Nonmarital childbearing, policies, and institutions: case studies from across Europe

Brienna Perelli-Harris, University of Southampton
Nora Sánchez Gassen, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Christin Loeffler, University of Rostock

Although nonmarital childbearing has increased in nearly every country in Europe, the variation across countries is remarkable. In this paper, we describe the set of policies that may have led to or exacerbated the variation in nonmarital childbearing across countries and over time. By examining several policy dimensions in detail and exploring country case studies, we raise questions about how individuals respond to changing institutional structures, or alternatively how legal structures are modified to reflect changes in societal-level behavior. Specifically, we focus on: (1) the legality of cohabitation, (2) parental rights of unmarried fathers and (3) social transfers and benefits. Taken as a whole, this investigation will lead to a theoretical schema for understanding the reciprocal relationship between policies and nonmarital childbearing.

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Presented in Session 6: Policy issues