A dirty look from the neighbors. Does living in a religious neighborhood prevent cohabitation?

Irena E. Kotowska, Warsaw School of Economics
Anna Baranowska-Rataj, Umeå University
Monika Mynarska, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University

The aim of the paper is to provide insights into how religion influences the family formation process. In particular, we analyze the impact of a neighborhood context religiosity on an individual decision to enter cohabitation. We use the data on two European societies where secularization and individualization have not yet reached momentum: Italy and Poland. We combine the empirical evidence from both qualitative and quantitative research. The qualitative research provides an in-depth understanding on the mechanisms of how the neighborhood may affect the individual decisions on union formation. By means of quantitative multilevel analyses we test how strong these mechanisms are in the general population. The qualitative analysis identified several different mechanisms of how religiosity of the respondents’ surrounding may influence their decision to marry instead of cohabiting. They are related, among others, to a lack of social recognition of cohabiting couples and with ostracism in the neighborhood. The quantitative outcomes confirmed that individuals living in social environment where people are very religious tend to make life choices consistent with the norms and beliefs supported by the dominating religion, even if they are not very religious themselves. However, after controlling for the territorial characteristics, the role of neighborhood-specific religiosity weakened in the magnitude in Poland and lost its statistical power in Italy. This may indicate that social norms and traditions that are shaped by religion, rather than religious dogmas themselves, have a direct effect on the observed union formation behaviors.

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Presented in Session 74: Trends, determinants and patterns of cohabitation