An Examination of State Policies, Cohabitation, and Childbearing within Cohabitation across Western Europe

Brienna Perelli-Harris, University of Southampton
Nora Sánchez Gassen, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

Although cohabitation and childbearing within cohabitation has increased in nearly every country in Europe over the past few decades, the variation across countries remains pronounced. Here we examine how the policies and laws that govern marriage and cohabitation correspond to this variation in behavior. We examine policies that regulate the relationship between couples and the relationship between unmarried parents and their children. Using a rich database of 17 policy dimensions for 9 countries in Western Europe, we examine the quantity of dimensions that mention cohabitation and code how similar cohabitation is relative to marriage for each dimension. We then calculate average scores by country and compare them with the prevalence of cohabitation and the percent of births within cohabitation. The findings will be descriptive in nature (not causal), but will provide important insights into the relationship between policies and family behavior.

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Presented in Session 52: The Context of Cohabiting Unions