Family dynamics among immigrants and their descendants in Estonia

Leen Rahnu, Tallinn University
Allan Puur, Tallinn University
Martin Klesment, Tallinn University
Luule Sakkeus, Tallinn University

Growing heterogeneity has become an important characteristic of European societies since the second half of the 20th century. This development has stimulated considerable interest in demographic patterns among the populations with immigrant background. This study investigates partnership formation and dissolution among immigrants and their descendants in Estonia born in 1924–1983, against the background of native population. It complements the existing literature by providing a case study of an East European country with a relatively long history of large-scale immigration that stretches back to the late 1940s. The processes covered in the analysis include the formation and dissolution of first and second unions. In addition, we distinguish between the entry into union via direct marriage and cohabitation, and the outcomes of consensual union (conversion into registered marriage and separation). Based on earlier studies, we formulate three hypotheses. According to first hypothesis, we expect that the new family patterns, in particular the shift from direct marriage to non-marital cohabitation, emerged somewhat later among the foreign-origin population. Considering the relatively slow integration of immigrants, we further hypothesise that differences between immigrants and their second generation are relatively small in Estonia. Finally, we are interested in the extent to which intergroup differences are manifested in different processes. We expect in family initiation that differences are more pronounced in first unions since the entry into second union is selective for the acceptance on non-traditional family behaviour (union dissolution) in the previous stages of the life course. The data for the analysis come from two nationally representative surveys: the Estonian Generations and Gender Survey conducted in 2004/2005, and the Estonian Family and Fertility survey conducted in 1994/1997. To analyse family dynamics, we use proportional hazard event history models. Besides single decrement models, we employ competing risk models that allow for direct comparison between different processes.

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Presented in Session 94: Policy settings and partnership dynamics among immigrants