The interplay between socio-economic background and unmarried parental cohabitation: the case of France and Britain

Lidia Panico, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Laurent Toulemon, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

The increasing proportion of births within cohabitation across most of Europe and the United States suggests that cohabitation is becoming a common setting for childbearing and childrearing. As cohabitation has increased, researchers have asked to what extent cohabitation is now “indistinguishable from marriage” or an “alternative to marriage”. Most research comparing married and unmarried cohabitation within the context of parenthood has focused on demographic behaviours to establish whether cohabitation is an alternative to marriage. Such studies often consider family structure and behaviours in isolation of its socio-economic context. This context can in turn be affected by structural variables, such as differences in social and welfare policies. Comparing countries with different socio-economic and family policies could therefore be informative. In this paper we explore whether the interplay between socio-economic background and childbearing within a cohabiting relationship is as marked in France as it is in the UK. The aim of this paper is therefore to map out the socio-economic and living conditions of parents in France and the UK and interpret results with a comparative lens. As cohabitation is often a step within the life course (many cohabitors go on to marry, and many married couples were initially cohabitors), we use large datasets (the ONS Longitudinal Study in England and Wales, and the Enquete Famille et Logement in France) that allow us to look at parents at different stages in the lifecourse. We aim to do so by running analyses separately for parents with a first birth only to parents with more than one child. Age of entry into parenthood will also be explored as a potential stratifying variable.

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Presented in Session 14: Families and households