MPIDR Working Paper
The reciprocal relationship between the state and union formation across Western Europe: policy dimensions and theoretical considerations
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2010-034, 45 pages (December 2010).
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
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Keywords: Europe, cohabitation
Although cohabitation and childbearing within cohabitation has increased dramatically in Europe over the past decades, the variation across Europe remains remarkable. Most studies on changing union formation have not explicitly addressed how state policies may be facilitating cohabitation or, alternatively, stalling the increase of cohabitation by privileging marriage. Indeed, the relationship between policies and union formation is complicated, as states may have passed legislation in response to increasing cohabitation. As a first step to understanding this reciprocal relationship, we provide here an overview of the policies that may impact union formation. Drawing on secondary sources and legal documents, we describe the policy dimensions that regulate the relationship between couples, and between couples and their children. We also discuss theoretical issues and explore examples from across Western Europe. As a whole, this overview raises questions about the changing “institution” of marriage, as well as the increasing “institutionalization” of cohabitation.