Volume 48 - Article 20 | Pages 549–590  

Family inequality: On the changing educational gradient of family patterns in Western Germany

By Ansgar Hudde, Henriette Engelhardt


Objective: A comprehensive and thorough investigation of the key trends in family patterns in Western Germany.

Methods: Descriptive analyses of educational differences in marital status, cohabitation, partnerlessness, and children in the household in Western Germany from 1976 to 2019. We analyze unique data from the German Microcensus with information from more than 1.7 million individuals.

Results: In the 1970s, men with higher education were moderately more likely to live with a partner and be married, and less likely to be divorced. The reverse was mainly the case for women. Over time, higher education levels for men and women became increasingly associated with living with a partner, being married, and living with children; lower levels of education became increasingly associated with divorce, partnerlessness, and single parenthood. Today, men with lower levels of education are least likely to live with a partner, be married, or have children in the household. Women with lower education levels are most likely to be single parents.

Conclusions: Education is turning more and more into a generalized life resource: those with higher education are not only the winners in the labor market but are also increasingly more likely to achieve those partnership and family outcomes to which the majority of young people aspire – a stable partnership and children.

Contribution: This 'big picture' analysis deepens our understanding of changes in family-related social inequalities in Germany. Analyses based on high-quality data have not been available for Germany and can serve as bases for future research at the granular level.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

On the age-specific correlation between fertility and female employment: Heterogeneity over space and time in OECD countries
Volume 32 - Article 23

Does fertility decrease household consumption?: An analysis of poverty dynamics and fertility in Indonesia
Volume 20 - Article 26

Austria: Persistent low fertility since the mid-1980s
Volume 19 - Article 12

On the tempo and quantum of first marriages in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland: Changes in mean age and variance
Volume 10 - Article 9

Pathways to stepfamily formation in Europe: Results from the FFS
Volume 8 - Article 5

Differences in Family Policies and the Intergenerational Transmission of Divorce: A Comparison between the former East and West Germany
Volume 6 - Article 11

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

Joint physical custody of children in Europe: A growing phenomenon
Volume 49 - Article 18    | Keywords: child custody, family, family change, shared residence

Separation as an accelerator of housing inequalities: Parents’ and children’s post-separation housing careers in Sweden
Volume 49 - Article 4    | Keywords: divorce, family, housing, income inequality, neighborhood, parental separation, residential mobility, stratification

Subnational variations in births and marriages during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea
Volume 48 - Article 30    | Keywords: COVID-19, fertility, Korea, marriage

Introduction to the Special Collection on The new roles of women and men and implications for families and societies
Volume 48 - Article 29    | Keywords: divorce, economic uncertainties, fertility, gender equality, well-being, women's employment

Adult children’s union type and contact with mothers: A replication
Volume 48 - Article 23    | Keywords: cohabitation, intergenerational contacts, marriage