Volume 33 - Article 42 | Pages 1165–1210

Mother’s educational level and single motherhood: Comparing Spain and Italy

By Anna Garriga, Sebastià Sarasa, Paolo Berta

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Date received:08 Jul 2014
Date published:04 Dec 2015
Word count:10361
Keywords:economic crisis in Southern Europe, European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), family change in Mediterranean countries, family structure, Italy, mother's educational level, regions, sociodemographic composition, Spain


Background: During the second half of the 20th century there was a positive relationship between single parenthood and the mother’s educational level in Spain and Italy.

Objective: However, several important transformations contemplated by Goode (1993) and McLanahan (2004) suggest that this relationship may have been inverted in Spain but perhaps not in Italy. The purpose of our study is to test this hypothesis.

Methods: We use EU_SILC data from waves 2005 and 2011 and logistic regressions.

Results: We found the relationship between the mother’s educational level and being a single mother is negative in Spain, while it is not significant in Italy. However, we found that for Italian mothers aged 40 and younger and mothers from northwest Italy, this relationship is also negative. By contrast, for older mothers and mothers from the islands or southern Italy, this association is positive. Meanwhile, for mothers from the central and northeast regions, the relationship between educational level and single motherhood is not significant.

Conclusions: These results show how Spain and some parts of Italian society are moving towards family models similar to those in the Northern European countries. As Sara McLanahan (2004) noted for the United States, this social transformation in Southern Europe cannot be considered without recognizing the potential negative consequence for future generations. The single-mother households dealing with the economic crisis that started in 2008 have lower socioeconomic backgrounds than the single mothers who suffered through previous crises, and therefore the consequences of this crisis for children in single-parent families might be even more negative, especially in Spain.

Author's Affiliation

Anna Garriga - Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain [Email]
Sebastià Sarasa - Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain [Email]
Paolo Berta - Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca (UNIMIB), Italy [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» The change in single mothers’ educational gradient over time in Spain
Volume 36 - Article 61

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