The rise in cohabitation is one of the most striking demographic changes to have occurred in Western countries. In Spain, cohabitation and having children in cohabitation have increasingly shifted from a rare and deviant pattern of family to a fairly normal and socially accepted family behavior. The presence of children within cohabiting unions is causing a great deal of concern to scholars and policymakers about child well-being. In addition, as the most common indicator of children’s economic well-being, child poverty has steadily been rising in many developed countries during the recent decades. Growth in family complexity is suggested to go together with economic disadvantages. Although there is an increasing number of studies that have examined the link between parental cohabitation and child poverty risks, the results are inconsistent and there is no relevant research conducted in Spain.
This thesis aims to investigate the relationship between parents’ union status and child poverty risks from a cross-national perspective and over time through focusing on three research questions: first, whether and how does the economic well-being of children living in cohabiting-parent households differ from those in married-parent households? Second, whether cohabiting parents differ from their married counterparts in terms of their socioeconomic characteristics and; whether disparities in child poverty risks between cohabiting- and married-parent households are explained by parental union status per se or by the selection effect. Third, whether the higher child poverty rate in Spain compared to other European countries is attributable to diversities in the labor market or social welfare or to the distributions of children in different living arrangements?
The analysis was conducted mainly based on the EU-SILC 2006 and 2014. Five European countries, Sweden, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, and the UK, were chosen to be compared with Spain. The association between parents’ union status and child poverty risks or material deprivation was examined by applying binary logistic regressions and ordinary least-square regressions. Then, the comparison of results in 2006 and 2014 by the inclusion of the interaction between parental union status and year of observation explores whether and how the disparities in child poverty between married- and cohabiting-parent families changed before and during the Great Recession in Spain. Finally, the decomposition technique was applied to examine the contribution of institutional factors to the gap in child poverty risks between Spain and other European countries.
Both in 2006 and 2014 in Spain children living in cohabiting-parent households had higher risks of material deprivation than those in married-parent households, while the results for risks of monetary child poverty varied across time. In 2014, children living with married parents fared better economically than those with cohabiting parents, but this was explained by the disparities in socioeconomic characteristics of married and cohabiting parents. Moreover, the risks of child poverty after tax and transfers in cohabiting-parent households significantly increased from 2006 to 2014 in Spain. In 2006 differences in governmental redistribution through tax and transfers contributed more than other factors to disparities in child poverty between Spain and other studied nations, but in 2014 market income differences accounted for more than half of cross-national dissimilarities in child poverty risks.
Sala de Graus, B1/021, Facultat de Ciències Polítiques i de Sociologia, UAB
Juny de 2018
Juny de 2018