The increase in non-marital childbearing and its link to educational expansion

Christine Schnor & Marika Jalovaara


The rise in non-marital childbearing has coincided with educational expansion, although non- marital childbirths are more common among the low-educated population. This article examines how changes in the education-specific rates of non-marital childbearing and in the educational distribution of parents contributed to increased non-marital childbearing among Finnish first-time parents over the 1970–2009 period. Using register data and a decomposition approach, we find that the increase in non-marital first-time births was driven mainly by the large population of secondary-educated women and men and by the growing group of lower tertiary-educated women. The lowest-educated population continued to have the highest proportion of non-marital first-time childbearing, but their overall contribution was small due to diminishing group size. The highest-educated population increased its contribution to non-marital childbearing but still has the lowest non-marital childbearing rates. We conclude that the medium-educated population makes important contributions to family changes and merits increased scholarly attention.

Published in Acta Sociologica