Unmarried cohabitation in Ireland: towards post-Catholic family dynamics?

Benoît Laplante, Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS)
Teresa Castro Martin, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)
Clara Cortina, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Ana Laura Fostik, Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS)

This paper aims at better understanding the diffusion of unmarried cohabitation in Ireland. We focus on fertility within unmarried cohabitation and on its relation with age and with level of education as a proxy for social class using a period approach. We use data from the five censuses of Ireland conducted between 1991 and 2011 to compare marriage and unmarried cohabitation looking at the evolution of five measures: 1) the distribution of women aged 15 to 49 by conjugal situation (i. e. married, living alone or cohabiting); 2) age-specific fertility rates by conjugal situation; 3) total fertility rate by conjugal situation; 4) the contribution of each conjugal situation to age-specific rates; and 5) the contribution of each conjugal situation to the total fertility rate. Our results show that cohabitation and having children while cohabiting are related to education in a qualified way. Both cohabitation and having children while cohabiting become more common among all educational groups over time. However, the less educated tend to marry earlier than the highly educated who seem to use unmarried cohabitation as a means of postponing marriage. In recent years, having children while cohabiting is as likely as having them while being married among the less educated, but the likelihood of having children while cohabiting decreases as education increases among the top levels of education. Marriage remains by large the main locus of fertility, whereas the contribution of cohabiting women to the TFR is on par with that of unpartnered women. There is no clear negative relationship between cohabitation or fertility within cohabitation and education, but the use of cohabitation seems to vary according to education.

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Presented in Session 31: Cohabitation versus marriage