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


Publication date

June 1, 2018


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.

Published in

Vienna Yearbook of Population Research

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 2017(15) , p.181 -213







Open Access



Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest