Subsequent marriage formation and childbirth among cohabitors in West Germany and France

Katja Köppen, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

The following work is a study of the interrelationship between marriage and childbearing in West Germany and France. First birth and first marriage in West Germany seem still to be very closely connected with each other. While the number of non-marital unions increased during the last decades, the proportion of non-marital unions with children is still relatively small in comparison to other European countries. Even though cohabitation has become socially accepted, it is still only a short-term prelude to marriage and typically transformed into marriage when couples have children (Blossfeld et al., 1999). In France, on the other hand, cohabitation has become an accepted alternative to marriage (Toulemon, 1997), connected with a high rate of non-marital births. In this paper, I use two retrospective data sets: the German Family Survey, conducted in 2000 and the French Etude de l'histoire familiale, conducted in the year 1999. I analyse cohabiting, non-pregnant women and their partners who are under the risk of a subsequent marriage and/or the birth of their first child. Both events are analysed as interrelated processes. Cases are censored at the first conception or the first marriage. Censoring occurs also at date of the interview or at the dissolution of the union. I apply event-history techniques, allowing for unobserved heterogeneity components which simultaneously influence the process of first union formation and first childbirth. Preliminary results indicate that marriage and childbearing are highly interrelated in West Germany – becoming pregnant increases the marriage risk strongly for the first six months after conception. After the birth of the child, the marriage intensity decreases sharply and falls to levels equal to the baseline (women who are not pregnant): this suggests that pregnant West German women try to legitimate their child before it is born. The final paper will include the results for France.

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Presented in Session 53: Family Formation Processes