Men’s first partnership formation in four former state-socialist countries during the transition period

2020-03-12T09:53:10Z (GMT) by Cornelia Mureşan Livia Olah
Non-marital cohabitation has become increasingly common in advanced societies, although somewhat less so in Central-Eastern Europe in the period immediately following the fall of state socialism. In this paper we focus on changes in men’s first partnership patterns in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania between the 1980s and early 2000s, specifically addressing gender differences with respect to the effects of educational attainment. Data on men and women extracted from the first round of Generations and Gender Programme in these countries are analysed, relying on proportional hazards event history models with piecewise constant baseline intensity for entering a first union (cohabitation or direct marriage – as competing risks). We find a positive educational gradient for marriage formation among men in all countries analysed, but only in Hungary for women. No such gradient is seen for cohabitation among men with the exception of Poland. The popularity of cohabitation increased over time while the trend for marriage entry declined, resulting in non-marital unions replacing marriage as the main form of first partnerships by the late 1990s-early 2000s, except for Romania. Declining marriage trends paralleled by women’s growing educational advantage are likely to be related to the limited (and decreasing) supply of highly educated men as most attractive marriage partners in the region. The main contribution of this study is to fill the knowledge gap on changes in family formation patterns with emphasis on men’s first co-residential unions in Central-Eastern Europe in the period of major societal transition. The results point to the importance of gendered effects of educational attainment with respect to the type of first union formed.