Volume 39 - Article 27 | Pages 753–794

The role of education in the intersection of partnership transitions and motherhood in Europe and the United States

By Julia Mikolai, Ann Berrington, Brienna Perelli-Harris

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Date received:27 Oct 2016
Date published:09 Oct 2018
Word count:8190
Keywords:cross-national research, event history models, first birth, multistate models, partnership trajectories
DOI:10.4054/DemRes.2018.39.27
 

Abstract

Background: Previous research has shown that partnership status at first birth is associated with education across Europe and the United States. Most research has indicated that first births within cohabitation have a negative educational gradient. However, the pathway to a first birth in different partnership types can be complex and may vary across countries.

Objective: We study whether any educational differences observed at the time of a first birth are produced upon entrance into cohabitation, during the transition from cohabitation to marriage, or during the transition to first birth.

Methods: Using data from the Harmonized Histories we estimate multi-state event history models to examine how educational differences in patterns of early family formation emerge among women born between 1950 and 1969 in 16 European countries and the United States.

Results: The results highlight three main findings. First, the educational gradient of entry into cohabitation is inconsistent across countries. Second, regardless of the educational gradient of entry into cohabitation, the transition to a first birth among cohabiting women has a consistent negative educational gradient across countries. Last, the transition from cohabitation to marriage has a consistent positive educational gradient across countries.

Contribution: Across Europe and the United States, educational differences matter the most during the transition from cohabitation to marriage and the transition to first birth once women are in a cohabiting union. Entrance into cohabitation is common, but key educational distinctions emerge upon childbearing. Disadvantaged women are less likely to marry before having a baby, while highly educated women marry before childbearing.

Author's Affiliation

Julia Mikolai - University of St Andrews, United Kingdom [Email]
Ann Berrington - University of Southampton, United Kingdom [Email]
Brienna Perelli-Harris - University of Southampton, United Kingdom [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Cross-national differences in women's repartnering behaviour in Europe: The role of individual demographic characteristics
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» The fertility of recent migrants to England and Wales
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» Educational differences in timing and quantum of childbearing in Britain: A study of cohorts born 1940−1969
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» Exploring social norms around cohabitation: The life course, individualization, and culture: Introduction to Special Collection: "Focus on Partnerships: Discourses on cohabitation and marriage throughout Europe and Australia"
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» Commitment and the changing sequence of cohabitation, childbearing, and marriage: Insights from qualitative research in the UK
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» Changes in partnership patterns across the life course: An examination of 14 countries in Europe and the United States
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» Educational differences in early childbearing: A cross-national comparative study
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» Towards a new understanding of cohabitation: Insights from focus group research across Europe and Australia
Volume 31 - Article 34

» The changing determinants of UK young adults' living arrangements
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» Ukraine: On the border between old and new in uncertain times
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