Education and the Formation of New Families: A Comparative Study of Cohabitation and Nonmarital Fertility in Western Nations

Sheela Kennedy, University of Pennsylvania

This paper explores the relationship between education and two important, and related, shifts in family formation in the US and Western Europe: rising rates of cohabitation and increased fertility outside of traditional marital unions. Specifically, for a set of countries in North America and Western Europe, I examine educational differences in the likelihood of ever cohabiting, of having a cohabiting relationship ending in marriage, and in the relative likelihood of having either a birth within a cohabiting union or nonunion birth. I also examine whether educational differentials have changed over time. By examining patterns family change both within- and across- countries, this paper should help assess the relative importance of similar economic change across countries or of long-standing cultural or policy differences between countries.

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Presented in Session 148: International Perspectives on Cohabitation