Age gaps between partners among immigrants and their descendants: Adaptation across time and generations?

2020-04-09T08:38:33Z (GMT) by Caroline Uggla Ben Wilson

Age gaps between partners – who are married, cohabitating or in childbearing unions – have undergone dramatic changes in high-income countries over the past century. Yet there has been little focus on this aspect of family behaviour for immigrants and their descendants. We argue that this is an important omission, not least because the mean age gaps across generations can be interpreted as a macro-level indicator of adaptation. Our study examines the age gaps of immigrants and their descendants in Sweden, a country with high gender equality and a stable mean age gap. Since the late 1960s, Swedish men have been around 2 years older, on average, than their female partners. Using longitudinal data for the whole population of Sweden, we examine changes in age gaps for cohorts born 1950-1986. We show that cohort trends in age gaps often follow very different patterns for male and female immigrant groups, with limited evidence of adaptation across cohorts. However, there is considerable evidence of adaptation toward the Swedish norm for the second generation, including when making a direct comparison between immigrants and their children, although more so for male immigrants, in part due to patterns of partnership with the Swedish-born.