Explaining Family Divergence? A Comparative Study of Education Differentials in Delayed Marriage and Childbearing

Sheela Kennedy, University of Pennsylvania

This paper examines the relationship between education and family change in the US and Western Europe. First, by first examining the ways which changing timing of family formation varies by education, I contribute an element largely ignored in comparative studies of family change. I find that although declining marriage rates among women in their 20s appear to be near universal within and across these societies, the relationship between marriage and childbearing did not change equally. For more educated women, marriage delay appears to be part of a larger delay in family formation. For the least educated women, fertility delays were always significantly smaller, resulting in increased concentration of nonmarital childbearing among the less-educated. In future analyses, I will incorporate explanatory variables (duration of schooling, changing economic opportunities for women and men, and policy differences) in order to understand the similar patterns of change and the differences that remain between countries.

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Presented in Session 138: The Attractiveness of Marriage among Straight and Gay Couples in Europe and the U.S.