Differences in partnership and marital status at first birth by women’s and their partners’ education: evidence from Britain 1991–2012

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Vienna Yearbook of Population Research


Nitzan Peri-Rotem and Jacqueline Scott

Publication date


Non-marital childbearing, especially within cohabitation, has become increasingly
common in Britain, as in other Western countries. Nonetheless, births outside of
marriage occur more frequently among individuals who are relatively disadvantaged
in terms of income potential. Building upon previous research in family formation
patterns, we examine differences by education and employment status in the
proportion of marital and non-marital first births among British women and
couples over the past two decades. In particular, we explore trends in educational
differences in non-marital first births among women, and the relationship between
the partners’ joint educational attainment and childbearing within cohabitation or
within marriage. We find that there has been a steady increase in the share of
first births to cohabiting couples of all educational groups, but that there has been
no significant change in the share of births to unpartnered women. Overall, our
results show that the differences by educational attainment in the likelihood of
having a non-marital first birth did not increase significantly during the observed
period. The findings also indicate that among cohabiting couples, the male partner’s
education was negatively associated with childbearing, but that this relationship
varied according to the woman’s educational attainment.

Volume and page numbers

2017(15), 181-213






Demography, Social Change, Education, Labour Market, Family Formation And Dissolution and Childbearing: Fertility


Open Access