Timing of cohabitation among native and foreign-origin women in Estonia

Leen Rahnu, Estonian Interuniversity Population Research Centre

The pattern of family formation has drastically changed in European countries since the 1960s. While the character of this change, such as the emergence and spread of cohabiting unions or the rising age at first marriage is to a large extent similar between countries, then the timing of changes is diverse. This paper addresses the emergence of cohabitation as a form of entering into first union in Estonia over the period of 1960-2004. The data is derived from Estonian Gender and Generations Survey 2004-2005, only female population is analysed. The sample includes 3543 native women and 1473 women of foreign-origin who have moved to the country during the post-war period mainly from Russian Federation and its hinterland. This proportion corresponds to the overall share of native and foreign-origin population in Estonian society, where post-war migrants and their decedents are forming around one third of the total population. Entering into first union is treated as a process with two possible transitions - the transition from the state of single and never partnered into direct marriage or the transition into cohabiting union. The general trend is that the standardised marriage rate falls while the intensity of forming cohabiting unions becomes a dominant form of entering into first union. Among native population in Estonia the shift from direct marriage to cohabitation took place already at the first half of 1970s, and followed a trajectory close to Scandinavian countries. Thus the emergence of cohabitation cannot be connected with political and economical change in the 1990s. Among the population of foreign origin the same shift was experienced 20 years later - quite similarly to the trend reported in case of Russia. This finding suggests that the influence of the country of origin on demographic patterns of immigrant population is maintained over generations.

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Presented in Session 76: Transitions in the family formation process