Economic and Social Demography
Policies, Social Norms and Non-Marital Fertility in Europe
Sebastian Klüsener, Nora Elisa Sanchez Gassen; in Collaboration with Brienna Perelli-Harris (University of Southampton, United Kingdom), Christin Löffler (University of Rostock, Germany), Trude Lappegard (Statistics Norway, Oslo, Norway), Daniele Vignoli (University of Florence, Department of Statistics, Italy)
Premarital cohabitation and transition to parenthood within cohabiting unions have increased across Europe over the last 50 years. Besides, patterns of union formation and childbearing have developed differently across countries. This research project looks into the role of social norms and policies in explaining these trends.
Across Europe, we still see very large variation in societal norms related to the timing and order of transition to marriage and to parenthood. We investigate the influence of the regional context on childbearing within cohabitation in Europe, emphasizing cultural values such as gender egalitarianism, family values, as well as secularism. Next to cultural aspects, policies enacted by states on their population often have played a distinctive role in discouraging or supporting non-marital fertility. Political and policy regimes may be very instrumental in determining the legitimacy of non-marital birth, requirements for marriage, or in providing incentives for marriage in tax and transfer systems. In addition, non-martial childbearing may be influenced by policies outside the core domain of family policies. This includes, e.g. employment, housing, and health-care policies. Social norms and policies are also interdependent, as social norms can influence policy making, or be influenced by policies.
We investigate policies and social norms that may have led to or exacerbated the variation in non-marital childbearing across countries and over time. Data on fertility within cohabitation is derived from the Harmonized Histories dataset, which e.g. contains data from the Generations and Gender surveys. Contextual data on social norms are obtained from the European Value and the European Social Survey among others, while policy information is collected from legal documents, national experts, and secondary literature. We apply both quantitative and qualitative methods. This includes a qualitative analysis of policy dimensions such as the legality of cohabitation, parental rights of unmarried fathers, and social transfers and benefits in a cross-country comparison, as well as multilevel models.
Our preliminary findings show that contextual social norms and policy contexts play a pivotal role in determining whether children are born within cohabitation rather than within marriage.
Research keywords: Family Behavior; Fertility Development; Policies, Politics, Administration, Welfare State
Region keywords: Europe