Are There Gender Differences in Family Trajectories Across Educational Groups in Finland?

Marika Jalovaara & Anette Fasang


BACKGROUND: Previous studies suggest that in some countries, socioeconomic differences in family formation are highly gendered, whereas gender-neutral patterns are reported in other countries. Most previous studies focus on single events and therefore it is unclear whether the gender differences and neutralities are specific to certain family transitions or whether they extend to longer family formation trajectories.

OBJECTIVE: We explore how family trajectories vary by educational attainment and gender. The research question is: Are there gender differences in family trajectories across educational groups? We focus on the trajectories of women and men in Finland between the ages of 18 and 39, and on birth cohorts 1969 and 1970. The trajectories combine states entered via the formation and dissolution of cohabitations and marriages and the birth of the first child.

METHODS: Sequence analysis is applied to Finnish register data comprising monthly histories of union dynamics and childbearing. We focus on the number and order of family states.

RESULTS: We find notable differences in longitudinal family trajectories by educational attainment; however, the gender differences in the trajectories within educational groups are negligible. For instance, the proportion of never partnered and childless at age 39 is largest among persons with low education, regardless of gender. Further, at age 39, highly educated women and men are most likely to live in the same union in which they became first-time parents.

CONTRIBUTION: This study adds to previous literature by showing that longitudinal family formation trajectories are highly stratified by education but remarkably gender-neutral in an egalitarian Nordic welfare state.

Published in Demographic Research

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