Social norms, economic conditions and spatial variation of childbearing within cohabitation across Europe
Childbearing within cohabitation has gained considerable ground in recent decades, but existing explanations for this development are not coherent. Proponents of the Second Demographic Transition framework interpret it rather as a pattern of progress driven by processes such as emancipation from traditional social norms. Others see rises in childbearing in cohabitation being related to a “pattern of disadvantage” as they are often concentrated among individuals faced with blocked opportunities. In this paper we argue that these inconsistencies might stem from a gap in knowledge how the relevance of existing theories varies dependent on whether we look at variation in family formation behavior across individuals, subnational regions or countries. To test this hypothesis we revisit the existing theories by analyzing harmonized survey data from 16 European countries using a three-level hierarchical model. Our results suggest that the Second Demographic Transition framework is particularly important to understanding variation between countries, while pattern of disadvantage hypotheses seem more relevant to understanding variation between individuals and subnational regions.
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