MPIDR Working Paper

Cohabiting unions in France and West Germany: transitions to first birth and first marriage

Le Goff, J.-M.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2002-025
Rostock, Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (Juni 2002)
Also published in: Demographic Research 7, 593-624 (2002). Internet:


This paper compares the non-marital birth pattern in France and West Germany. Since the beginning of the eighties, France witnessed a steady increase in non-marital birth rates, while in West Germany non-marital birth rates have remained at a relatively low level. We attribute these differences to the institutional and legal constraints from both sides of the Rhine which hamper or foster childbearing in cohabiting unions. In West Germany, family policies are based on the model of the conjugal family and the male breadwinner model. Until recently, it was not possible for an unmarried father to recognize his child and to obtain parental authority. In France, family policies have responded to the “pluralization” of family lives and it is possible for an unmarried father to recognize his child and obtain parental authority. Using data from the French and German Family and Fertility Survey, we apply event history modeling to the transition to marriage and first birth. Our results indicate a polarization of family forms in both countries. In West Germany, we find a polarization in a “family sector” and a “non-family sector” while in France there is a polarization in a “marriage sector” and a “cohabiting sector”.
Schlagwörter: Deutschland, Alte Bundesländer, Deutschland/BRD, Frankreich
Das Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (MPIDR) in Rostock ist eines der international führenden Zentren für Bevölkerungswissenschaft. Es gehört zur Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, einer der weltweit renommiertesten Forschungsgemeinschaften.