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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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

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


Births outside marriage per 1000 births

Births Outside Marriage per 1000 births


Birth rate outside marriage per 1000 unmarried women

Birth rate Outside Marriage, per 1000 unmarried women


Proportion of women not married

Proportion of women not married


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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