Secular values and unmarried parenthood – the cohorts 1971-83 in East and West Germany

Michaela Kreyenfeld, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Dirk Konietzka, TU Braunschweig
Rainer Walke, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

20 years after unification, East and West Germany still differ in family patterns. In particular, unmarried parenthood is radically more common in the East than in the West. In this paper, we explore the persisting East-West-divide in non-marital childbearing. Special attention is given to the question how differences in rational-secular values (measured through church attendance and religious affiliation) help to understand the contrasting family behavior in the two parts of Germany. We base our argumentation on value change theory which stipulates that secularization dismantles the role of the church and decreases the significance of religious values. At the same time, it predicts a decline in the importance of marriage and the family in individuals’ lives (Inglehart/Welzel 2005). East Germany is nowadays the most secularized society with one of the highest shares of atheists in the world (Pollack 2002; Wohlrab-Sahr et al. 2009). This is not the case for Western Germany. Despite the fact that Western Germany is a rather secularized society, the large majority of individuals still have a religious affiliation and religious ceremonies (such as church weddings) have remained a widely accepted part of cultural practices. Against this background, it seems reasonable to assume that differences in secular values and religious practices explain some of the East-West differences in marriage patterns and unmarried parenthood in contemporary Germany. Data for this analysis comes from the Study “Panel Analysis of Intimate Relationships and Family Dynamics” (PAIRFAM) and an oversample of East Germans which has been added recently to the PAIRFAM-data. First results confirm the idea that religiosity reduces the risks of unmarried parenthood. However, East-West-differences in unmarried parenthood remain strong even after controlling for religious affiliation and practices.

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Presented in Poster Session 1