entries into motherhood. However, the implications of male unemployment are not straightforward.

Objective: The paper addresses this issue by investigating transition to first births in relation to unemployment experience as moderated by partnership status. It also examines the effects of both partners‟ employment statuses on transition into parenthood, focusing on the joint labour market status of cohabiting and married couples.

Methods: The impact of unemployment experience on the timing of parenthood is predicted using discrete time event history analysis. Data from the British Household Panel Study provide complete family and work histories. Unobserved heterogeneity is controlled for.

Results: Unemployment leads to earlier entries into parenthood for both men and women. However, its impact differs according to the relationship status in which it is experienced. Unemployed men who cohabit and unemployed women who are single have a higher probability of becoming parents. Among married individuals the timing of parenthood is determined largely by the labour market status of the female partner. Irrespective of the male‟s employment status, couples with employed female spouses have a substantially lower probability of becoming parents. Yet among women who are not in employment there is a delaying effect of unemployment compared to being economically inactive.

Conclusions: Different mechanisms explain the relationship between unemployment and fertility timing for non-married and married individuals. Neoclassical family models seem to determine parenthood timing among married individuals, whereas early parenthood among non-married individuals can be explained by an uncertainty reduction strategy or discouragement from marriage.

Author's Affiliation

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