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Studying the History of Family Dynamics: the role of the WES John Ermisch University of Essex.

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Presentation on theme: "Studying the History of Family Dynamics: the role of the WES John Ermisch University of Essex."— Presentation transcript:

1 Studying the History of Family Dynamics: the role of the WES John Ermisch University of Essex

2 The Women and Employment Survey WES provided the first comprehensive birth and marriage histories for a nationally representative sample of women. Can be used in conjunction with subsequent data to examine how family dynamics have changed across cohorts. Example: dynamics of non-marital childbearing.

3 The WES history data Retrospective histories from 1980 X-section Start and end dates for marriages Dates of birth No cohabiting union dates Employment history data: – Dates of full-time, part-time and non-employment spells.

4 Post-1980 nationally representative data British Household Panel Study (BHPS) retrospective histories Cohabiting unions, marriages and births Updated with information during the panel, Also employment and job histories

5 Example: Dynamics of Non-marital Childbearing Aggregate characterisation: Proportion of births outside marriage stability (4-7%) followed by explosion, particularly after % in Birth rates vs. Size of non-married population Rise in age-specific rates Rise in proportion not married

6 Births Outside Marriage per 1000 births

7 Birth rate Outside Marriage, per 1000 unmarried women

8 Proportion of women not married

9 Social Interaction Theory An individuals behaviour may depend on what others in society are perceived to be doingsocial influence. E.g. there may be social stigma associated with non-marital births when they are rare. Gives rise to multiplier effects or multiple equilibria.

10 Who has a birth before marriage? Costs of non-marital birth in terms of labour and marriage market opportunities lost are smaller for women with poorer prospects in these markets E.g. women with less education. Expect women with poorer prospects to be more likely to have a birth before marriage.

11 Social interaction and differentials If reference group for social influence is people of a similar background, then differences in birth rates by education levels would be larger when non-marital childbearing is more common. If reference group for social influence is wider population, then educational differentials would be smaller when non- marital births are more common.

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13 Birth Cohort comparison , from WES (N=2,555 women) – Stability cohorts , from BHPS (N=5,821 women) – Post-explosion cohorts Event history analysis of non-marital first birth: censored at first marriage or at time of last survey.

14 Age Pattern of Non-marital First Birth Rate : Peaks at age 20 and then declines. Level at peak: about 1% per year : Initial peak at age 20 and remains relatively high until age 30, after which it declines. Level at peak: about 3% per year.

15 Association with Educational Attainment Non-marital birth rate relative to rate for women staying in full-time education longer: cohort, left school before 16 (39%): Relative Risk (RR) = cohort: left school before or at 16 (54%): RR=4.2 Supports local social influence.

16 Relative risk of non-marital birth for women leaving education early, by birth cohort

17 First Births outside partnerships cohort Age pattern Initial peak at age 20 and remains relatively high until age 25, after which it declines. Level at peak: about 2.5% per year. Non-partnership birth rate relative to rate for women staying in full-time education longer: Left school before or at 16: RR=4.3

18 First Births within cohabiting unions cohort Union duration pattern Peaks in first year and declines. Level at peak: about 10% per year. Cohabiting union birth rate relative to staying in full-time education longer: Left school before or at 16: RR=2.8

19 Dynamics of First Marriage : First marriage rate peaks at age 23 and then declines. Median age at marriage about 22.5 (ONS: 22-23) : First marriage rate peaks at 29. Median age at marriage about 32 (ONS: 24, 1962 Cohort; 29, 1971 Cohort). Age distribution has wider spread.

20 Conclusions WES provides historical information on the dynamics of marriage and births Allows us to study how dynamics and group differences have changed over time May provide some insight into the presence of social interaction effects Illustrated with example of non-marital childbearing, which has exploded in recent years


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