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Studying the History of Family Dynamics: the role of the WES. John Ermisch University of Essex. The Women and Employment Survey. WES provided the first comprehensive birth and marriage histories for a nationally representative sample of women.

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Studying the history of family dynamics the role of the wes

Studying the History of Family Dynamics: the role of the WES

John Ermisch

University of Essex


The women and employment survey
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.


The wes history data
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.


Post 1980 nationally representative data
Post-1980 nationally representative data

  • British Household Panel Study (BHPS) retrospective histories

  • Cohabiting unions, marriages and births

  • Updated with information during the panel, 1993-2003

  • Also employment and job histories


Example dynamics of non marital childbearing
Example: Dynamics of Non-marital Childbearing

Aggregate characterisation:

  • Proportion of births outside marriage

    • stability 1845-1965 (4-7%)

    • followed by explosion, particularly after 1980

    • 42% in 2004.

  • Birth rates vs. Size of non-married population

    • Rise in age-specific rates 1975-90

    • Rise in proportion not married 1970-2004





Social interaction theory
Social Interaction Theory

  • An individual’s behaviour may depend on what others in society are perceived to be doing—’social 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’.


Who has a birth before marriage
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.


Social interaction and differentials
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.


Birth cohort comparison
Birth Cohort comparison

  • 1944-60, from WES (N=2,555 women)

    • ‘Stability cohorts’

  • 1960-83, 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.


Age pattern of non marital first birth rate
Age Pattern of Non-marital First Birth Rate

  • 1944-60:

    • Peaks at age 20 and then declines.

    • Level at peak: about 1% per year.

  • 1960-83:

    • Initial peak at age 20 and remains relatively high until age 30, after which it declines.

    • Level at peak: about 3% per year.


Association with educational attainment
Association with Educational Attainment

Non-marital birth rate relative to rate for women staying in full-time education longer:

  • 1944-60 cohort, left school before 16 (39%): Relative Risk (RR) =1.9

  • 1960-83 cohort: left school before or at 16 (54%): RR=4.2

  • Supports ‘local social influence’.


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


First births outside partnerships
First Births outside partnerships education ‘early’, by birth cohort

1960-83 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


First births within cohabiting unions
First Births within cohabiting unions education ‘early’, by birth cohort

1960-83 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


Dynamics of first marriage
Dynamics of First Marriage education ‘early’, by birth cohort

  • 1944-60:

    • First marriage rate peaks at age 23 and then declines.

    • Median age at marriage about 22.5 (ONS: 22-23).

  • 1960-83:

    • First marriage rate peaks at 29.

    • Median age at marriage about 32 (ONS: 24, 1962 Cohort; 29, 1971 Cohort).

    • Age distribution has wider spread.


Conclusions
Conclusions education ‘early’, by birth cohort

  • 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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