Other Paper

Family change and variation through the lens of family configurations in low- and middle-income countries

Castro Torres, A. F., Pesando, L. M., Kohler, H.-P., Furstenberg, F. F.
University of Pennsylvania Population Center Working Papers (PSC/PARC) 2019-31
56 pages.
Philadelphia, PA, Population Studies Center (2019)
Open Access


We show that the joint examination of family indicators offers new insights to understand family change across low- and middle-income countries. We operationalize this idea through the concept of family configuration. A family configuration is a confluence of interrelated conditions under which individuals form families. We measure family configurations using indicators for different dimensions of families: family forms and stability, gender relations, household structure, reproduction, and the timing of family formation events. We use data from 251 Demographic and Health Surveys disaggregated by urban and rural areas. Multiple Correspondence Analysis and clustering techniques allow us to summarize our 20 indicators into three factorial axes, and our 502 units into six country-area clusters (family configurations). We provide an in-depth description of these family configurations, how they change over time, and how they distribute across the globe. Our main conclusion is that global family change emerges
from a complex interplay between the steadiness of traditional ways of forming families and gender relations, and the rapidly changing dynamics in the realms of fertility, contraception and timing of family formation. In most regions of the world, countries display different family configurations, and this diversity is larger among urban areas than rural ones. Together, these results underline the need to conceptualize population dynamics from a systemic perspective, i.e., from a perspective that focuses on the confluence of demographic indicators.

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.