Having a child within a cohabiting union in Europe and North America: What is the role of parents' socio-economic status?

Judith C. Koops*, Aart C. Liefbroer, Anne H. Gauthier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The link between parental socio-economic status (SES) and the likelihood of having a birth in cohabitation or in marriage varies considerably across countries. Previous studies have referred to the pattern of disadvantage perspective and the second demographic transition theory to explain this cross-national variation. Yet no study has directly tested the explanatory power of both theories in this context. In the current study, hypotheses are formulated about the influence of economic inequality and norms regarding family formation on this relationship. The hypotheses are tested in 19 European and North American countries, using data of the Generations and Gender Survey and four other datasets. The analyses show that in societies that have more traditional family formation norms, women with lower parental SES are more likely to have a birth in cohabitation whereas such differences are not found in less traditional societies. The influence of economic inequality is less clear-cut.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2434
Number of pages15
JournalPopulation, Space and Place
Issue number6
Early online date27 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007–2013) under ERC Grant Agreement No. 324178 (Project: Contexts of Opportunity. PI: Aart C. Liefbroer).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Population, Space and Place published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • cohabitation
  • cross-national research
  • nonmarital fertility
  • parental socio-economic status
  • pattern of disadvantage
  • second demographic transition


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