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

15 Aug 2017

Non-marital childbearing, especially within cohabitation, has become increasingly common in Britain as in other Western countries. Nonetheless, births outside marriage occur more frequently among the 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 role of partners’ joint educational attainment in relation to childbearing within cohabitation or within marriage. We find a steady increase in cohabiting first births among all educational groups, without significant change in unpartnered births. However, differences by education in non-marital first births have not increased significantly during the observed period. Male partner’s education is negatively associated with childbearing within cohabitation, although this relationship varies according to women’s educational attainment.