Journal Article

Families in Latin America: trends, singularities, and contextual factors

Esteve, A., Castro-Martin, T., Castro Torres, A. F.
Annual Review of Sociology, 485–505 (2022)


We review demographic and sociological literature on family dynamics in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and systematize major trends in union formation and fertility in recent decades. We also highlight the singularities that distinguish family patterns and trends in LAC from those in other world regions and discuss the contextual factors underlying these singularities. Latin American families have undergone substantial changes in their configurations and dynamics. We highlight the persistence of an early pattern of family formation despite considerable educational expansion and emerging subreplacement fertility levels, the bottom-up diffusion of cohabitation from low- to high-education groups, the frequent coresidence of single mothers with extended family members, and the substantial divergence in family forms and trajectories across social classes. These family trends do not conform entirely to any of the major theoretical frameworks devised to explain family change in Western societies. Pervasive socioeconomic inequality, high levels of informality in the labor market, weak social protection systems, and slow progress toward gender equality are among the contextual factors that shape the diversity and singularities of Latin American families.

Keywords: America, family, fertility decline, single persons
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.