studying the history of family dynamics the role of the wes
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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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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

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

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
  • 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
  • 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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