In the US, growing up with parents with a low socio-economic status (SES) has been shown to increase the chance of having a birth outside marriage. However, less is known about the influence of parental SES in other Western countries. The current paper examines the association between parental educational attainment with the partnership context at first birth in 16 European and North American countries, by differentiating births within marriage, within cohabitation, or while being single. Moreover, we test whether the association between parental education and partnership context at childbirth changes over cohorts and whether its influence changes when controlling for own educational attainment. Data from the Generations and Gender Programme were used, as well as data from the American National Survey of Family Growth, the Canadian General Social Survey, and the Dutch Survey on Family Formation. The results show that in North American and East European countries, but not in West European countries, lower parental education increases the risk of having a birth within cohabitation. Moreover, in North American countries and half of the West and East European countries, lower parental education increases the risk of having a birth while being single. The association of parental education with the partnership context at birth tends to change furthermore over cohorts, although no clear pattern could be observed between countries. The study suggests that the intergenerational transmission of education is an important mechanism in explaining the influence of parental education, although other mechanisms also appear to be at work.
- North America
- Single parenthood