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The reciprocal relationship between the state and union formation across Western Europe: policy dimensions and theoretical considerations


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  • Brienna Perelli-Harris

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)

  • Nora E. Sánchez Gassen

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)

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    Although cohabitation and childbearing within cohabitation has increased dramatically in Europe over the past decades, the variation across Europe remains remarkable. Most studies on changing union formation have not explicitly addressed how state policies may be facilitating cohabitation or, alternatively, stalling the increase of cohabitation by privileging marriage. Indeed, the relationship between policies and union formation is complicated, as states may have passed legislation in response to increasing cohabitation. As a first step to understanding this reciprocal relationship, we provide here an overview of the policies that may impact union formation. Drawing on secondary sources and legal documents, we describe the policy dimensions that regulate the relationship between couples, and between couples and their children. We also discuss theoretical issues and explore examples from across Western Europe. As a whole, this overview raises questions about the changing “institution” of marriage, as well as the increasing “institutionalization” of cohabitation.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany in its series MPIDR Working Papers with number WP-2010-034.

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    Length: 45 pages
    Date of creation: Dec 2010
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:dem:wpaper:wp-2010-034

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    Keywords: Europe; cohabitation;

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    1. Ron Lesthaeghe, 2010. "The Unfolding Story of the Second Demographic Transition," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., The Population Council, Inc., vol. 36(2), pages 211-251.
    2. Cathal O’Donoghue & Holly Sutherland, 1998. "Accounting for the Family: The treatment of marriage and children in European income tax systems," Innocenti Occasional Papers, Economic Policy Series, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre iopeps98/25, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre.
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    Cited by:
    1. Sebastian Klüsener & Brienna Perelli-Harris & Nora E. Sánchez Gassen, 2012. "Spatial aspects of the rise of nonmarital fertility across Europe since 1960: the role of states and regions in shaping patterns of change," MPIDR Working Papers, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany WP-2012-005, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    2. Michaela Kreyenfeld & Valerie Martin, 2011. "Economic conditions of stepfamilies from a cross-national perspective," MPIDR Working Papers, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany WP-2011-010, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.


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