Volume 34 - Article 29 | Pages 827–844 Editor's Choice

The contributions of childbearing within marriage and within consensual union to fertility in Latin America, 1980-2010

By Benoît Laplante, Teresa Castro-Martín, Clara Cortina, Ana Laura Fostik

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Date received:12 May 2015
Date published:17 May 2016
Word count:3393
Keywords:childbearing, consensual union, fertility, Latin America, marriage, unmarried cohabitation


Background: Research has shown that the prevalence of unmarried cohabitation has increased in most Latin American countries and that childbearing within consensual union, traditionally confined to low-income groups, is becoming socially acceptable among highly educated women.

Objective: We focus on the increasing importance of childbearing within consensual union for overall fertility. We measure the relative contribution of births within marriage and births within consensual union to period fertility as a component of population change for 13 Latin American countries from 1980 to 2010.

Methods: We use census data and the own-children method to estimate the contribution of marriage and consensual union to age-specific fertility rates, to cumulative fertility, and to the TFR.

Results: In most Latin American countries the contribution of marriage to age-specific fertility rates has decreased over time, whereas the contribution of consensual union has increased steadily. In Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, and Mexico the contribution of marriage to the TFR is still larger than the contribution of consensual union. In Ecuador and Uruguay they have become roughly similar. In Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela the contribution of consensual union to the TFR is larger than that of marriage.

Conclusions: In Latin America, fertility, as a component of population change, is less and less related to marriage and increasingly linked to consensual union instead.

Comments: We found that not only the contribution of births within consensual union, but also the contribution of out-of-union births to overall fertility has been increasing over time. This is a finding worth investigating further.

Author's Affiliation

Benoît Laplante - Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS), Canada [Email]
Teresa Castro-Martín - Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Spain [Email]
Clara Cortina - Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain [Email]
Ana Laura Fostik - McGill University, Canada [Email]

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