Union formation and educational differentials in macro- and micro-level economic conditions in France (1993-2008)

Jorik Vergauwen, Universiteit Antwerpen
Karel Neels, Universiteit Antwerpen
David De Wachter, Universiteit Antwerpen

The short-term impacts of economic recession, rising economic uncertainty and its educational underlying driver on fertility are well documented in the literature. Whereas postponement of union formation has been suggested as one of the main pathways through which economic conditions affect fertility, some papers have directly addressed the micro and macro-level economic conditions on union formation. Union formation (especially marriage) hazards are theorized to decrease due to a lack of financial and social long-term prospects. School enrolment, postponement of transitions and flexible partnership forms are identified as coping strategies to uncertainty in literature. However, resulting from different attachments to the labour market and the divergence in meanings that educational groups attribute to living arrangements, we expect variation in timing of union formation among varying educational levels. This contribution therefore aims to examine the entry into a first unmarried cohabiting union and marriage after cohabitation among different educational levels in relation to their employment status and aggregate-level economic context. The analyses use union and employment histories (1993-2008) of male and female respondents between the age of 16 and 39 from the French Harmonized Histories and Generations and Gender Survey Wave 2. To test our research hypotheses the analyses draw on discrete-time event history methods. We find that employment is particularly an important prerequisite for union formation among the higher educated. An indication that first co-residence becomes a strategy to deal with economic uncertainty for lowly educated men is found as well. In correspondence, susceptibility to aggregate-level economic context with regard to entry into a first cohabiting union prevails amidst highly educated men. Our results furthermore suggest that these effects attenuate for the transition from cohabitation to marriage.

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Presented in Session 14: Families and households