Volume 44 - Article 1 | Pages 1–48

Simulating family life courses: An application for Italy, Great Britain, Norway, and Sweden

By Maria Winkler-Dworak, Eva Beaujouan, Paola Di Giulio, Martin Spielauer

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Date received:20 May 2020
Date published:03 Jan 2021
Word count:9088
Keywords:family life course, fertility, Italy, microsimulation, Norway, partnerships, Sweden, United Kingdom
Additional files:44-1 Appendices (pdf file, 839 kB)


Background: Family patterns in Western countries have changed substantially across birth cohorts. The spread of unmarried cohabitation, the decline and postponement of marriage and fertility, and the rise in nonmarital births, partnership instability, and repartnering lead to an increasing diversity in family life courses.

Objective: In this paper we demonstrate how to set up a tool to explore family life trajectories. This tool models the changing family patterns, taking into account the complex inter-relationships between childbearing and partnership processes.

Methods: We build a microsimulation model parameterised using retrospective partnership and childbearing data. The data cover women born since 1940 in Italy, Great Britain, and two Scandinavian countries (Norway and Sweden), three significantly different cultural and institutional contexts of partnering and childbearing in Europe.

Results: We guide readers through the modelling of individual life events to obtain a set of aggregate estimates, providing information on the power, technical structure, and underlying assumptions of microsimulations. Validation of the simulated family life courses against their real-world equivalents shows that the simulations not only closely replicate observed childbearing and partnership processes, but also provide high quality predictions when compared to more recent fertility indicators.

Conclusions: Using observed population estimates to systematically validate the results both validates our model and increases confidence that microsimulations satisfactorily replicate the behaviour of the original population.

Contribution: We create and validate a microsimulation model that can be used not only to explore mechanisms throughout the family life course but also to set up scenarios and predict future family patterns.

Author's Affiliation

Maria Winkler-Dworak - Vienna Institute of Demography (Austrian Academy of Sciences), Austria [Email]
Eva Beaujouan - Universität Wien, Austria [Email]
Paola Di Giulio - Vienna Institute of Demography (Austrian Academy of Sciences), Austria [Email]
Martin Spielauer - Österreichisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Austria [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Delayed first births and completed fertility across the 1940–1969 birth cohorts
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» The changing pattern of cohabitation: A sequence analysis approach
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» Cohort fertility decline in low fertility countries: Decomposition using parity progression ratios
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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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» Ageing dynamics of a human-capital-specific population: A demographic perspective
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» Neither single, nor in a couple. A study of living apart together in France
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» Intergenerational family ties and the diffusion of cohabitation in Italy
Volume 16 - Article 14

» On the tempo and quantum of first marriages in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland: Changes in mean age and variance
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